Cancer community teaches social work intern lessons for life

Victoria Rose with young man graduatingVictoria Rose always wanted to help people. Social work allows that — not just in the moment but in long-term ways. Always with a smile on her face and her mind searching for ways to be supportive, Rose, by all accounts, does a great job.

“Victoria has been wonderful to work with this semester. She is always interested, eager and willing to go the extra mile to provide the best possible care for our patients,” said Carle Cancer Center’s Kimberly Harden, MSW, LCSW, OSW-C.

“Victoria, and all our interns, allow us the opportunity to reach more patients thanks to their efforts. Our interns are a valuable resource to the Cancer Center and to our patients.”

On Wednesday evening, Rose will share some of the valuable lessons she’s learned as part of Carle Cancer Center’s monthly speaker series. Free and open to the public, the hour-long session begins at 5:30 p.m. in the Houseworth Conference room at the Cancer Center.

Rose will focus on financial assistance programs for oncology patients.

“We all know cancer is much more than a physical condition, and as part of a multi-disciplinary team, social workers play an integral role in supporting patients from diagnosis through survivorship,” said Harden, who recently received an American Cancer Society grant to help her team train even more social work interns to become oncology social workers.

Victoria RoseRose wasn’t sure what social work in a cancer-focused setting would be like.

A meeting her first week proved she wouldn’t be on the sidelines. The regular tumor board meeting gathers oncology professionals to share input on treating not just challenging tumors but the patients who have them.

“The doctors don’t treat me like an intern. With everyone, I feel like a colleague,” Rose said. “And the patients do so much for me. They have no idea.”

Rose wishes she had had the kind of support social workers provide during challenging times in her life.

Whether she’s providing a listening ear or access to resources, Rose to some extent understands her patients’ myriad emotions.

“I see some tears, but I see anger all the time. Patients ask, ‘Why me?’” she said.

At the start of the semester, Rose followed Harden’s lead.

“Kimberly knows everything about everything,” Rose said, adding, “She’s my own personal Google search. “Over time, she’s given me the opportunity to grow on my own. But she’s always there for me.

“I feel like the luckiest intern.”

Rose, who graduates from the University of Illinois in May, especially admires how Harden gets to know her patients, especially those in the angry stage.

“I love how she interacts with people, some of whom have no interest in talking with a social worker,” Rose said. “Kimberly doesn’t jump in and start asking people what they need. She talks with them, gets to know them.

“And then she ends up getting to their needs. The small talk turns into huge talk.”

Victoria Rose with her golden poochOne of the most important lessons Harden and her team taught Rose is to take care of herself.

While her mind could work on helping her patients all the time, Rose turns to the piano, photography, painting and playing with her pooches to relax.

“When I go home, I’m still thinking about here,” she said, her ever-present smile growing bigger.

“Kimberly helped me see that I have to take a break from saving the world from time to time. I have to allow my brain to rest.”