(HealthNewsDigest.com) – New Brunswick, N.J., – Pediatric oncology social workers are clinical social workers who provide developmentally appropriate support and counseling to children and their families related to coping with a cancer diagnosis, treatment, and survivorship. This includes linking families with community resources to help with financial stressors and other concrete needs as well as facilitating access to school services during and after treatment.
Oncology social workers adapt to different modes of service provision to meet the needs of patients and families through their cancer journey. Susan Stephens, MSW, LCSW, ACSW, social worker at Rutgers Cancer Institute of New Jersey shares more about providing care to patients and families.
Treating the Family
When a child is diagnosed with cancer, the social and emotional needs of the entire family are tremendous. Social workers help families deal with the emotional issues surrounding cancer treatment and the practical matters of day-to-day life. During the pandemic, social workers continued to work as usual seeing patients in person, communicating with families by phone and email to provide psychosocial support. Telemedicine visits were also added for those families who were not able to be seen in person. Keeping contact with families in treatment and pediatric cancer survivors was and still is imperative to help ease feelings of isolation and to address concerns about the impact of COVID-19 on those treated for pediatric cancer.
Navigating the Educational Landscape
Social workers at Rutgers Cancer Institute facilitate the process of securing the appropriate educational accommodations and assess the individual educational needs of each child. Over the last two years, consistent with New Jersey state guidelines regarding quarantine and mask restrictions, students needed to adjust to online or hybrid learning. Helping families navigate the altered educational landscape during COVID included multiple challenges. Having become so used to using technology for social activities and gaming, most people did not realize how difficult it is to learn new complex material online and to sit for hours on end to attend class. This was more difficult for students in treatment who did not feel well or students who received special education services. Advocating for students in treatment and their teachers to utilize accommodations related to remote learning became essential to helping students stay involved in school and not feel excluded.
Guidance and Support in Adjusting to Changes
From general concerns about COVID-19 to new visitation guidelines and extra precautions put in place to provide a safe environment at Rutgers Cancer Institute facilities, social workers help to assist with navigating the changing medical system. The oncology journey can be confusing to families, take many unexpected turns and bring new feelings and experiences. Social workers help find strategies to assist patients and families with adapting and managing concerns.