Social Work Programs

June 2, 2010

Oncology Social Work: A Courageous Job with Heart

Filed under: oncology social worker — Tags: — admin @ 2:40 am

oncologysocialworker Have and you ever wondered how a person diagnosed with cancer copes with things like health care, counseling, education and other challenges ? Working in a hospital , hospice or other health care setting with cancer patients and their families is an important job. This type of career is being an oncology social worker. In this position you’ll work diligently to assist patients suffering from various cancers in various stages. Providing them with information, counseling, referrals to community resources, coping resources for the family and friends, and navigation of the healthcare system are involved. People are very vulnerable with a cancer diagnosis and can feel on the verge of falling apart.

There can be extreme depression, denial and other emotions and your role is to help the patient through this maze.

When a person is diagnosed with cancer they go through a wide range of feelings and emotions. For each person having cancer there are different experiences depending on the person’s spirituality, background, family situation, and ethnicity. An oncology social worker understands that cancer affects each person differently. He or she will assist someone with adjusting to the disease, and try to find ways to manage the healthcare issues. Patients and their families will look to you for the tools to help them manage fear and adjust to everything. All of this is achieved through individual counseling, family counseling and support groups therapy.

Many people with cancer worry about handling everyday tasks, such as their jobs, their families, and their social life. In advanced stages of cancer, questions of hospice and home care may need to be discussed. People count on the oncology social worker to sit down with them and help them to understand all the new changes that occur with the disease diagnosis.

This cancer care worker also acts as a representative with the medical staff. He or she is ideal for this role because they have been given training regarding cancer treatment and how it affects the patient. You’ll be helping the patient and their loved ones go over the options and the best course of action. There may be discussions about living wills, the decisions about one’s right to refuse resuscitation if they are on a respirator. Also resources about facilities, hospice care and options including the tools to find additional Information the disease and treatment are part of your role.

Being a hospital oncology worker can be a challenging position. You’ll be around people with various stages of cancer and some will not survive. There is a lot of sadness, confusion, anger and fear from both patients and their families. The good news is that many people do survive today and encouragement is not an illusion for a certain percentage of patients. This job isn’t for everyone, but it is so needed in our society and the gratitude from patients and their families for helping with the confusion around it is very strong. 



  1. The social worker for my dad told us about people who could come in as aides as well as hospice and saved us some research time. We really weren’t in the right state of mind to start making calls since we were at the hospital with him most of the time.

    Comment by Chase — June 7, 2010 @ 1:05 am

  2. Hospital social workers can have a lot to deal with because many times patients feel they are kept in the dark about their medical condition and they are very nervous. It takes a lot of compassion, especially working with cancer patients.

    Comment by Larissa — June 18, 2010 @ 3:49 pm

  3. I’m starting my msw program in fall and don’t think I could work with very sick patients and their families because I wouldn’t stop thinking about them and what they go through. I want to do counseling but it would be hard to work with the terminally ill.

    Comment by Elsie — July 14, 2010 @ 10:12 am

  4. read this very accurate artice.I’m an Oncology Social Worker and we are all very much “on the emotional front” when it comes to meeting with ,assisting cancer patients and the whole family unit

    It’s paramount to have the ability/intuition to know just when to assist and become proactive and when not to “push”. WE are serving these patients at a very vulnerable time in their lives.We need to be mindful at all times that it is a privilege to pop into their lives at such a difficult time.

    We need to be quiet,listen attentively , be professional and very very sensitive to each different cancer patient and their family members.

    Sincerely ,
    lauren Hyman,MSW ACSW

    Comment by Lauren Hyman msw acsw — July 20, 2010 @ 12:32 am

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