Childhood Cancer

Childhood Cancer

Hospital social workers

Pediatric oncology social workers usually have a master’s degree in social work, with additional training in oncology and pediatrics. They serve as guides through unfamiliar territory by mediating between staff and families, helping with emotional or financial problems, locating resources, and easing the child or teen back into school. Many social workers form close, long-lasting bonds with families and continue to answer questions and provide support long after treatment ends.

Over the course of my son’s treatment, I became very close to the hospital’s social worker. I came to see her as not only a person who was very good at her job and providing me with wonderful support, but also as a friend. She was very much in tune with my personality, and seemed to sense when I was having a rough day, even if I had been doing my best to hide it. So many times she would stop by my son’s room and invite me to join her for coffee in the cafeteria, her treat. And we would sit and talk about anything and everything. She seemed to have a natural talent for making me laugh when I really needed to most. And she never expressed discomfort when I needed to cry or curse the unfairness of the situation we were in. She was a very good listener.

In addition to social workers, most hospitals have child life specialists, psychiatric nurses, psychiatrists, psychiatric residents, and psychologists on staff who can help you deal with problems while your child is in the hospital. Ask your child’s nurse, treating physician, or the hospital social worker to help you connect with these resources.

We went to a children’s hospital that was renowned in the pediatric cancer field. The medical treatment was excellent, but psychosocial support was nonexistent. The day after diagnosis, we were interviewed for 20 minutes by a psychiatric resident, and that was it. I never met a social worker, and the physicians were so busy they never asked anything other than medical questions. I didn’t know any parents of a child with my daughter’s diagnosis; I didn’t know there was a local support group; I didn’t know there was a summer camp for the kids. I felt totally isolated.