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The Role of Social Work in Oncology March 13, 2012

Posted by mcleodcancercenter in Uncategorized.

March is Social Work Month. In celebration of this month, I would
like to share with you the role of Social Work in Oncology. As I thought
about this subject, I remembered my first meeting with Shelby and her
comments to me after we had spoken for a while at her doctor’s office.
Shelby turned to me and said that she wished there had been a Social Worker
available to provide the emotional support and guidance she needed during
her cancer treatment and after completion of treatment. Recently, another
newly diagnosed cancer survivor came to see me at my office for some
guidance and made the same comments.

Social Workers because of their training have a unique set of skills that
in the Oncology setting enhances the care of the patient. The following is
a quote from Social Worker Kathy Gurland, LCSW, who is a Cancer Navigation
Consultant. She passionately writes about the role of Social Work in the
field of Oncology:

“This essential member of your healthcare team may be your greatest ally
when you face a diagnosis.  Clinical Social Workers are licensed mental
health professionals held to high ethical standards who must pass a state
licensing exam after completing their master’s in social work (MSW) degree.
The required coursework for an MSW covers a broad theoretical foundation
and field practicum experience in a variety of settings with culturally
diverse and vulnerable populations. Oncology Social Workers, specialists
within the social work field, are clinically trained to provide diversified
support for cancer patients and their families during diagnosis, treatment,
and survivorship.  They are also trained in end of life care and

Gurland goes on to say that “because cancer has an impact on every aspect
of patients’ and their loved ones’ lives, an Oncology Social Worker views
individuals in a holistic way and with a strengths perspective. They also
take into account the whole person in his or her environment and use what
is called a ‘bio- psychosocial assessment’ to identify an individual’s
needs. These needs may include but are not limited to physical, emotional,
spiritual, cultural, financial, sexual, recreational, relationship, safety,
legal, family, and caregiving.”

According to the 2007 Institute of Medicine Report “Cancer Care for the
Whole Patient,”   we should all remember: “Today, it is not possible to
deliver good-quality cancer care without addressing patients’ psychosocial
health needs. And, it is your social worker who can address those needs.”

I want to take this opportunity to honor all McLeod Social Workers who at
one time or another will serve in different roles as they assist patients.
These staff members are often seen as advocates, teachers
(psycho-education), confidants, problem solvers, counselors, liaisons,
resource guides, collaborators, and consistent sources of support. The
theme for Social Work Month this year is “Social Work Matters,” so my words
of wisdom to all Social Workers at McLeod and beyond is to keep your
passion alive and always remember why you went into the field of Social

Shelby’s Group will meet this coming Thursday, March 15 at 6:00 p.m. at the
McLeod Resource Center. Please join us and bring a friend. See you there!




1. Rev. Stuart Harrell - March 13, 2012

As a Chaplain at McLeod, I have worked closely with many of the social workers in the hospital and with Raquel. Their work is indeed invaluable! This month, I join in celebrating social workers. I’m honored to celebrate the important work that they do for so many: three cheers for social workers!

2. Tabitha - March 14, 2012

Social workers have a unique job and they have a special way of giving care to each person they assist.

3. Shelby Hewitt - March 15, 2012

Raquel, it is a good blog…as usual. You give us a lot of information that most people would not know (that includes me). As Rev. Harrell said: three cheers for social workers!

4. Betty Anne - March 17, 2012

Good article. It’s wonderful to read words from ones (Raquel and Kathy) so passionate about their work. When I was diagnosed with cancer I did not ever come in contact with a social worker but I’m sure it would have been helpful.

5. Allison McCaskill - May 6, 2012

Thanks Raquel! Great article.

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