Josée Charlebois is a social worker, currently working as an Intake Coordinator at the Ottawa Hospital Psychosocial Oncology Program (PSOP). She is part of the supportive cancer care team and is responsible for providing services to cancer patients and their family members.
Josée works with interdisciplinary healthcare professionals and is the point person for her colleagues in PSOP, as well as for other healthcare professionals within the clinic. Her day-to-day work involves crisis counselling for patients who receive cancer diagnoses. She meets with physicians and nurses, goes to the clinics, stops by if they need help, and helps in the best possible ways. She prioritizes the referrals received and makes referrals to appropriate resources that are available.
During her teen years, Josée lost her grandmother to cancer. She notes, “I saw her suffer and we suffered as a family. We could not help her, we did not know how to. There weren’t as many services or resources available as there are today, especially in the psychosocial side. There was no family support, no information concerning how to support the family member with cancer.” This personal cancer experience initiated Josée’s desire to change and improve the services for people with cancers. She wanted to make a difference to those who are affected by cancer.
Josée loves what she does at PSOP. When asked what she enjoyed most about her job, she said “No two days are the same and that is what I like about my work. I never know what to expect and that is the kind of environment I thrive in. The best part of my work is variety; I do different things every day. Although it can be challenging, it is also very rewarding.” She admits that another most rewarding and enjoyable attributes of her job is that she is able to make a positive impact on patients and their families. She stated “Although I cannot cure their cancer, I can make a difference in the lives of patients and their families. Knowing that I am contributing to the betterment in the lives of my patients makes me feel that my work is worthwhile.” Teaching is another thing that Josée really loves and she is able to pursue this at her current position. She is also involved in providing and developing patient education materials at The Ottawa Hospital and Cancer Care Ontario. Patient Navigation is another area that she is interested in and is looking to explore it further.
Josée considers developing and maintaining her Intake Position at PSOP to be one of her greatest accomplishments. She wants to continue to make a positive difference to the field in whatever possible way. Josée sees Diane Manii, the PSOP manager as a great mentor, good friend and the biggest influence in her career path. Diane encouraged her to develop knowledge and skills, helped her see the potential in her work and contributions to cancer care, and encouraged her to work hard while remembering to take care of herself. Josée stated “Diane gave me opportunities and believed in me and it has made me a stronger person. I wouldn’t be where I am today if it hadn’t been for her.”
She admits that the Psychosocial Oncology field is getting more attention; however, there is still much room for development and improvement. Josée recognizes that in the recent years numerous efforts are being directed to the field of Psychosocial Oncology to address the challenges that cancer families face in this fast-changing world. Her key learnings are “There is always something that we can make a difference in and getting involved is the first step. As a Psychosocial Oncology professional, we have to be involved in moulding the profession to cater to help those who are affected by cancer directly and indirectly.”
Josée emphasizes that “the Psychosocial Oncology is a field where you can make great friends and it really is a fulfilling line of work!” She acknowledges meeting amazing people in this field. Josée is a CAPO member and loves being part of it. She is interested in networking with likeminded people, and also in learning from those in her field. She sees CAPO as a resource arena with lots of opportunities for both personal and professional growth in the field of Psychosocial Oncology. Joining CAPO is another outlet in which Josée believes she can make a difference.
When asked what would be her advice to someone who is thinking about entering the profession, she argues that “Psychosocial Oncology is a hard line of work and is not a type of work for everyone. My suggestion is to always try it out before committing to this career. Try getting involved, doing some volunteer work, and talking to someone in the field prior to starting. People need to be invested and involved to fully contribute to the development of this field. They need to know themselves and know their limits.”
Thanks to CAPO member and volunteer Dr. Violet D’Souza, University of Montreal, for writing this profile.
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ABOUT CAPO:The Canadian Association of Psychosocial Oncology (CAPO) is a national registered charity that promotes excellence in psychosocial care for people with cancer and their families throughout the cancer experience—from diagnosis to treatment to survivorship or death. We work to transform cancer care wherever it is delivered—in hospital, in the community and in hospices. Advancement in psychosocial oncology have been significant and CAPO continues to be a world leader. We believe change will come through more research, better education and improved clinical practice.