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The scope of practice in oncology social work as identified in the Association of Oncology Social Work (AOSW) Standards of Practice (1998) includes:
- Services to cancer survivors, families, and caregivers through clinical practice providing comprehensive psychosocial services and programs through all phases of the cancer experience.
- Services to institutions and agencies to increase their knowledge of the psychosocial, social, cultural and spiritual factors that impact coping with cancer and its effects, and to insure provision of quality psychosocial programs and care.
- Services to the community through education, consultation, research and volunteering to utilize, promote or strengthen the community services, programs, and resources available to meet the needs of cancer survivors.
- Services to the profession to support the appropriate orientation, supervision and evaluation of clinical social workers in oncology; participate in and promote student training and professional education in oncology social work; and advance knowledge through clinical and other research.
Oncology social workers are knowledgeable about cancer and about the psychosocial and other effects of disease, treatment, and survivorship. They are generally masters prepared and often have experience and training in oncology and other life-threatening illnesses. A licensed social worker is looking at the patient as a whole and can be a front line contact for a patient. In the oncology care setting, patients may look to their social worker for support with fertility preservation decisions and the fertiltiy preservation process.
Each patient needs an individualized consultation to determine the best and most mature fertilty preservation technology available in their unique circumstances and according to their informed choice. Many social workers provide this consultation to patients and serve as a patient navigator- providing support and guidance to their patients throughout the fertility preservation process as well as coordinating their care.
King et al. (2008) conducted a qualitative, cross-sectional study using a focus group and in-depth interviews to explore knowledge, attitudes, barriers, and behaviors related to social workers' discussion of fertility preservation with cancer patients. They discovered social workers are not typically discussing fertility preservation methods with patients; however, they may be in an ideal position to facilitate the conversation between the physician and the patient. King et al. (2008) called for the development of educational interventions aimed at oncology social workers, to help facilitate discussions with patients. The Oncofertility Consortium® provides many educational resources for social workers that are designed to help social workers navigate fertility preservation options with their patients.
Education and Communication Strategies
The Oncofertility Consortium provides many educational resources for social workers to prepare themselves for fertility preservation discussions with their young oncology patients. The Decision Tool Web Portal is a library of existing oncofertility decision aids designed to help social workers stay up to date on fertility preservation techniques and technology; learn communication strategies for discussing fertility preservation options with patients of all ages and their family members; and access print and online patient educational resources. In addition, the Oncofertility Consortium provides virtual fertility preservation grand rounds, clinical information, and provider pocket guides to oncofertility.
To refer a patient for a fertility preservation consultation, call the Oncofertility Consortium® FERTline at 312-503-FERT or 866-708-FERT and print out this flyer to give to your patient.
The Oncofertility Consortium® works with many advocacy organizations and support groups to provide young cancer patients with support and assistance regarding fertility, reproductive health, and quality of life throughout survivorship. You may be interested in connecting patients with community and online resources.
Patients are often concerned about the cost of fertility preservation procedures. To learn more about oncofertility and insurance coverage, read Incorporating Insurance Education into the Fertility Preservation Process from Oncofertility Communication (2014) or check out the Oncofertility Consortium® blog post on Insurance Coverage for Fertility Preservation.
Do you have patients interested in fertility preservation and in need of financial aid? Fertile Action can help! Fertile Action offers financial aid for women with recent cancer diagnoses interested in fertility preservation. The advocacy organization provides additional financial information and resources, as well as online support groups for patients.
King L, Quinn GP, Vadaparampil ST, Miree CA, Wislon C, Clayton H, Zebrack B. Oncology social workers' perceptions of barriers to discussing fertility preservation with cancer patients. Soc Work Health Care., 2008. 47(4):479-501.