ExCEL in Social Work Curriculum

This innovative psychosocial program’s curriculum is based upon the framework of the 2008 IOM Report presented in Figure 1, which has been adapted to address the six core competencies necessary for oncology social workers to meet the report’s recommended Standard of Care for improving psychosocial healthcare (IOM Report, 2008)

All cancer care should ensure the provision of appropriate psychosocial health services by:
  • Facilitating effective communication between patients and care providers (Although the language of this standard refers only to patients, the standard should be taken as referring to both patients and families when the patient is a child, has family members involved in providing care, or simply desires the involvement of family members);
  • Identifying each patient’s psychosocial health needs;
  • Designing and implementing a plan that links the patient with needed psychosocial services, coordinates biomedical and psychosocial care, engages and supports patients in managing their illness and health; and
  • Systematically following up on, reevaluating and adjusting plans.

This educational program enhances the clinical and leadership skills necessary for oncology social work professionals to act as system change agents within their institutions. Enhancing the leadership skills of oncology social workers will be necessary if institutions are to reliably meet the recommended standard of care. Thus, this educational training will offer intensive skill-building and mentorship opportunities. Through organizational collaboration with the AOSW and APOSW, participants will have opportunities for continued mutual support through attendance at each organizations annual conference and through electronic networking. These activities will also serve to reinforce participant change efforts, maximize participation in evaluation efforts and increase dissemination of findings.

The courses are associated with both the AOSW and APOSW annual meetings and provide rich opportunities for direct face-to-face learning. Historically, the AOSW and APOSW annual meetings are held in the spring. To maximize geographic reach, they move strategically around the country each year. Content modules developed from the IOM Report addressing identified gaps in oncology social work competencies are presented by skilled ExCEL in Social Work faculty. Curriculum content is based upon an extensive literature review with input from project co-investigators and external content consultants to ensure that it addresses the recommendations of the 2008 IOM Report and reflects the educational requests identified from needs assessments.
Educational Methods
This program uses a variety of innovative adult-learning strategies to enhance participant skill-development and promote institutional change efforts. Competitively selected oncology social workers will participate in interactive pre-conference trainings. An evening reception begins the program to outline the Standard of Care recommended by the 2008 IOM report, introduce key leadership skills and the importance of patient-focused change efforts. The full day of training that follows is devoted to a series of six modules developed from the IOM report that provide the framework for quality psychosocial care. These modules address various screening and assessment tools; evidence-based psychosocial interventions; communication models; family conferencing skills; team-building strategies and leadership skills. Facilitated small group sessions will assist participants in goal refinement using “SMART” goals. Both the AOSW and APOSW will dedicate portions of their Websites and Newsletters to reinforce key curriculum concepts and highlight successful participant change efforts.

All educational interventions will be predicated upon established adult learning theories. Adult learners are self-directed, have rich life experiences and are concerned with solving relevant life-problems. Participants will benefit from immediate application of meaningful examples and will retain information best after they “discover”it for themselves. Effective educators recognize that their role is to create a safe environment for participant-exploration of relevant concepts. Specific teaching methods will be individually tailored to best address the venue and content. As recommended in the IOM Report, the pre-conference courses will include a varied combination of educational strategies to maximize educational effectiveness. There will be lectures for new content, discussion sessions for sharing and clarification, case studies, as well as demonstration and role-playing specifically tailored to the needs of adult and pediatric oncology social workers.
Curriculum content will encourage exploration of role function, improved clinical judgment, leadership and professionalism, collaboration, systems thinking, cultural competence, facilitation of learning, accountability, empowerment, and the development of improved inter-professional communication skills. Selected video segments will be incorporated into the agenda to bring the voice of patients and families into the learning environment. During the annual pre-conference courses, faculty will facilitate group interactions and mentor participants as they apply concepts and principles that are relevant to their own situations.

ExCEL in Social Work seeks to “change the change agents:” to encourage increased accountability, growth and risk taking on behalf of the vulnerable populations that each serves to reliably meet the IOM Report’s Standard of Care. Principles of transformational learning theory will provide the basis for the skilled faculty to create an environment that inspires participants to reach personal growth goals. To maximize the effectiveness of course exercises, change concepts taken from the psychology and the business world will be applied when appropriate.

The IOM Report will be the provided text for the course. Using combined electronic and print distribution strategies of the adapted Pre-Conference modules will allow the curriculum to be more broadly disseminated so that oncology social workers unable to attend the pre-conference will still have opportunities to benefit from this program. Those who attended the trainings will benefit from reinforcement through later print or Web-based exposure of critical content. The print and Web-based educational efforts also offer more timely responses to the complex and rapidly changing healthcare environment.
ExCEL in Social Work Objectives
Following training, participants will be able to...
  1. Apply institutional change principles to enhance oncology social workers effectiveness as leaders and change-agents.
  2. Identify strategies that improve the delivery of psychosocial care to traditionally underserved oncology patients and their families.
  3. Increase oncology social worker knowledge regarding their role in pain and symptom management.
  4. Demonstrate effective communication as a strategy to enhance inter-professional collaboration in a team environment.
  5. Increase their knowledge of evidence-based interventions to improve patient quality of life.
  6. Demonstrate ability to apply appropriate quality improvement projects and performance measures. (including the “Plan, Do, Study, Act” rapid-cycle quality improvement model in their clinical practice setting)
  7. Identify various psychosocial screening and assessment strategies relevant to their patient population.
  8. Increase awareness of various protocols useful to maximize the effectiveness of family conferencing.
  9. Explore their role in addressing the psychosocial needs of patients and families across the life-span.
  10. Plan and implement a measurable change effort to better meet the IOM Report’s recommended Standard of Care within their institution.