Reviewing the benefits and challenges of overseas practice: Reflections upon coming home

Liz Beddoe, Allen Bartley

Abstract


INTRODUCTION: Given the diversity of practice and understanding of social work across the globe and its distinctive shape in specific national settings, practitioners working in a new country encounter different community, professional and workplace cultures which may pose challenges. This current study contributes to a larger programme of work undertaken to address the transnational nature of the social work profession in Aotearoa New Zealand and elsewhere.

 METHOD: The study aim was to explore the experiences of Aotearoa New Zealand qualified social workers who have practised in another country and have returned home. Participants in an online survey were recruited via an invitation to all members of the Aotearoa New Zealand Association of Social Workers. The questionnaire was designed to obtain broad data about the experiences of social workers in their overseas employment and perceptions on their return home.

 FINDINGS: Many participants had layers of transnational experience having practised as social workers in multiple countries. Participants reported overall satisfaction with overseas experiences which had provided professional opportunities for learning and development, and better pay and conditions. Coming home presented new challenges and interesting perceptions of social work in Aotearoa.

 IMPLICATIONS: Adjustment to new practice locations and, as shown in this small exploratory study, returning “home” can be disruptive to professional perspectives. While overseas practice is enriching, it carries with it both relocation benefits and costs, confirming earlier research. Better employer recognition of the challenges of returning social workers, and the enhanced skills they bring home may offset any dislocation experienced.

 


Keywords


migrant professionals; transnational social workers ;global workforce mobility

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DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.11157/anzswj-vol31iss1id531

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