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Social Workers at OHSU Doernbecher’s Children’s Hospital Keep It All In The Family

Shirley Mason, L.S.W.Shirley Mason, L.S.W., a social worker in the pediatric hematology/medical oncology division at OHSU Doernbecher Children’s Hospital says that when a child is diagnosed with cancer, the entire family needs care and assistance.  She compares the entire family unit to a mobile, like the ones that hang over a baby’s crib.  

“The child is one component on the mobile, but when a storm comes through and hits that one part it shakes the entire structure,” Mason says.

That’s where Doernbecher’s social workers come in. Mason along with Bryan Gish, L.S.W., and Rowena Moore, L.S.W., use their 25 years of cumulative experience in the social work field to focus on treating and helping the entire family.

“Each child comes in to Doernbecher with a unique situation and a unique family,” says Mason. Families often face the emotional, financial and psychological challenges that occur when a child is diagnosed with cancer. The social workers provide on-going assessment of the families’ needs and provide support and advice to help meet those needs.

This support may come in the form of connecting families with financial resources in the community, to helping organize parent support groups, to playing games with a patient or simply checking in with a parent to see when they last took a break to eat or rest.

“Sometimes it can be a challenge because we don’t know anything about the family before they come to Doernbecher,” Moore says. “But, it is a rewarding job, hugely because of the relationships we get to establish with our patients and families?”

The diagnosis and treatment process if often overwhelming for families at first. The social workers remind families that when they look back on this experience they will be amazed by how much they have learned and accomplished.

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