Soar Like a Griffin: GMercyU Social Work Student Pivots During Pandemic

August 4, 2020
In September 2019, Carlisle and her classmates presented their project at the annual conference for the National Association of Social Workers’ Pennsylvania chapter.

Carlisle Dixon ’20 was just getting into the swing of things at her internship at Indian Creek Foundation when the world shut down for the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Foundation, which provides opportunities for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities to live in and enrich the community, quickly needed to transition to telehealth services.

With only a couple of months until graduation, Carlisle didn’t have time to panic. The training and skills she learned as a Social Work major immediately came into play.

Carlisle supported the Foundation’s Lead Clinicians in planning and modifying lesson plans, observing sessions and providing feedback for improvement, running check-ins with group members, all while finishing the research she started on assessment tools prior to the shutdown.

“The transition to online was not easy and was going to take time to adapt to for everyone. My role was to support the Lead Clinicians in any way possible,” Carlisle said. “With time, I was also able to find a new assessment tool that covered all of which my supervisors were looking for.”

Field work is an integral part of GMercyU’s Social Work program, with each student having to complete at a 400-hour placement before graduating. With the help of GMercyU Assistant Professor & Director of Field Education Janice Nuss, MSW, LCSW, Carlisle met with the Foundation’s Transition Age Youth Supervisor Jessica Lomonaco in the fall.

GMercyU has a long-standing relationship with Indian Creek Foundation and Professor Nuss knew it would be the perfect fit for Carlisle.  

“It is important for us to find a field placement that fits each student’s unique learning objectives. In Carlisle’s case, she knew she wanted to work with children with developmental disabilities,” Professor Nuss said. “The internship at the Foundation has paved the way for her to move into more advanced work with children who have Autism and eventually apply for social work licensure.”

Carlisle joined the team as a Social Work Intern in January 2020. Prior to the shutdown, her responsibilities included observations of groups, treatment plan meetings and parent conferences, research and exposure to population challenges, lesson planning, reviewing treatment plans and evaluations, and completing chart reviews for accuracy.

“While the pandemic has disrupted our delivery modality, using telehealth has been a unique opportunity to show Carlisle how a practitioner has to adapt in an unexpected situation,” Lomonaco said. “It has shown her the importance of resilience in the field as well as how to prioritize the client’s needs in order to provide the best continuity of care regardless of world events.”

Just like a griffin, Carlisle rose to the occasion and faced these challenges head on, like so many of our Griffin Heroes.

“Carlisle has taken on the challenges associated with this transition and has demonstrated enthusiasm and dedication while remaining self-reflective and eager to learn,” Lomonaco added.

Completing her fieldwork placement at Indian Creek Foundation has put everything in perspective, especially during this unprecedented time.

“When in class, sometimes you think to yourself ‘why are we doing this' or 'what is this going to do for me?' Well, I want to tell you, it is all so important,” Carlisle said. “Everything I learned in the classroom has in some way been used during my internship. It gives you a clear idea of what you could see yourself potentially specializing in. This is the time you figure out who you are and who you can be one day.”

Carlisle graduated with a bachelor of science in social work and will be pursuing her master of social work at Widener University in the Advanced Standing Program. She hopes to continue working with children or adolescents with intellectual and developmental disabilities.

You can learn more about Carlisle’s GMercyU experience here.