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.
Professional Development: Coming Full Circle
A few years ago, as a new certified social worker and holistic health graduate, I had the good fortune to be offered a social work position with The Wellness Community in Monmouth County, New Jersey. It is an international nonprofit organization whose mission is to provide free comprehensive programs of emotional support, education and hope to any individual affected by a cancer diagnosis. My role as Program Assistant was to help coordinate programs in the recently expanded satellite center in Ocean County.
Starting with only a handful of members, it took time and perseverance to build interest in the program. Week after week, membership slowly increased as new participants with myriad cancer diagnoses and their support people came together to attend a variety of groups and educational programs. As I strove to meet the program criteria of providing education, physical activity and socialization opportunities, my interest in integrating a holistic approach to programming began to be reflected in our monthly offerings.
With this organization’s mission first and foremost to educate and provide emotional support to assist members in making informed healthcare decisions, it was validating for me to see program surveys reflect what I had just learned in my holistic health studies—that is, an increased interest in complementary modalities. Good attendance at these programs encouraged continuance of a variety of topics, such as acupuncture in an oncology setting, the many benefits of reflexology, journaling, yoga, guided imagery and meditation—all of which are supported by evidence-based research. All modalities supported the mission of educating survivors about the mind-body connection and its impact on health and wellness.
As time went on, The Wellness Community and Gilda’s Clubs merged and was renamed the Cancer Support Community. Unfortunately, as a result of regional effects of Super Storm Sandy, the Cancer Support Community in Ocean County closed its doors permanently. With that chapter of my life ended, I moved ahead with my plans to attend graduate school and complete my MSW.
Two years and a very intense hospice internship later, I graduated with my MSW. I then accepted a position at Monmouth Medical Center (MMC) in Monmouth County, NJ, as the Outpatient Infusion Department Social Worker. Excited to learn that my vision for integrating evidence-based holistic practices with social work was also shared with the Director of Cancer Services, I was encouraged to use mindfulness-based modalities—e.g., music, breathing techniques, and guided imagery—with our infusion patients to help ease the stress and side effects of chemotherapy.
Last year, I was very pleased to learn of MMC’s decision to partner with the Cancer Support Community in Monmouth County. This partnership, only the third hospital-based Cancer Support Community program in the country, continues the mission—to provide no-cost programs of support, education and hope to all members of our community, no matter where treatment is received. Having had experience with this program in Ocean County, I applied for and was hired as Program Director for the Cancer Support Community at MMC. My responsibilities in transitioning to this program included developing the program, selecting the facilitators, purchasing program materials, and promoting the program both within the hospital system and the community. From scratch, I developed the programs, hired the professional leaders for groups and activities, set the space, purchased materials, promoted and advertised the program. Currently, it is fully operational at MMC in Long Branch and on a smaller scale at a satellite location at MMC Southern Campus in Lakewood, which is in Ocean County.
While working one-on-one with patients has always been my primary focus, I accepted the position of Program Director for this new venture because I truly believe in the mission of this program and enjoy bringing it to people. Thus, I have come “full circle” from my first position as a social work program assistant to a Program Director for the Cancer Support Community. Grateful to be able to use all of my experiences in order to create programs to meet the needs of our members, the transition from a community-based program to a hospital-based program certainly has had challenging moments, particularly working within the organizational structure of a hospital. However, MMC’s administration has been very supportive and the positive feedback from professionals and members alike has encouraged me and guided programming as we continue to grow.
About the Author
Joan Hogan, MSW, LSWProgram Director, Cancer Support Community
Monmouth Medical Center
Long Branch, New Jersey