When lightning strikes twice: Perceptions of oncology social workers about working with families with two members in treatment
OBJECTIVE: Families with a parent and child concurrently receiving cancer treatment are not common, but their needs are typically more complex than families with only one member in treatment. They have a heightened sense of loss, vulnerability, and mortality. The study purpose was to: (1) describe quality of life, social support, resiliency, and loss for these families; and (2) describe how healthcare teams can support these families. METHODS: This was a qualitative study with 20 oncology social workers who had worked with families with a parent and child concurrently receiving treatment for cancer within the past five years. The interview included questions about the emotional, social, financial, and other needs of these families, as well as their social support, quality of life, loss, and resiliency. RESULTS: Three themes emerged from the data: 1. Increased demands on the family with a concurrent cancer treatment, including emotional, financial, and logistical challenges for the ill parent and child and for the healthy parent and siblings; 2. Greater resilience and coping skills were experienced by some families; and 3. Implications for the healthcare team, including emotional distress in treating these families, challenges in treatment adherence, and providing the necessary support to these families. CONCLUSION: Supporting these families is challenging for social workers and other members of the healthcare team. Understanding the emotional, financial and logistical needs of these families, and coordinating their care across the adult and pediatric teams, will better support the patients, as well as the healthcare providers who work with them.
Barnhart, Meredith; Berkman, Cathy; and Mapp, Susan C., "When lightning strikes twice: Perceptions of oncology social workers about working with families with two members in treatment" (2022). Faculty Publications. 1612.