• Category eNews
  • DATE 27 Jul 2022

Oncology Social Work Australia & New Zealand

July 2022

Constrained since 2019 by the inability to host our annual conference, the OSWANZ Committee trialled for the first time a virtual conference format which was held over two sessions in the month of June. Both events were well subscribed, with the majority of registrants opting to attend both sessions. Evaluations were overwhelmingly positive and a decision has been made to plan future conferences using the same model.

Feedback from participants highlighted the advantage of scheduling conference attendance in time slots that were manageable within busy clinical workload commitments. Keynote speakers from Australia and overseas were engaged and were happy to present virtually, as has become commonplace in the last few years. For the organising committee, once the program was finalised  the main challenge was to manage time zone variations to ensures presentations could be scheduled at acceptable hours for both presenters and participants.

Our last face to face conference was in 2019 and how the world has changed since then! Communication has been through masks and screens, professional development opportunities have been few and far between and the workload pressures for frontline clinicians are immense. With all of that in mind, the organising committee decided on a conference theme of Well-being and Self-care. Our by-line was Surviving and Thriving in Oncology Social Work.

A range of speakers and an expert panel of experienced oncology social workers from Australia and New Zealand, dubbed as “Voices from the Field”, addressed issues such as compassion fatigue and secondary traumatic stress. Key questions centred around what is required for longevity in oncology social work and how do we counter repeated exposure to death anxiety for both ourselves and our patients? We had two outstanding international speakers. Dr April Naturale from Boston is a former oncology social worker who now has a specialist practice in trauma and disaster mental health. Her presentation was broad, covering many contemporary issues of global suffering and death; including COVID and mass shootings in the US. Dr Amanda Kracen is an academic psychologist from New College of Ireland in Dublin. She spoke about how to find light and fulfilment in clinical oncology practice.

Our local contingent did not disappoint. The conference was rounded out by the aforementioned expert panel and an illuminating presentation by Dr Rachel Menzies from the University of Sydney on managing fear of death and cultivating death acceptance; again of relevance to both clinicians and our patients.

In addition to the conference, our highly successful webinar series is continuing, with two more sessions planned for the remainder of 2022 and a growing list of topics for 2023. Moving forward, our hope for 2023 is to meet again face to face in New Zealand. Preliminary plans are underway to make this happen. The OSWANZ committee has decided to aim for second yearly in person conferences, and virtual events in the alternate years.

All of the webinars and presentations from the recent conference are now available to view in the members only section of the OSWANZ website

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