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5. Encourage survivors to take control

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”.

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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.

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Step 5 of 10 in getting ready to return to work:

Encouraging cancer survivors to play an active role in their vocational rehabilitation such as using self-management approaches and educating themselves on what to expect. Taking control over their rehabilitation will help them to feel more empowered, confident to capitalize on inner and external resources, and improve their chances of successful rehabilitation. Too often, cancer survivors feel that the return to work process is not within their control which can make them feel vulnerable. However, most of the time, survivors want to do everything in their power to restore their abilities and enhance their quality of life but they may not always know about resources that can help them prepare to go back to work. In some cases, when they are receiving disability benefits (such as long- term disability), they may feel that case managers from insurance companies are pressuring them to get back to work. Survivors may not realize that, if they actively access assistance to improve their work-related abilities, case managers may actually feel reassured that the survivors are moving forward and may be less likely to pressure them. In fact, health care providers can assist cancer survivors to feel empowered by encouraging them to ask for needed services such as vocational rehabilitation, exercise programs, occupational therapy, and physiotherapy from their insurance providers.

As a healthcare provider, one of your role in the return to work process can be to encourage survivors to explore and access services that are available through:

  • cancer centres
  • other health care organizations
  • community agencies
  • government departments agencies (for example, through Service Canada)
  • the private sector (services through insurance , employee and family assistance, or extended health or self-pay)
  • online resources
  • print resources
  • emotional support available virtually or by phone

It can be very helpful for healthcare providers to familiarize themselves with resources that are not specific only to cancer. Some of these services may target individuals that have had health conditions as a result of cancer and treatments such as brain injury, pain, amputations, or sleep challenges that affect workability. Also, resources on vocational rehabilitation and legal issues that serve the general public may be helpful for cancer survivors to know about.

For ideas for survivors on how to address the challenges that cancer and its treatment present at work, see Cancer’s impact on work and strategies.

Next step:

Step 6: Identify and foster Workplace Supports

Back to the list of return to work preparation steps