Step 10 of 11 in getting ready to return to work:
The key to a sustainable return to work is incorporating a monitoring component into the return to work plan with your patient. Once back at work, your patient may struggle more than either of you expected. Returning to work is a process, and the plan may need to change along the way to help your patient stay at work safely and successfully.
During the implementation of the return to work plan:
- Discuss how they are coping with job demands.
- Review the next steps detailed in the return to work plan.
- Make sure the patient is progressing as expected.
- If the plan needs to be revised, write a medical note for the employer and insurance provider (if the patient is receiving a claim) indicating the recommended changes for the plan.
If your patient’s challenges are difficult to resolve, this may be the time to refer your patient to a vocational or rehabilitation specialist, occupational therapist, disability manager, return to work coordinator or to another health professional (if not in place already). You may also want to recommend that employers or insurance providers fund this support if it is not available in the workplace. Getting expert opinions on your patient’s situation not only helps them stay at work, but it may support their employer.1
Continued monitoring by healthcare providers of the patient’s challenges well after they have completed a gradual return to work is recommended. Increasingly, research shows that cancer patients may struggle with staying at work.
It can be helpful to encourage your patient to schedule regular meetings with their supervisor. These regular meetings will help the returning employee and the supervisor to address any issues and concerns right away. Strategies for addressing these challenges such as job accommodations that would allow the employee to keep working can also be reviewed.
Encourage your patient to also use these regular meetings to remind their manager about any upcoming medical appointments, especially if the patient is in treatment. If any limitations and restrictions have changed, this is also the time to give the employer updated medical information.
If your patient tells you they are struggling at work and need a change in the return to work plan, it is important to update their employer representative (supervisor, human resources professional, disability manager or return to work coordinator) and their insurance case manager.