Training Oncology Social Workers: Lessons From the USA

Aust Soc Work. 2022;75(2):258-265. doi: 10.1080/0312407x.2021.1904265. Epub 2021 Apr 19.


There are over one million people in Australia who are either living with or have lived with cancer, and approximately 145,000 new cancer cases are expected this year (AIHW, 2019). Oncology social workers are essential members of the health care team in meeting the needs of cancer patients and their families; however, the training and specialisation of social work professionals in the field of oncology is less developed in Australia compared to other western countries. Thus, the purpose of this paper is to examine the strategies implemented in the USA to develop and train oncology social workers and to assess the utility of these strategies in the Australian context. This paper will address the current state of oncology social work in both the USA and Australia, educational models of training oncology social workers, and the research capacity of oncology social workers. The feasibility of adapting some of these key strategies for training oncology social workers in the Australian context will be discussed.

Keywords: Australia; Cancer; Education; Oncology; Social Work; Training.