Amy Colver, LCSW
Melody Griffith, MSW, LMSW, OSW-C
AOSW Communications Director
Jeanice Hansen, LCSW, OSW-C
To submit a story or information for inclusion in a future issue of AOSW Newsletter, contact Amy Colver or Melody Griffith on the list above.
Conference 2019—First-Time Attendee
This year I was lucky enough to attend AOSW’s 35th Annual Conference in Tucson. Prior to my arrival, I was anxious that my lack of experience would be apparent and that I would stand out as new to my social work career. Upon arrival, I was struck by the strong sense of community. People were friendly and ready to learn and grow as clinicians no matter how many years of experience they had. I was enthralled by the interesting presentations and thrilled to be among my peers.
Any lingering anxiety I felt quickly disappeared at the opening keynote presentation by Matt Loscalzo. I was impacted by the idea of social workers acting as bridge builders rather than wall builders—particularly when working with colleagues. I saw the distinct value of social workers acting as a bridge to create a stronger sense of belonging within our interdisciplinary teams. I felt encouraged to model the idea of sharing sadness to deepen my relationships with colleagues. Since coming back, I’ve incorporated this practice and strive to make an effort to speak with colleagues about cases that are difficult or sad for me. My colleagues have responded so well that not only do I find they want to listen, they also want to share the challenges they are facing in their own work.
When I first started working in Radiation Oncology, I was surprised by the number of patients who expressed concern about their sexual health but didn’t feel comfortable sharing this with their medical team. To be honest, I’ve often felt some discomfort when talking to patients about their sexual health, which is why I attended the Sexuality SIG Presentation by Jennifer Bires and Sage Bolte. I learned that other clinicians also struggle in this area and that the most important thing we can do is explore our own discomfort and create space for our patients to share their experience. I walked away knowing sexual health is a quality-of-life issue that needs to be acknowledged, no matter how uncomfortable it might be.
Since attending the conference, I’ve been able to see the value of building bridges not only for our patients but also for our colleagues. In order to show up best for our patients, we also have to show up for each other. I’ve walked away with a deeper understanding of what relationship-centered care means. It includes listening, respecting our colleagues, celebrating our differences, and encouraging teamwork.
As I look back on my first time attending an AOSW conference, I have a great deal of gratitude. I witnessed fellow social workers arrive with curiosity, acceptance, collaboration and a deep passion for this work. I’m so grateful for this opportunity to grow and experience this wonderful conference with fellow oncology social workers.
About the Author
Naime Conrad, MSW, CSWARadiation Oncology Social Worker
Providence Cancer Institute