Steven Shiels, from North Shields is a CLIC Sargent Teenage and Young People’s Adult Social Worker at Royal Victoria Infirmary in Newcastle. There is really no typical day for a CLIC Sargent Social Worker. Cancer can affect anyone, so our work is as varied as the families we support.
8am The day ahead
I get into the office and find out what’s happened overnight. For example, a family might need some extra emotional support after hearing bad news or somebody might have called us in an emotional state because of financial problems, caused by travel costs or missing work.
I help by sorting out grants and arranging financial aid. A large part of what I do is making sure they get the benefits they are entitled to. The last thing you need when you’re fighting cancer, or your loved one has cancer, is the threat of losing your home or getting into debt.
I then check which of my patients have outpatients appointments for treatment. I have to plan pretty carefully how to get around all my patients on the ward too.
10am Morning meeting
At the hospital I work as part of what they call a ‘multi-disciplinary team’. That means that I meet and work with all the other people involved in a young person’s treatment and care – doctors, nurses, psychologists, dieticians. If a family or young person needs to talk things through with someone or has a particular practical issue, then that’s where I come in.
These meetings are also really important because I learn about new patients and their situation, so that I can go straight away to meet them and offer assistance.
11am - 1pm On the ward
I start making my way around the ward, meeting patients and their families to see how I can help. Consistency is the key to building rapport and trust; they have to know they can rely on you.
A lot of the emotional and practical support I give is to the parents - they put on a brave face for their children. But when they take a step back they are often tired, anxious, have issues with employers due to the need to take time off work and are worried about the bills.
2pm - 5pm Making a practical difference
After lunch I spend some time in the Outpatients Unit checking in with young people who are having chemo. I check how they are doing and ask if there is anything practical that I can help out with.
I love working with the young people and their families. When you help somebody and they appreciate it, it really is the best feeling.
And it’s so motivating, if you could bottle the feeling you get in this job, you could sell it.
It makes you appreciate the little things in life. I really do appreciate every day.