Ethical Challenges of Military Social Workers Serving in a Combat Zone
Simmons, Catherine A.
Rycraft, Joan R.
Social Work 2010 January; 55(1): 9-18
Often faced with ethical challenges that may appear extraordinary, military social workers comprise a distinctive subgroup of the social work profession. From the unique paradigms in which they practice their craft, obvious questions about how military social workers address the ethical challenges inherent to their wartime mission arise. Using a concept mapping design, this qualitative phenomenological study addresses some of the ethical challenges faced by 24 military social workers who were deployed during Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation Enduring Freedom (combat operations inAfghanistan).The results visually display approaches to dealing with the ethical concern of balancing the needs of the client and the needs of the military combat mission. Most participants reported that they used clinical judgment rather than moral reasoning when dealing with such situations. Other ethical concerns are also explored: confidentiality and privacy, conflicts with commanders, relationships and boundaries, and diagnosis and treatment. Understanding of these ethical challenges is relevant to all social workers as they represent an important component of the values,knowledge, and skills germane to the social work profession.
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