Sentara Martha Jefferson Monday: What is the Role of a Cancer Center Social Worker?


Every patient facing a cancer diagnosis at Sentara Martha Jefferson is offered the chance to meet with a social worker to talk about any distress they may be feeling. 

“During our meetings I have an opportunity to listen to their concerns dealing with physical changes, emotional, social and spiritual changes that are happening in their life as a result of a cancer diagnosis,” noted Ann Atwell, the cancer center social worker at Sentara Martha Jefferson Hospital. 

In her role, Atwell listens and assesses the situation.  She then develops a plan of care that patients are comfortable with and works with them to share resources that can help meet that plan. 

Sometimes her conversations center on how patients can tell their children about a diagnosis. 

“Patients have questions and aren’t sure what to say, so we talk about what they could tell them and how they can share that they have a cancer diagnosis.” 

In other cases meetings are centered on how to make sure any care that a patient may need outside of the hospital can be received at home. 

“I have the opportunity to share with families information about care they can receive at home, whether it’s skilled nursing, community based care through the department of social services or privately hiring someone if that’s necessary,” noted Atwell. 

The service of the cancer social worker is entirely free. It’s an added benefit offered by the hospital to help patients as they go through a difficult time. 

“They know that their voice is being heard,” noted Atwell.  “Not only that, but they also know that the entire team that’s caring for them cares about their emotional well being and that we will be here for them throughout the continuum of their care.”  

If you would like more information on this topic, please call 1-800-SENTARA.  If you have a question about your health you’d like us to answer, email healthquestions@nbc29.com. 

Sentara Martha Jefferson Monday

Do you have health questions? Get the answers every Monday morning from the experts in our feature: Sentara Martha Jefferson Monday.

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