Social worker helps cancer patients navigate their diagnosis and healing

Diane Monceski has worked at IU Health for 16 years dedicating her career in social work to helping cancer patients at IU Health Simon Cancer Center.

By IU Health Senior Journalist T.J. Banes,

It’s no coincidence that Diane Monceski enjoys working puzzles – Sudoku, Criptoquip, and Jigsaw.

“My role feels so natural. It’s like a puzzle – trying to help someone navigate the way, to help them hold the pieces together,” said Monceski. “We see people with a lot of different circumstances and I think I’m pretty good at appreciating where they are.”

Monceski’s career in social work started 16 years ago at IU Health Methodist Hospital working with pulmonary and oncology patients. Monceski knew early on she wanted to focus on caring for oncology patients.

In 2012 she moved to IU Health Simon Cancer Center where she joins two other social workers – Janet Hoyer and Melissa Renbarger. Their focus is to provide assistance with counseling, lodging, transportation, family support, financial/insurance, and legal aid. They also encourage patients to focus on their own strength, abilities and interests.

“We’re here to try to help people overcome any barriers to their care,” said Monceski, who grew up in Illinois and received her undergraduate degree from Illinois State University and her master’s degree from IUPUI. She was recently the recipient of the Maynard K. Hine Award recognizing individual alumni who have made significant contributions in support of the IUPUI campus and its alumni program. She is married to Dan, the mother to a daughter Kristin, and a son Michael. She also has three grandsons.

“I chose social work because I always felt reducing stress was an important part of health. If I could help people reduce stress while going through medical issues that would be help them get more out of their health care,” said Monceski. “I’ve always been really interested in body mind connection. As I researched careers I found social workers were the ones who did that.”

March is “Social Work Month,” a time to recognize people like Monceski as part of a healthcare team. This year marks the 65th
anniversary of the National Association of Social Workers with a theme, “Social Workers: Generations Strong.”

The social work team receives referrals from doctors, nurses, and other caregivers. The needs range helping secure lodging for out-of-town patients, to providing emotional support for family members.

“The thing I like the best is you get to connect with people at an overwhelming time and we can’t fix everything but we can make it better,” said Monceski. “We are able to help people chip away at that pile of things that are going on – ‘What am I going to do about my job, my health, my kids?’ Each time they overcome a barrier it gives them hope to get through it. The other thing I like about my job is the caliber people we work with. Doctors, nurses and the entire staff is so passionate about our patients and you can tell everyone who works here wants to be here and the patients see it too.”