Celebrating our oncology social workers

Did you know that the beginnings of social work in the United States can be traced as far back as the late 19th century? The American social work profession was established to ensure immigrants and other vulnerable populations gained the necessary tools to escape economic and social hardship.  

The 1970s saw the growth of oncology social work. Doctors needed someone on their cancer care team who understood and could assist with the psychosocial needs of patients with cancer.   

March is National Social Work Month. In honor of this annual event and to recognize our amazing oncology care team, we asked Darlene Corral, LCSW, to give a little insight into the importance of oncology social workers. 

How would you describe the role of an oncology social worker? 

The oncology social worker is a pillar of compassionate emotional support and a connector to community resources and services. They ensure patients do not experience barriers to accessing their medical care.  

Could you tell us about some of your responsibilities? 

I am part of a very cool interdisciplinary team that collaborates closely with patients’ care teams to ensure their needs are being met. I facilitate cancer support groups, provide counseling support to help manage the emotions that arise while navigating a cancer diagnosis and treatment.  

I engage patients in their care goals and have advance care planning discussions. I also connect patients with community resources to help prevent financial stress related to cancer treatment. I help find transportation support and connect patients to caregiving support services.  

What do you consider the most important parts of your job? What do you find the most rewarding? 

I enjoy all aspects of my role because I get to help patients during a very difficult time. I do my best to ease their way as they focus on healing and helping those who live with advanced cancer reach a milestone or goal. 

I really like co-facilitating our Living with Advanced Cancer Caregiver Support group. I get to witness so much resilience in our patients despite also experiencing suffering.  

I love being present with patients, family members and the oncology team. I enjoy supporting our team’s goal of helping individuals get through their cancer treatments. 

What made you decide to specialize in oncology social work? 

Prior to becoming an oncology social worker, I had been working as a hospice social worker. I really enjoyed being immersed in palliative care and end of life work. But I felt the opportunity to grow my clinical counseling skills was missing. I worked with most of the patients and families, unfortunately, for very short periods due to the nature of hospice work.  

I stumbled on the Providence oncology social worker job posting. I saw the position as an opportunity to utilize my skills in palliative care and end of life while having a chance to have longer relationships with patients as they walked their cancer journey.  

I also felt my bilingual skills could be put to good use in helping provide direct clinical services in Spanish. I felt I could ensure Spanish speakers feel better supported in their primary language as they navigate cancer treatment.  

About Providence Oncology Social Workers 

Our oncology social workers are trained counselors who help patients, families and care partners cope with the emotional stresses and practical concerns associated with cancer. Social work services are provided at no charge to Providence cancer patients, families and care partners. 

Read more. 

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