Name: Tracy Collar
Place of Work: Metro Health University of Michigan Health Cancer Center
Job Title: Oncology Social Worker
1. Before the coronavirus outbreak, what did your responsibilities consist of?
“Before COVID-19 my responsibilities were to meet with patients and families to help provide support, community resources, financial assistance, counseling, and to be someone to walk along with them during their cancer journey. At times, my conversations involved just the patient but often it was with the patient, multiple family members, and/or friends. At times, my conversations were difficult, and it was not uncommon for patients and their families to hug each other and provide physical as well as emotional support. At times, patients and families shared a hug with staff as a way of saying thank you or as a way to get through a challenging time. The majority of my conversations were held face-to-face. My job also involved going to the hospital to see patients and their families, providing support in a different environment and a familiar face. I ran a support group every Tuesday evening for patients and their caregivers [as well].”
2. How have your responsibilities been changed or been added to?
“It is difficult to put into context the changes brought on by COVID-19. Now we have fewer patients in the building and are doing virtual and telephonic visits for the first time in my 25-year career. We see some patients in person, but this is limited. Their family members/friends are not allowed in except under specific circumstances. This has created most of my job being done via phone calls instead of in person. When we do see patients, we wear appropriate PPE which was not necessary before. There is no hugging and no handshakes. The number of community resources has greatly diminished as many agencies are closed during the pandemic; yet, we have a greater need for resources. Our support group has been switched to a virtual support group. COVID has created financial hardships for patients and their families making it difficult for them to receive treatment and pay bills. I am challenged to look for more financial resources in a market that is overwhelmed with people in need. When I go to the hospital to see patients, I am screened, my temperature is taken, and PPE is worn at all times. Despite all of that, I am proud of the care we provide and how quickly we adapted.”
3. How have the changes in your job and the impact of coronavirus affected your home?
“There has not been a significant change for me at home; although, it has been difficult to not have face-to-face contact with my family and friends. I am much more careful about anything I bring into my home and go out only for essentials. I thoroughly clean anything I bring into my house which is not something I gave much thought to before the pandemic. I appreciate being able to go outside in a way that I never have before.”
4. Is there an inspiring act of kindness that you’ve witnessed at work that comes to mind?
“We have seen inspiration from our community as a whole with many messages of support, donations of homemade masks, donations of food, and signs posted to thank us for the ongoing care during the pandemic. That has been inspiring.”
5. In what ways can high school students help during this time?
“High school students can help by staying at home and staying safe. That is really the best thing any of us can do. I have an amazing niece that is making masks that are greatly appreciated and a nephew that checks in to make sure I am safe. I think high school students can reach out to their families via phone and make sure they stay in touch. We all need that right now.”