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.
Volume 6 | Issue 1
After spending 2019 as AOSW President-Elect, January 1 marked my first day as AOSW President. I am excited and a bit nervous to begin my presidential year. I take great comfort in knowing that I will not do this alone. Working with our outstanding board, our wonderful management team at Kellen and all the dedicated member/volunteers whose time and talent make AOSW such a valuable professional organization for oncology social workers will make this year a productive one for AOSW.
Hello fellow AOSW members. I am honored to be the president-elect of AOSW, an organization that has been a lifeline for me at many different points in my career.
This year's theme speaks to the specialized skills and talents that oncology social workers use to improve the quality of life for patients with cancer, their families and communities. OSWs knowledge, specialized training and comfort are highly valued by those we serve. The annual conference provides an opportunity for us to learn, share our knowledge and offer support to each other. The presentations and educational sessions reflect the most important issues facing oncology social workers today.
As a professional I talk about “difficult topics” such as goals of care and end-of-life planning on a daily basis. However, the topic I often feel most paralyzed by is finances, especially when it comes to self-advocacy. It might be fair to say that just as our society does a poor job talking about death, society could stand to improve conversation around finances, including, but not limited to, compensation.
Radiation Therapy SIG: An Overview of Oncology Social Workers as Patient Advocates in a Radiation Therapy Setting
Oncology social workers are in a unique place to provide support to patients and advocate for their care. One of our roles is to make sure patients and their loved ones understand the patient’s diagnosis and treatment plan. By speaking to them in layman’s terms, we can help them understand what they are about to go through. This is especially important when it comes to radiation therapy as this is a largely misunderstood treatment modality.
If you work with any adult who has cancer and also has kids, you need to know about Camp Kesem. It’s a free sleepover camp for kids who have a parent with cancer, and the support provided by the camp extends throughout the year. At Gilda’s Club Madison I have had the pleasure of partnering with our local Camp Kesem since its inception more than 10 years ago. I have also gone to camp as their mental health professional to experience camp first-hand. Without exception, every family we have referred to Camp Kesem has been hooked—even those families who have anxious kids or teens who hate everything. They all come back with giant smiles on their faces.
As oncology social workers, we have much clinical experience affirming that health and well-being involve the total person. We have witnessed our clients being profoundly impacted physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually by a cancer diagnosis. We conduct bio-psychosocial spiritual assessments and know that spirituality is a resource many draw upon as they confront deep fears, struggle to find meaning and search for hope.
Oncology social workers often ask researchers to guide them to the best evidence available that supports the type of services they provide. Occasionally, the Research column in The Navigator introduces its readership to a particularly significant article. A newly published article by Carlson, Toivonen and Subnis (2019) is such an article. It provides a great summary of research on the scope of psychological distress/stress in patients with cancer and survivors, as well as various evidence-based stress management interventions.
The Association of Oncology Social Work’s Standards of Practice guide oncology social work practice with patients and families, colleagues, agencies and health systems, local communities, and the oncology social work profession as a whole. But to what extent are oncology social workers today enabled to work at the top of their license and best apply their knowledge, training and skill to the delivery of high-quality health care?