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10. Manage work expectations

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 10 of 11 in getting ready to return to work:

For some cancer survivors, there may be permanent changes in their functional abilities and for others, the recovery may take time. Encouraging survivors to realistically view their work ability over time and have this communicated to their employer (as part of the return to work plan) and to colleagues may prevent undue pressure that can come with unrealistic expectations.

You can help the survivor manage their own expectations and those of their supervisor by providing clear guidelines for restrictions, limitations, and a graduated return to work. The survivor can refer to these guidelines as needed. If they are experiencing fatigue, pain, or cognitive problems, these tend to be invisible and harder for others to imagine or accept.

You may want to encourage the cancer survivor to read our tips for communicating with people in their workplace to help deal with co-workers’ reactions).

To help cancer survivors balance work and other roles they may have, discuss what supports the family can provide. When survivors return to work, they may not be as available or able to do as many household duties because of fatigue and time spent at work. Healthcare providers can encourage families to discuss how everyone can share household duties in light of the expected fatigue that comes from losing work conditioning while off work. As well, survivors who are unable to drive may need their family’s help getting to work.

Next step:

Step 11: Monitor the work situation

Back to the list of return to work preparation steps