Deficits in the delivery of quality psychosocial care are numerous, with troubling findings continuing to emerge regarding disparities in the provision of care, substandard pain and symptom management, poor access to care, high caregiver burden, and communication deficits across the continuum of care. Unfortunately, there is an abundance of evidence gathered over the past decade that demonstrates that these concerns remain inadequately addressed (IOM, 2013; IOM 2008).
The 2008 IOM Report recommends a standard for the delivery of quality psychosocial health care based upon an extensive review of the literature. To address this standard, a skilled workforce is needed with competencies in communication; screening; needs assessment; care planning and coordination; illness management and collaboration across disciplines. Although oncology social workers are typically master’s-prepared professionals, social workers, like their colleagues in nursing and medicine, are unlikely to enter their career sufficiently versed in these essential skills. Many oncology social workers are supervised by non-social work professionals and embedded in multidisciplinary departments or units, limiting access to seasoned social work colleagues as role-models. Yet, oncology social workers are ideally poised to develop these necessary competencies given sufficient education, mentorship and support.
ExCEL addresses these deficits through the development of an oncology social work specific curriculum designed to enhance the skills and leadership potential of oncology social workers. With adequate training, adult and pediatric oncology social workers are ideally positioned in healthcare settings to provide care that meets the IOM recommended standard for quality psychosocial care. ExCEL courses support oncology social workers in reclaiming their role and responsibility as system advocates for improved psychosocial care within their network of influence.