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.
Director’s Report: Research
For this month’s column, I want to share some of the very exciting research activities that occurred at the 2017 Annual Conference in Denver. These include:
- The launch of the new PCORI-funded Patient-Centered Research Collaborative,
- Our second annual Research Institute,
- The first meeting of the new Research SIG,
- A “Learning Institute” to help oncology social workers get started with research, and
- A wide variety of papers and posters presenting research results.
This was truly a banner year for research in AOSW, and I’m excited to tell you about these events, especially for those of you who were not able to participate in person.
Patient-Centered Research Collaborative (PCRC)
The AOSW proposal to develop a practice-based research network was funded last fall by PCORI (Patient-Centered Outcome Research Institute). Since then, Brad Zebrack and other members of the Research Committee have been busy launching our very own PCRC. (See the Feb/March issue of AOSW Navigator for more background.) During the course of the year, the initial members, consisting of 15 oncology social worker/patient advocate pairs from cancer centers all around the country, were selected.
On Monday afternoon, the PCRC members met for the first time! No one was certain what to expect, but there was high excitement as well as commitment to the common aim and eagerness to get started. After some “ice-breaker” activities, the group began to identify some of their own best experiences in work groups and characteristics they would like the PCRC to have.
Following the Research Institute, the group met again to begin to create the formal committee structure of the new organization. There were many new aspects to the PCRC, not the least of which was the involvement of patients in all aspects. (While oncology social workers and researchers consider our work to be “patient-centered,” we usually do not involve patients in the development of our services/studies.) When the meeting ended on Tuesday afternoon, the new members were exhausted, somewhat uncertain and at the same time excited to get going on the tasks at hand.
For the second year in a row, AOSW held a Research Institute in conjunction with its Annual Conference. This year’s institute was held jointly with the PCRC meeting. The Keynote Speaker was Dr. Paul Jacobsen of the National Cancer Institute (formerly at the Moffitt Cancer Center). Dr. Jacobsen spoke on “Translating Psychosocial Oncology Research Into Practice: Progress and Challenges." His talk was extremely stimulating and provided a broad picture of psychosocial research in oncology.
Next on the agenda was a panel presentation from Susan Hedlund, LCSW, OSW-C, who represents AOSW on the Commission on Cancer; Carly Parry, PhD, MSW, from PCORI; and Shirley Otis-Green, LCSW, OSW-C. In a series of group exercises, the participants identified research questions critical to achieving quality cancer care. The questions were written on sticky notes, shared with the larger group and summarized. They covered a wide range of issues, but could be broadly categorized into two main areas:
- Patient/family experiences with cancer, through the continuum of risk, diagnosis, treatment, survivorship and end-of-life care.
- How should oncology social work services be structured for maximum efficiency and effectiveness?
The exercise helped participants to think about important areas of research and what could be done in their settings. For the PCRC participants, the exercise represents the beginning of a long process to select research that is feasible and will make a difference. The institute provides an opportunity for all AOSW members to connect with others who are interested in research and to learn what is new and exciting in research in our field.
The AOSW Board of Directors established a new SIG for those members interested in research. Dr. Elizabeth Rohan, Coordinator of this new SIG, led the meeting. Daniela Wittmann, PhD, MSW, from the University of Michigan Cancer Center spoke on “Developing Research in a Clinical Oncology Setting: Challenges and Opportunities.” In this interesting talk, Daniela showed how one hospital social work department increased departmental research using a variety of supportive mechanisms. As a result, the group has conducted many studies and publications. Following the presentation, the SIG attendees introduced themselves and shared their own research interests.
The Research Committee presented a Learning Institute, “Using Research to Inform Practice: A Skill-Building Workshop.” I gave a brief overview of Oncology Social Work Research and Brad Zebrack presented on how to use existing research to benefit practice by exploring and comparing staffing levels and distress screening data. Finally, Elizabeth Rohan did a presentation on focus group methodology, a research method that is highly compatible with social work skills and values and can inform the development of innovative interventions.
Papers and Posters
In addition to these special events, there were numerous papers and posters describing research projects by AOSW members. If you attended the conference but missed some of these, please review the slides and handouts that are available on the web. If you were not able to attend, I hope you will plan to be in Atlanta for the 2018 AOSW 34th Annual Conference. If so, please consider attending the Research Institute, and the many research-related events that will be held next year!
About the Author
Julianne S. Oktay, PhD, MSW, FAOSW
Julianne S. Oktay, PhD, MSW, FAOSW
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