Breast Cancer Awareness Month Profile: Susie Hamilton

Susie Hamilton is a Social Worker/Outpatient Counsellor at the Regional Cancer Centre.

It’s Breast Cancer Awareness Month, and we’re highlighting staff at Thunder Bay Regional Health Sciences Centre who play a vital role in the breast cancer journey. From cancer screening to cancer treatment, there are hundreds of caring professionals that you will meet along the way. Today, we’re sharing a Q & A from Susie Hamilton, a Social Worker/Outpatient Counsellor at the Regional Cancer Centre.

Describe your role for us.

My role is to provide outpatient counselling to cancer patients and their caregiver/family by focusing on assisting with emotional and psychosocial needs. Patients that are going through cancer treatment often experience feelings of anxiety and depression and struggle with issues of distress related to changes that they experience through the cancer journey. The COVID-19 pandemic has also increased the mental health needs of these patients.

What does it take to be a Social Worker/Outpatient Counsellor?

In order to provide outpatient counselling, one must be a Registered Social Worker. Academic qualifications typically include a Master of Social Work (MSW) degree, with experience providing clinical counselling. It is also important to be empathetic and compassionate in order to help patients and their families as they adjust to change.

What is unique about your role?

My role is constantly changing to meet the needs of patients. Along with outpatient counselling, we offer support by providing information about community resources and help patients to navigate as they make plans to attend a medical appointment out of town. Providing this type of support can help to lower feelings of anxiety.

What inspired you to work in cancer care?

I was inspired to work in cancer care due to a personal experience, having a loved one who fought and succumbed to breast cancer. This added to my desire to join a team of professionals, who passionately provide care to individuals and their families, dealing with cancer. When I joined the team, over 15 years ago, I became involved with the Multidisciplinary Breast Clinic Team, where I had a more focused approach with women and breast cancer. Since then, I have continued to work with women diagnosed with breast cancer, as well as other disease specific areas. I hope to be a support to those who may be struggling during their cancer journey.

How does your role impact patient care?

Within the Cancer Centre, our team utilizes an interdisciplinary approach with patients. As a team, everyone recognizes the importance of providing a holistic approach ensuring that the patient manages, both physically and emotionally, as they deal with cancer. By assuring that a patient is managing in terms of their coping, feelings of anxiety or low mood, it helps to ensure that the patient is well enough to follow through with the medical aspects of their cancer treatment.

Any final thoughts?

I am often asked “How do you do the work you do?” My answer is simple. I do this work to help others through a time that is challenging, to help them focus on coping and adjusting to change, and to set goals to work through any emotional struggles that cancer brings.