There are so many associations that people make with the field of social work, and the fact is that they are rarely accurate or applicable to the social worker they are interacting with. Social workers can be found in most professional settings these days, from big corporations to schools, in private practice, research, non-profits, and of course, in hospitals and medical settings. The thing is that all of these social workers work hard and do good work, but even within a single setting, their role can be drastically different. In a hospital, you will find social workers in the emergency room and labor and delivery. You will find them in the ICU and you will also find them in oncology. And in each case, how they work and the challenges they encounter are specific to their setting.
When I found oncology social work, I knew I had been called. This work is my passion, and I love it every day I have the privilege to do it. Oncology social work is unique in its specific focus on the cancer experience for patients and the people who love them. As an oncology social worker, you may meet someone who is at high risk for developing cancer, or who has just been diagnosed. You may meet someone who, after 20 years since having survived one cancer, has been diagnosed with another. Patients can thrive and struggle and live, or they may confront the ends of their lives, where they have decisions to make, wisdom to share.
Oncology social work is clinically sophisticated in that it requires a strong clinical base, but also a mastery of the medical system, available resources, and sensitivity and the ability to sometimes engage an entire family to bring comfort to the person living with cancer. An oncology social worker is a medical social worker and a palliative care social worker, and a private practice social worker, and sometimes a hospice social worker. Broadly, we offer psychosocial support to cancer patients and the people who love them, but honestly, on a daily basis, we do so much more. Oncology social work is about meeting someone at a point in their life when cancer has landed at their feet, and often turned their worlds upside down. The oncology social worker is the ballast, the balance, the observer and witness of their life. Identifying and meeting needs, making connections and healing hearts.
The Association of Oncology Social Work or AOSW, is the professional association that represents, organizes, and connects oncology social workers from all over the world to one another. I recommend that you visit their site for a wealth of information on the field. You can also contact me if you have specific questions. This is work that helps me understand who I am and what I see as possible in this one, precious life. I am delighted to share it with you.