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AOSW Connections, our newsletter, helps AOSW members stay informed and connected. In addition to information about upcoming AOSW conferences and initiatives, AOSW Connections includes insights and practical information from practitioners and the AOSW leadership. If you're a member of AOSW, watch for new issues in your inbox.

March 2023

Volume 3 | Issue 1

Editor's Message

Editors' Message
Amy Colver, MSSA, MA, LCSW , KrisAnn Talarico, LCSW, OSW-C

Happy Social Work Month to all of our social work colleagues! It feels quite fitting that our first issue of 2023 centers around the theme, “Gratitude in Personal and Professional Practice.” It is with tremendous esteem and appreciation that we extend an enthusiastic THANK YOU to every social worker who chooses our field of oncology social work. Your energy, your voice, your passion, and your advocacy impact not only people in our community facing cancer, but also each of us. When the job feels too draining, the system feels too broken, or the losses feel too great, it is often our colleagues within our organizations and across AOSW who offer rich sustenance. This month especially, we thank and honor each of you. 

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President's Message

President's Message
Leora Lowenthal, LICSW, OSW-C, MPA, FAOSW
In full disclosure, when asked to write about gratitude for this newsletter my initial response was more reluctant than grateful. It had been a particularly challenging day with innumerable sad and stressful moments. I was not in the mood to write about let alone admit feeling gratitude and yet I knew that gratitude had played a role in the day. I also don’t like to say no to our wonderful editors, Amy Colver and KrisAnn Talarico, because I am grateful for them. The whole matter presented an interesting and worthy challenge, so I asked myself some questions. 
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AOSW Conference

Grateful to be together in New Orleans: AOSW’s 39th Annual Conference is Coming!
Kerry Irish, LCSW, OSW-C
With the ink not quite dry on our conference schedule, I am SO excited to say that once again, AOSW’s members are coming together to share high-quality education in psychosocial oncology.  This year’s conference, which will launch on Emancipation Day, aka Juneteenth, will kick off with a keynote presentation delivered by Dr. Heather Honore Goltz, and will feature a strong track of presentations that relate to matters of diversity, equity and inclusion in psychosocial oncology.   
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Practical Approaches to Gratitude Practice
Brittany Moore-Nwachuku, EdD, LCSW, LISW, OSW-C

As we gear up for Social Work Month, reflection and gratitude become common language in self-care practices and monthly goals. I often hear about gratitude when listening to podcasts about mindfulness and meditation. However, I do not hear enough about gratitude in professional practice. With the theme for this newsletter issue, it couldn’t be more fitting to reflect on the ways gratitude in personal and professional practice can impact ourselves, our patients and our colleagues. Burnout in the social work profession continues to be increasingly common due to the emotional intensity of the client-social worker relationship and job demands. Research has shown that burnout has negative consequences not only on social workers themselves but on clients and agencies as well (Morse et. Al, 2012). 

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Gratitude: Its Power and Impact
In a world filled with daily loss, chaos, challenges, crises and rising mental health needs, we are immersed in opportunities to help our patients find sources of comfort, meaningful connections with themselves, and live through the beauty and the tragedies of life.  
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“Dear Deborah”: Gratitude letters are a beneficial intervention for cancer patients…  and a great practice for Oncology Social Workers  
Kerry Irish, LCSW, OSW-C
Dear Deborah; 
I write this knowing that words will never capture the depth and breadth of your impact and influence on me, both as a clinician and as a human being. I’m not sure who first suggested that I reach out to you when I joined the cancer center at XXX back in 2000. I was not a brand-new oncology social worker, but it was my first time working as a sole OSW, and I was missing the support and guidance that I’d enjoyed as the sixth and least experienced member of an oncology social work team at my former cancer center. As a psychologist, you were primarily serving as a faculty member at our hospital’s family medicine residency program, but you had maintained a small counseling practice, specializing in working with those impacted by cancer. I was thrilled when I called to ask if you might meet with me once in a while to provide some consultation with difficult cases, and you immediately said, “yes.” (I had no idea at the time how busy you were and how much responsibility you held, which makes your generosity even more inspiring!)  
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Gratitude at Work: Strategies for Establishing Institutionalized Gratitude in Oncology Care Settings
Kailie Sullivan, LCSW, OSW-C

We all know the benefits of establishing a gratitude practice in our personal lives. A regular routine of noticing, acknowledging and appreciating can enhance our wellbeing, increase personal resilience and improve our relationships.  

But what about the potential benefits of incorporating this practice into the workplace? What if our team, or even our entire institution, adopted a culture of gratitude, with practices woven into every facet of the work, from how we communicate with patients, to how meetings are run, to how our physical workspaces are configured?  

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Practice of Spiritual Pause as Self-Care for Clinicians
Kara Joseph
Palliative and oncology teams are certainly mindful that in order to care for others, we must care for ourselves, and one another. This looks different for each of us as does our ongoing grief. Our grief accumulates and our ability to practice ways of healing and sustaining our well-being diminishes if we are not careful. 
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SIG Updates

It’s a special edition of AOSW Jeopardy, and I’ll take “AOSW Benefits for $1,000, Ken.”
Chelsea Kroll, MSW, LMSW, OSW-C
The clue: “They are niche communities that welcome all with the opportunities to learn, share and lead in an area of interest that can have a great impact on our patients and with us in contemporary social work practice” (Sandy Blackburn, Co-Leader, Spirituality SIG).  
The answer: “What are Special Interest Groups?”  
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