NASW Code of Ethics Update: Technology and Informed Consent

The NASW Code of Ethics got an updating this year. You know that. But do you know what's different? Let's take a look. Take Section 1.03, Informed Consent. It's pretty much the same for a stretch, then comes these paragraphs. The boldfacing is ours, to give you a quick sense about what's new.

(e) Social workers should discuss with clients the social workers' policies concerning the use of technology in the provision of professional services.

(f) Social workers who use technology to provide social work services should obtain informed consent from the individuals using these services during the initial screening or interview and prior to initiating services. Social workers should assess clients' capacity to provide informed consent and, when using technology to communicate, verify the identity and location of clients.

(g) Social workers who use technology to provide social work services should assess the clients' suitability and capacity for electronic and remote services. Social workers should consider the clients' intellectual, emotional, and physical ability to use technology to receive services and the clients' ability to understand the potential benefits, risks, and limitations of such services. If clients do not wish to use services provided through technology, social workers should help them identify alternate methods of service.

(h) Social workers should obtain clients' informed consent before making audio or video recordings of clients or permitting observation of service provision by a third party.

(i) Social workers should obtain client consent before conducting an electronic search on the client. Exceptions may arise when the search is for purposes of protecting the client or other people from serious, foreseeable, and imminent harm, or for other compelling professional reasons.

Technology, technology, technology, recordings, electronic search. Social workers are expected to have ethical policies in place to deal with them all. The details of those policies are sort of up-for-grabs, though there's plenty elsewhere in the code to help guide their contents.

The newest piece here is the expectation that social workers get consent before Googling clients (paragraph i). This is a guideline ready made for practice test questions. Something like, A client boasts of once having been profiled in a popular online journal, but the details are sketchy. The social worker wants to confirm the client's claim. How should the social worker proceed?

You can imagine the suggested answers. And you know already the correct course of action.

One section down, many to go!

For questions about the updated NASW Code of Ethics and lots more, sign up for SWTP practice tests.

Happy studying and good luck with the exam!

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