This study was conducted to explore the use of online communities for information sharing and mutual support by health professionals, in this case, oncology social workers (OSW). The characteristic traits of individuals using online listservs and reasons for use is largely under researched. The main objective of this research is to explore the nature of social exchange and use of a professional online community that occurs on the Social Work Oncology Network (SWON) listserv and the characteristics of those OSWs using the listserv. Using a researcher developed survey, associations between characteristics of listserv users and reasons for use were explored. Data included 197 survey responses from current oncology social workers that are members of the Association of Oncology Social Workers (AOSW) that use the SWON listserv. The survey was designed to allow for exploration of processes, outcomes, characteristics of SWON users and the primary reasons of engaging in a professional listserv guided by social learning theory and community of practice. Associations between certification as an OSW and how others manage frustrations at work, primary employment setting and seeking information on what roles other OSWs take on in the workplace were found. OSW characteristics were found to have an association with information seeking regarding what roles other OSWs take on in their workplace. The implications of the results of this research validate the value and importance of oncology social workers having access to the SWON listserv when working with oncology patients to meet psychosocial needs and to help support one another. The oncology field will continue to progress, as will the complexity of needs of cancer patients. The SWON listserv serves as a great example of how to communicate with others within the same profession for real-time information and knowledge sharing and a source of mutual support.


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Graduation Date





Burg, Mary Ann


Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)


College of Community Innovation and Education


School of Public Administration

Degree Program

Public Affairs; Social Work




CFE0008135; DP0023471





Release Date

August 2020

Length of Campus-only Access


Access Status

Doctoral Dissertation (Open Access)

Included in

Social Work Commons