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Changing the work/workplace situation


Some survivors may consider immediately changing jobs or careers. It is important that they have been informed of the potential implications of this. They may risk losing wages, benefits (which they may never recover), seniority and a sense of self competency and self-confidence. It is worth exploring the costs and benefits of shifting jobs, especially the wisdom of changing jobs immediately versus developing a longer term plan. It is helpful to explore what aspects of the current job are most troubling as well as to develop effective strategies to deal with the stresses and challenges of work. Changing jobs may be the right decision for any given individual, but health care providers can be helpful in ensuring it is an informed decision.

Unfortunately, people often think their stress will disappear if they change to another job, only to find when they start a new one, that they still feel stressed. This suggests that what needs to improve is the ability to cope with work stress.

Health care providers can help survivors have a better quality of life at work by helping them to:

  • Identify what is most important to them
  • Focus their energy toward things that matter.
  • Find the right balance between work, personal time, personal relationships and “down” time.
  • Develop and maintain support systems within and outside of work.
  • Learn stress management skills
  • Remember to eat healthy foods, get enough sleep and make time for physical activity. Nourish (www.nourishonline.ca) is an online magazine, developed for Canadians by registered oncology dietitians to learn about eating well during and after treatment for cancer.

Helping survivors access resources to learn or reinforce time management skills, communication skills, assertiveness training, conflict management skills and setting personal boundaries can also be very helpful in boosting self- efficacy and effective problem solving.

A recent study suggested there may be individuals at higher risk of having a lower quality of life when they return to work. These include those who have lower incomes, have physically demanding work, and do not hold managerial positions, those who have received chemotherapy, and those who have co-morbid conditions1. These individuals may need extra attention and/or referral to appropriate resources.