Vicky PAPANIKOLAOU

BSW (Hons. Class 1) UNSW, Grad. Cert. Palliative Care Social Work: Death, Dying and Mourning (Merit) USYD, Grad. Cert. Supervision in Social Work Field Education UNSW, MSW (Counselling) UNSW.        

Vicky was born in Sydney (Australia) to parents of Greek origin.

Her father George who is of Greek heritage, was born in Egypt and migrated to Australia in his teenage years, following political unrest in his birth country.

Her mother Theodora was born in Sydney to Greek migrant parents.

Throughout her formative years, Vicky’s parents instilled the values of philanthropy and emphasised the importance of helping others through their ongoing involvement with charitable endeavours serving the Greek community.

Vicky’s upbringing, along with her catholic school education, played an instrumental role in cultivating a sense of social awareness and responsibility which encouraged her to help others in any capacity she was able.

From an early age, Vicky had an apparent sense of empathy and compassion for people from all walks of life.

She regularly engaged in charitable acts, such as fundraising and donating clothing and non-perishables (canned food) to those in need.

Upon graduating from high school, Vicky knew she wanted to make a difference in people’s lives and was contemplating which path to pursue regarding her tertiary studies.

On her graduation day, she fortuitously received a keepsake trinket box from her parents engraved with the words “Each person should use whatever he has received to serve others.” 2 Peter 4: 10

Inspired by these words, Vicky came to the realisation that she wanted to become a Social Worker.

Four years later, Vicky graduated with a BSW (Hons. Class 1) from the University of New South Wales.

Her Honours Thesis explored the service needs of children with mentally ill parents, shedding light on existing gaps in service delivery and raising awareness on the systemic issues creating barriers for these children’s ability to exercise their full potential.

To date, Vicky has been appointed as social worker in a variety of practice settings, ranging from community-based organisations to large teaching Hospitals.

Throughout her career she has worked with diverse client populations, and in doing so has always served as a strong advocate on behalf of marginalised groups and vulnerable communities, addressing the psychosocial issues impacting the health and well-being of these countless individuals.

In her primary role as a Senior Oncology Social Worker, Vicky provided bereavement counselling to individuals and families around life adjustments resulting from chronic illness and offered information and practical support around end of life issues to facilitate their coping.

Vicky also worked earnestly to educate her fellow colleagues about fostering a culturally sensitive approach when dealing with Culturally and Linguistically Diverse (CALD) populations (particularly for those from Greek backgrounds), advising them about culturally specific bereavement processes and other practice issues, specific to the grieving process experienced by those from Greek cultural backgrounds.

Having had extensive clinical experience working with patients and families affected by cancer, Vicky developed a personal interest in palliative care social work, specifically in the areas of End of Life (EOL) care issues and specialised therapeutic interventions in grief and bereavement.

Her desire to gain a deeper understanding in these areas of professional interest, led her to complete post-graduate studies at the University of Sydney where she was awarded a Graduate Certificate in Palliative Care Social Work: Death, Dying and Mourning (Merit).

This highlights Vicky’s academic drive and genuine commitment to better understanding the needs of those she was servicing.

Over the course of her career, Vicky has assisted with the co-ordination of the look good feel better program (helping people undergoing cancer treatment improve their confidence and sense of well-being), participated in numerous psychoeducational programs to promote coping skills among those with chronic illnesses and has facilitated therapeutic support groups for the bereaved, as well as well as those dealing with anxiety and depression.

She has also contributed to policy and service development for NSW health.

Among her involvement in various initiatives to improve patient care outcomes, Vicky conducted small scale research in the form of a ‘needs analysis’ pertaining to the experience of rural cancer patients receiving care in NSW hospitals.  The objective of her research was to improve service delivery and experiential outcomes for this patient group.

This research identified key areas of need among rural cancer patients and resulted in the development of referral pathways aiding service accessibility, effectively addressing the psychological, practical and social needs of rural cancer patients, thus improving their overall hospital experience.

The NSW Cancer Institute has recognised Vicky’s hard work and dedication to servicing cancer patients and awarded her a scholarship to assist her with the funding of her post-graduate studies at the UNSW, where she completed her Master’s in Social Work Counselling.

Vicky’s academic qualifications as well as her professional expertise have earned her the status of an Accredited Mental Health Social Worker (AMHSW).

She currently works as a Clinical Social Work consultant advising, educating and training those in the helping professions in her field of expertise.

Vicky also continues to serve the local community through her private practice, offering counselling support as well as complex case management to individuals and families, and aspires to commence her PhD studies to earn her Doctorate in Social Work in the near future.

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