Meet Holly: The First Certified Oncology Social Worker at the MemorialCare Todd Cancer Institute

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At the MemorialCare Todd Cancer Institute at Long Beach Medical Center (TCI), three oncology social workers work to reduce distress and improve patient quality of life during their diagnosis, treatment and into survivorship. One social worker, Holly Adams, has become the first Certified Oncology Social Worker (OSW-C) at TCI certified by the Board of Oncology Social Work.

By becoming a Certified Oncology Social Worker, Holly has demonstrated specific competencies and skills while caring for TCI oncology patients and their families. Holly’s pursuit of certification is an example of her commitment to constantly improve the care she gives to patients and to have external validation of the excellent care she provides.

“I haven’t always worked in oncology, but I am glad that I had the opportunity to take this position 9 years ago,” says Holly Adams, MSW, LCSW, OSW-C, MemorialCare Todd Cancer Institute, Long Beach Medical Center. “It became clear to me fairly early on that this was a good fit for my skills and that I feel very passionate about working with this population.”

Hospital social workers help patients and their families understand a particular illness, work through the emotions of a diagnosis, and provide counseling about the decisions that need to be made.

Social workers also are essential members of multi-disciplinary hospital teams. Working with doctors, nurses and allied health professionals, social workers sensitize other health care providers to the social and emotional aspects of a patient’s illness. Hospital social workers use case management skills to help patients and their families address and resolve the social, financial and psychological problems related to their health condition.

Oncology social workers provide counseling and other services which can reduce stress for patients and their families through all phases of their cancer journey.

“On a regular basis I reflect on what a privilege it is to work with our patients and families at one of the most difficult times in their lives,” says Holly. “Their courage and perseverance is inspiring and I am honored to be able to help them through their journey. 

Research has shown that identifying and addressing barriers early and on an ongoing basis can improve patient quality of life and treatment adherence, which can yield better clinical outcomes.

The social work team employ a strengths-based approach as they teach new coping skills, provide guidance for having difficult conversations with children and loved ones and empower them to maintain and strengthen their support systems

“We really advocate for our patients in all different ways, but at the same time we try to teach them how to be their own advocates,” says Holly.

The TCI social workers greatly contribute to the mental wellness aspect of TCI’s mind, body and spirit philosophy that empowers patients to achieve the best quality of life. From providing support for patients coping with treatment and side effects, to adjusting to life after cancer, and sometimes to the progression or recurrence of disease, the social work team works to provide interventions and resources specific to the needs of each patient and family.