Enhancing Competency-Based Social Work Skills Through Service Learning and Interprofessional Education in a Student-Run Free Healthcare Clinic


  • Christopher Simmons University of South Florida, School of Social Work
  • Amy Fisher University of Mississippi, Department of Social Work
  • Roxann McNeish University of South Florida, Child and Family Studies
  • Karah Y. Greene University of South Florida, School of Social Work
  • Melissa Thompson University of South Florida, School of Social Work
  • Jerome T. Galea University of South Florida, School of Social Work




interprofessional education, service learning, social work education


Student-run free clinics (SRFC) offer students the opportunity to learn and work with students from other disciplines; however, there is very little research on the benefits of SRFC to social work students. The purpose of this article is to describe the qualitative student outcomes of a service learning (SL) and interprofessional education (IPE) experience in a SRFC designed to enhance the interprofessional competencies of BSW social work students. Students (n=38) enrolled in a service-learning course and participated in a semester-long SL and IPE experience at a university-affiliated interdisciplinary SRFC. Qualitative findings from student reflections indicated that students perceived that the overall experience facilitated the development of written and verbal communication skills, confidence, and professional identity. The research suggests that SL and IPE were beneficial to student development. We, therefore, recommend that other programs consider exposing BSW students to these experiences early in their program to enhance their educational experience.

Author Biographies

Christopher Simmons, University of South Florida, School of Social Work

Dr. Chris Simmons is Associate Director and Associate Professor of Instruction. He received his BS in Psychology from the University of Louisiana, Lafayette, (’94), received his MSW from Louisiana State University, (’97), and received his Ph.D. in Counselor Education from the University of South Florida, (’08).

 Dr. Simmons is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker (LCSW) and Qualified Clinical Supervisor, and currently serves as the Faculty Director of the Social Work Clinic at the BRIDGE Healthcare Clinic.

 His teaching is primarily centered on generalist and clinical practice, human behavior, and multicultural social work practice, making good use of his experience as a clinical social worker and clinical supervisor.  In his courses, he strives to incorporate what he has learned from his research on cognitive development and student learning. Specifically, his goals are to help students develop practice skills, as well as cognitive abilities to tolerate ambiguity, to deal with incomplete and sometimes conflicting information, and to develop problem solving abilities. To accomplish this goal, he uses experiential learning, service learning, and interprofessional education to help students develop these cognitive skills, which provide a good framework for effective social work practice.

Amy Fisher, University of Mississippi, Department of Social Work

Amy Killen Fisher is Associate Professor of Social Work. Ms. Fisher joined the Social Work Department at the University of Mississippi in 2012, after careers both as a lawyer and then as an LCSW-level therapist. She teaches mainly in the MSW program, with a focus on clinical classes. Her research focuses on social work student learning and development. She is actively pursuing an exploration and examination of anti-racist and anti-oppressive education and practice

Roxann McNeish, University of South Florida, Child and Family Studies

Dr. (McNeish) Taormina is a Research Assistant Professor at the University of South Florida where she has been employed since 2006. Prior to working at the University of South Florida, Dr. McNeish was a therapist and case manager. Dr. (McNeish) Taormina has authored numerous publications and technical reports as well as secured over $3M in funded research. (McNeish) Taormina received her bachelor’s degree, MSW, MPH, ad PhD from the University of South Florida.

Karah Y. Greene, University of South Florida, School of Social Work

Karah Y. Greene graduated from University of South Florida with her MSW in December 2021 and currently serves as Deputy Director of the ACCESS Lab at USF's School of Social Work. She is passionate about addressing social justice issues and promoting health equity. Her research interests include 1) improving access to quality healthcare among underserved populations, 3) loneliness and its effects on QoL, 4) examining the social determinants of dementia, and 5) interventions to address and alleviate negative health outcomes stemming from sexual violence.

Melissa Thompson, University of South Florida, School of Social Work

Melissa Thompson, MSW, LCSW is a Clinical Instructor at the University of South Florida School Of Social Work and serves as the Online MSW Field Coordinator. She is also the co-faculty advisor for the School of Social Work partnership with the BRIDGE Healthcare Clinic at USF. Melissa received her Bachelor of Arts degree in Political Science as well as her Master of Social Work degree from the University of South Florida.  Before entering the field of Social Work, she spent four years working in state government and nonprofit agencies.

Melissa’s primary clinical interest is in treating children and adults who have experienced trauma. Melissa worked as a therapist with the Corbett Trauma Center at the Crisis Center of Tampa Bay for six years while also participating as a therapist on a National Institute of Mental Health grant to test the feasibility of a stepped care trauma-focused intervention for children. Melissa spent five years in private practice before becoming a full-time faculty at USF. She is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker in the State of Florida as well as a member of the National Association of Social Workers and the International Society for Traumatic Stress Studies.

Jerome T. Galea, University of South Florida, School of Social Work

Dr. Galea is an Assistant Professor of Social Work (USF); Courtesy Assistant Professor at the College of Public Health (USF); Lecturer at Harvard Medical School; and a Health and Policy Advisor at Partners In Health. He obtained his BA in Psychology (University of Michigan); MSW (Children, Youth and Family focus, University of Washington); PhD in HIV Prevention Science (University College London); and, completed his postdoctoral studies in Global Mental Health Implementation Science (Harvard Medical School) 

Dr. Galea’s research focuses on the integration of depression care with HIV prevention and care services, especially  "low-intensity" mental health interventions that can be taught to and delivered by laypeople. Most of his research is based in Lima, Peru, where he lived and worked from 2001-2016, and is among men who have sex with men and transgender women. Other mental health research includes exploring interventions for patients with tuberculosis and depression; the implementation of community-based, non-pharmacological depression interventions; and, increasing the uptake of existing depression care services by modifying inhibitory social norms. Dr. Galea leads the USF ACCESS Lab and serves as an academic editor for PLOS One  journal and as a reviewer for several others and participates in multiple national and international health advisory and advocacy committees. 


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