Language / La langue: 
Communicate about return to work

Ms. Maureen Parkinson, Vocational Rehabilitation Counsellor, M.Ed. C.C.R.C, BC Cancer

Ms. Maureen Parkinson is the province-wide vocational rehabilitation counsellor at the BC Cancer Agency. She has also been vocational rehabilitation counsellor at a public rehabilitation hospital and vocational rehabilitation consultant to insurance companies and the court system. She has instructed and facilitated Service-Canada-funded programs on job searching and career exploration. Ms. Parkinson has a Masters in Counselling Psychology, is a Canadian Certified Rehabilitation Counsellor, and completed the Certified Return to Work Coordinator Program through the National Institute for Disability Management and Research. She has developed return-to-work and job-search seminars for cancer patients and created the guidebook “Cancer and Returning to Work: A Practical Guide for Cancer Patients” as well as on-line articles about returning to work and school. She also co-authored a paper commissioned by the Canadian Association of Psychosocial Oncology, “Cancer and Work: A Canadian Perspective”.

View all Cancer and Work team members

Dr. Christine Maheu, RN, PhD

Dr. Christine Maheu is an Associate Professor in the Ingram School of Nursing, Faculty of Medicine, McGill University. Dr. Maheu is also an Affiliate Scientist at the University Health Network and the University of Toronto. At McGill University, she teaches research methods, supervises graduate students (masters, doctoral, post-doctoral), mentors practicing nurses and students in research, and conducts research in English and French. She has held research awards with the Canadian Institutes of Health Research, the Canadian Cancer Society, and the Canadian Partnership Against Cancer. These awards funded her research in psychosocial oncology, which focuses on developing and testing psychosocial interventions or measurements tools for various cancer populations. Additionally, in partnership with Ipsos Canada and funded by the Canadian Partnership Against Cancer, she is co-leading a nationwide survey of the needs of cancer patients for transition care from the end of their treatment to three years after their diagnosis. Dr. Maheu received awards for excellence in nursing research (2013, 2015, 2016) from Ovarian Cancer Canada, the Canadian Association of Nurses in Oncology, and the Quebec Association of Nurses in Oncology.

View all Cancer and Work team members

Healthcare team members are often relied upon in the return to work planning. They often provide the support that will improve work ability or offer opinions related to current or future work readiness and abilities. Communication between healthcare practitioners and cancer survivors early and often is important to ensure that the survivors’ work concerns are properly addressed. Cancer survivors need to know how their cancer and its treatment will affect their work abilities, to help decide whether they can stay or return to work, look at alternative work, apply for disability or sick leave (if these are available to them), or stop working. For ideas on questions that need to be addressed, see Communicating with patients. Discussing work-related abilities and concerns also provides an opportunity for healthcare providers to initiate and discuss interventions to improve work readiness, or workplace support to improve the survivor’s chances of staying at work safely and successfully.

In many cases, employers and disability insurance providers ask physicians to provide opinions on whether a patient can presently work, when or if they can return to work, and any restrictions and limitations that will need to be accommodated. Oncologists are also often called upon by employers and disability insurers to give their opinion on a patient’s current work abilities because of their clinical experience with specific treatments. This is especially the case when treatments have changed and there is no research yet to inform how it may impact work-related functions. For more information on how to better communicate with insurance providers and employers, see Communicating with insurance providers and Communicating with employers.

Back to the list of return to work preparation steps