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 3 | Issue 4
This is my final “President’s Message” and I’ll begin by noting that serving as president of AOSW is an extraordinary privilege and opportunity and one I’ve been grateful to have. It has at times, also been an unnerving responsibility, and deeply humbling experience. As I prepare for my last month and get ready to transition to the role of Past-President, I’ve tried to compile some of my takeaway “notes to self and future presidents”. What I share below are just a few of those which I hope can be helpful to others.
This year I had the privilege along with two of my colleagues to present at the AOSW Annual Conference in New Orleans. My own curiosity about conference attendees led me to look around on the Whova app. I came across a group chat by Hispanic members expressing a desire to form a Special Interest Group for members who work with Spanish-speaking patients. I reached out to the group and expressed my interest in contributing to forming this much needed group.
Thank you to all who have submitted abstracts for the AOSW’s 40th Annual Conference: Harnessing the Past for Growth in the Future.
This year’s conference is a unique opportunity to view presentations on emerging programs, research and practice experiences. Our virtual conference will be featuring the following presentation types:
Welcome to the last issue of AOSW Connections in 2023! It’s been a great year for the newsletter and we’re excited for what’s to come in 2024!
I want to thank the newsletter crew, the staff and leadership of AOSW, members and writers for your contributions and support of AOSW Connections. I’m incredibly grateful and hope you all have found and will continue to find the newsletter to be what our team hopes and strives for – a place for connection, inspiration, support and professional development. A place for people to share their voice and highlight the amazing work that is being done within the field as well as within AOSW.
Future of Oncology Social Work
Aggressive medical care at the end of life leads to decreased quality of life for the patient and increased difficulty in bereavement for family members, but often these conversations are difficult to have for patients and providers alike (Baile et al., 2002; Wright et al., 2008). There have been limited pharmacological advances in treating psychological distress, and specifically in cancer, the American Society of Clinical Oncology in conjunction with the Society for Integrative Oncology, advocates that current day pharmacological options should not be first line treatment for depression and anxiety in cancer patients (Andersen et al., 2023; Yaden et al., 2022). Psychedelic medicines have recently reemerged on the scene as a potential joint pharmacological agent adjoined with therapy that could make a lasting difference in the anxiety, depression and existential distress patients and families experience with serious illnesses and the contemplation of death (Yaden et al., 2022).
The Associated Press provided the details of yet another incident of gun violence in a hospital. “The visitor opened fire, killing a security guard and injuring a nurse.” Only this time it was the hospital where I worked. The fragile glass of vulnerability had been broken at my workplace. A “code silver” had been called signaling to staff that there was an active shooter on campus. The result of the experience left us with a wave of emotions ranging from fear to grief and anger. Portland, Oregon, joined the growing list of cities impacted by violence against healthcare workers.
I cannot speak authoritatively about how oncology social work has evolved over the years other than to observe that it has required us to continually adapt to the changing and complex environment of oncology healthcare delivery – especially during a pandemic. The familiar career question, “Where do you see yourself in five years?” quickly became irrelevant. We’re living in an intensified state of uncertainty. Some things haven’t changed much though. We all know about the constant demand to “fix” what appears broken, prove the value of our work, and affect outcomes with limited resources. We do our best to be responsive and effective.
Do you remember a time, not that long ago, when you didn’t know what Zoom was? I don’t know about you, but I’ve never had to learn a new platform so quickly! I’ll never forget the flurry of action in March 2020 when our small team at Gilda’s Club Madison had to quickly learn the ins and outs of using Zoom so we could seamlessly provide programs to our community who couldn’t afford to miss a week of support.
My journey as an oncology social worker started in fall 1997 when I began my first internship at Lewis-Gale Regional Cancer Center in Salem, Virginia. I was a brand-new graduate student and eager to learn. I had asked for a placement in pediatric hospice, but to my unknown fortune, all they had available was the cancer center. I quickly realized I had found my place, fascinated with the integration of behavioral and medical interventions.
As the holiday season approaches, you may find yourself reflecting on the year that has gone by and the ups and downs of 2023. As oncology social work professionals and students practicing in hospitals, cancer centers, home care agencies, hospice, community-based oncology practices, community programs, patient advocacy organizations, educational institutions, and other settings, YOU are the unsung heroes of cancer care, providing critical support, compassion, and guidance to patients and their families on their challenging journey.