Welcome to our newest blog series, “Five Questions With…”  In this series, we will highlight the unsung heroes that make healthcare work. From guest services, to the phlebotomist, the pet therapy volunteer and the environmental services workers.  These individuals enhance our experiences when we are getting care and highlight human connection and support. Thank you for all you do!

This week we feature Jennifer Slipakoff, MSW, LCSW. Jenny is an oncology social worker at the Abramson Cancer Center at Pennsylvania Hospital in the Joan Karnell Support Care Program. Happy Social Work Month to all the social workers like Jennifer working hard to help patients and families every day.

Tell us more about what you do to support patients.

I meet patients where they are at any point during their cancer diagnosis/treatment. I help them learn to fit their cancer experience into the rest of their lives. I provide support to their family members and children and of course address concrete needs like transportation to appointments. I like to focus on understanding what is important to patients as they go forward in treatment—things like work, travel, or spending time with family through the lens of their cancer.

I also am a link between patients and staff. We can bring to the team who the patient is beyond the office visit. We make the team aware of who the patient is–beyond their cancer.

Is there one particular story that sticks out in your head about a patient you can share?

Several years ago I got a referral from a nurse navigator for a newly diagnosed breast cancer patient. She was just figuring out what treatment would be and wrapping her head around what it meant. This happened right before Thanksgiving so the patient was even more distressed about telling her family about her diagnosis during the holidays when she didn’t even know what it meant for herself. I did a lot of work with her preparing to talk with her family. I helped her to feel ready and to get them on board to support her through it. This conversation was so important to alleviating stress, anxiety, and worry going into the holidays and she felt better after our work going into these conversations with her family.

What is the thing you love the most about your job?

Working with people over a long period of time. I meet them during a stressful, vulnerable time and I can support them and give concrete resources. I’m also the link for when they need to come back for more resources. I also really like to work with a large team—both the professionals and the families that are supporting patients. We bring all the pieces together.

If someone was applying for a similar position, what would you tell them about the work?

No day is the same. There is such a variety to what we do and offer. It never gets boring. It is important to be comfortable with collaboration and teamwork and to listen to the patient as the expert in the situation.

What is a job accomplishment that you are proud of?

The relationships I’ve developed with staff and with patients. I didn’t know that I would get this in this job—also getting to work closely with other staff. We don’t work in silos. Relationships are so important in all of my work. It enriches the work and what we do.

Do you want to nominate a staff member, volunteer, co-worker, or friend for us to feature in “Five Questions With…” Go to oncolink.org/feedback and let us know!