Psychosocial Oncology Program – Services
The Psychosocial Oncology Program is organized around four primary areas of focus:
Direct Clinical Services
Direct clinical services include counseling, psychotherapy, support groups and psychiatric evaluation and treatment. Providers include: social workers, a psychologist and a psychiatrist with experience working with patients, survivors and families coping with cancer.
MedStar Georgetown University Hospital-Lombardi Comprehensive Cancer Center (MGUH-LCCC): There are currently three licensed oncology-certified social workers who provide psychosocial support to adult cancer patients and their families. They address the psychological reactions to a cancer diagnosis of the patient, along with the stresses on family members and clinical staff. They also address concrete day-to-day needs as well as help with transition to palliative care and hospice. The social workers work on a continuum-of-care model, meeting with both inpatients and outpatients. Referrals are made directly by any staff member who identifies a patient with needs, as well as self-referrals by the patients and or their family members.
A psychologist and a psychiatrist, also are available to see patients based on referrals from patients themselves or their family members, the social workers, other members of the oncology staff, and/or other treating providers. The psychologist provides psychotherapy and the psychiatrist provides psychopharmacological evaluation and treatment to these patients, survivors, and their families. They both see patients in the hospital one day a week. Dr. Kimberly Davis, clinical psychologist, has provided direct clinical outpatient psychotherapy to patients at MGUH-LCCC since 2006. During this time, she has seen an average of 15-17 patients per week. All of the psychosocial oncology providers at MGUH meet as a team for weekly rounds to discuss current patients as well as new and potential referrals. During the COVID-19 pandemic, all clinical care is conducted via telehealth and team rounds are conducted via Zoom meetings.
Distress screen is currently conducted with all new patients at their initial visit. The social workers respond to patients whose distress score meets a specific criteria and/or for patients who express interest in additional follow-up to address specific concerns or problems. The Psychosocial Oncology Team meets regularly to discuss the distress screening including workflow, follow-up, on-going monitoring procedures, tracking, and compliance issues
Clinical research focused on patient-reported assessments and outcomes is increasingly being shown to be an important component of standard oncology care, as it is focused on outcomes that are important to both patients and providers. On-going efforts to integrate these assessments into direct clinical care, such as in the electronic medical record, have been shown to be important. The research component of this program will draw from different areas, including the distress screening data, information gathered from patients through the newly developed survivorship clinic, and through the bone marrow transplant program.
The educational component to the psychosocial oncology program is novel, as there are currently no formal educational efforts about psychosocial oncology at any of the three sites. This is an obvious missing element, given the known psychosocial needs of patients, survivors, and families coping with cancer. Yet, despite a general sense that psychosocial needs ought to be addressed, existing services are often unknown to current providers, patients, survivors, and families. Educational programs can offer formal and informal forums about what psychosocial services are, how they can benefit patients, survivors, families, and providers. They help inform providers about how psychosocial issues may present in their patients and how they may negatively impact their patient’s ability to cope – particularly regarding adherence to treatment regimens.