Oncology Social Workers

Oncology social workers serve as one of the most crucial members of any wider health care team for any cancer patient, because of the many services they can provide or which they can arrange.

What They Do

Oncology social workers do what any social worker does, but with a view towards helping cancer patients and their families with their specific needs, which may include:

Developing Coping Strategies

When a person has cancer, every aspect of his or her life is affected, and those aspects need to be addressed. Oncology social workers talk to patients about spiritual matters, family situations, health care management, ethnic challenges and other areas that tend to cause worry and concern among patients. They help patients develop coping strategies to ease the stresses caused by these situations. The outcome can be a greater sense of hope, an improved quality of life and far more tolerable stress levels.

Developing Life Management Strategies

Cancer diagnoses don't wait until they are convenient – often, newly diagnosed patients already have plenty on their plate in terms of employment, raising a family or even acting as caregiver for another person. Oncology social workers discuss management strategies on these matters with patients, discussing how roles and responsibilities in life will change and how to go about making those changes.

Bridging Communication Gaps with Treatment Teams

Oncology social workers are trained with advanced education in cancer treatment and often can act as a go-between for patients and their health care providers, helping to make some procedures clearer to the patient and/or caregiver and to make clear what all of their treatment options are.

Serving as a Resource for Practical Help

Oncology social workers can help patients find financial aid, they can help them with their patients' rights in some areas, and they can find support groups near the patient's home.

Survivorship

Oncology social workers know that patients who successfully finish treatment and are declared cancer-free can still have long-range problems and can also have trouble adjusting to a normal life. Oncology social workers can help in both regards.

Finding an Oncology Social Worker

While larger cancer centers generally have oncology social workers on staff, some hospitals and private practice clinics may not. In that event, it is recommended by the American Society of Clinical Oncologists that the patient contact the nearest comprehensive cancer center or university hospital to see if they have them available on staff.

One might also try to contact the Association of Oncology Social Work or, if relevant, the Association of Pediatric Oncology Social Workers.

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