Celebrating our oncology social workers

Written by Krista Nelson, LCSW, OSW-C, FAPOS, FAOSW, ACCC Immediate Past President, and Manager, Oncology Social Work, Providence Cancer Institute & Providence St. Joseph Health

As we celebrate Social Work Month, it is important to recognize the incredible contributions of oncology social workers. These professionals provide essential support to patients and families facing cancer, offering expertise, compassion and a willingness to support patients in their most vulnerable moments.

A bridge between patients and care teams

Quality cancer care requires a comprehensive approach to addressing the wide range of biological, psychological, social (biopsychosocial) and spiritual needs faced by oncology patients and their families. As the primary providers of psychosocial interventions and a critical linkage to internal and external resources, oncology social workers are among the most versatile members of the health care team.

Oncology social workers’ interventions reduce patient and family distress and improve their quality of life. Their efforts help increase patient satisfaction, improve efficiencies and lessen the burden on physicians and health care teams, allowing them to do what they do best—administering innovative medical treatments to more patients.

One of the key strengths of oncology social workers is their ability to connect with patients and families on a deep level. They recognize the unique needs and challenges faced by each person and work to tailor their support accordingly. They provide clinical interventions to alleviate suffering and provide support with a strength-based perspective, knowing that quite often patients know what they need. 

In addition to emotional support, oncology social workers are experts in navigating the health care system. They help patients understand their diagnosis and treatment options, communicate with health care providers, and access financial and other resources to help cover the costs of care. This is accomplished with the support of other vital members of the team, including financial counselors and RN navigators. 

Oncology social workers are front line in addressing social determinates of health which are primary drivers of health outcomes.

Honoring a dedicated team of experts

It is no surprise that oncology social workers are often nominated for awards for their incredible work. This year, four members of our oncology social worker team were nominated for the Providence Health & Services Oregon Social Worker of the Year award. These nominees – Darlene Corral, LCSW (Newberg & West clinics), Dawn Brucker, LCSW OSW-C (Franz Clinic) and Laura James, LCSW (Willamette Falls and Radiation Oncology) - represent the very best of their profession and are a testament to the dedication and expertise of oncology social workers across the country.

The winner of the award was Adell Lenart, LCSW, a social work team member at our westside oncology clinic. Her recognition is well-deserved, as she has worked tirelessly to support patients and families through some of the most difficult times of their lives. Her compassion and expertise have made a profound impact on the lives of countless individuals facing cancer and the team. Adell is a shining example of the incredible work that oncology social workers do every day.

Learn more about our Oncology Social Worker team.  

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