Social work students' experiences of ethical difficulties in field placements: A qualitative study in China


Field placements provide social work students with opportunities to learn to handle ethical difficulties in a professional manner. In many developed countries, field staff are generally employed to supervise social work students' field placements. 'Code of Ethics' and other ethics documents have also been developed to guide students' professional activities. However, there is a lack of field staff, 'Code of Ethics' and other ethics documents in China, which may lead to ethical difficulties amongst students during their field placements. Based on the interviews of twenty-four social work students who completed field placements in 2016 at a university in China, this research revealed that students encountered many ethical difficulties in field placements. They tried to handle the difficulties in the beginning, but gradually adapted to the difficulties passively due to the lack of support. Most students also reported that they adhered to social work values and ethics in field placements and learned from field placements. The findings suggested that social work profession associations, Departments or Schools of Social Work, social work agencies and social work academia in China need to collaborate to create a more professional and supportive environment for students' field placements.


School of Social Work

Document Type





China, Ethics, Field placement, Social work agency, Social work education

Publication Date


Journal Title

British Journal of Social Work