Samantha Fern, a CLIC Sargent Social Worker based at University College London Hospital, explains how she helps to support children and young people as they face their cancer diagnosis.
No day is ever the same
'There really is no typical day for a CLIC Sargent Social Worker though – every day is so different and varied.
'I might start the day attending a team meeting where doctors, nurses, social workers and other specialists meet to discuss new patients, patients on treatment, and any referrals they’ve had so we’re aware of any psycho-social needs.
'Then I might have a team meeting with the other CLIC Sargent Social Workers to catch up and allocate new cases between us once we know who has space and can go and visit families on the ward.
Providing emotional and practical support
'If I’m meeting a new family, I’ll introduce them to CLIC Sargent and tell them about the services we provide.
'Most families are devastated – it’s a really tough time. They quickly realise what the implications of a cancer diagnosis for their child and the rest of their family and wonder how they’ll manage. It’s my job to guide them through this.
It’s important to build a relationship with families, so I know what’s most pressing for them.
'The hospital’s catchment area is huge. We have patients that have to travel long distances, which is challenging both physically and financially, so I’ll let them know about grants that are available, and tell them about our Homes from Home service, which is self-catered accommodation where they can stay close to the hospital.
Supporting the whole family
'I consider the needs of the siblings too and the impact of the diagnosis and treatment on them.
'For example, I’ll consider their emotional needs, their educations and child care arrangements and work with the family to ensure that this is managed.
'I will visit all of the patients that are in hospital having treatment each day to see how they are managing.
'It is important for us to keep in regular contact with our families as their needs can change throughout their treatment and I try to ensure that I can support them their cancer journey.
Providing support in the community
'I also visit patients in the community too. My role is to make sure that when the families are at home that services are in place and they feel supported.
'I work closely with schools, for example, visiting classes to talk about a pupil’s diagnosis, and making sure that school can accommodate the needs of the child or young person when they return to school.
A big part of my job is to think outside the box when working with patients to try and improve their quality of life.
'Many can’t attend school or college because of their treatment, and some don’t engage with their peer group, one of the worries is about changes in their appearance
'They may have lost confidence and feel worried about talking to their friends about their illness. Going through something like this is very isolating for families.
'Normally I work late and before I go home I make sure I have a list for the next day so I know who’s coming in and what needs to be done.
'But it can be very unpredictable so I can’t always stick to it. In evening, I might go to the gym, or a run, then go home and cook or read and try to relax.'