McGill
BC Cancer Agency
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Returning to work / staying at 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”.

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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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Dr. Margaret Oldfield, M.E.Des., PhD

Dr. Margaret Oldfield is a social scientist and the postdoctoral scholar on the Cancerandwork.ca project. Her pre-doctoral career encompassed the fields of social policy, education, employment, disability rights, women’s issues, and community health. She received a PhD in Rehabilitation Science from University of Toronto in 2015 and a Certificate of Advanced Training in Qualitative Health Research Methodology. Her dissertation explored how women with fibromyalgia, a chronic illness, stayed at work. Dr. Oldfield’s research interests include workplace disclosure, discrimination against employees with chronic illnesses, factors other than illness that push these employees out of the workforce, and alternatives to workplace accommodations that do not require disclosing difference. She also is a writer, an academic editor at Ryerson University, and a collaborator with the Centre for Research on Work Disability Policy.

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Cancer and Work Development Team

Cancerandwork.ca is a website led by Dr. Christine Maheu, from McGill University and Ms. Maureen Parkinson, from the British Columbia Cancer Agency and their core team members, in partnership with the de Souza Institute. Advisory board members and expert writers made up of interdisciplinary clinicians, legal experts, management and policy makers, and academics also contributed to the content of the website.

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For some people with cancer, getting closer to returning to work is exciting. For them, things are getting back to a “new normal.” For other people, work can bring up concerns, especially if their options are limited. Whatever your situation, it is wise to start thinking about returning to work as soon as possible. This includes identifying possible challenges and considering solutions and options.

In this short video, Tina describes her back-to-work process, including a conversation with her doctor:

Steps in getting ready to return to work

There are distinct steps to planning to return to work. The first step is to understand your current abilities concerning the demands of the job. Once you have a sense of your current abilities, the next step is to reflect on what you can do about any challenges you anticipate when you return to work. The suggestion is that you discuss your abilities and challenges with your healthcare team and how these could be addressed.

You can also identify the supports in your personal life and those at work you will need to help you perform at your highest, safest and most productive level. Remember you do not need to be 100% recovered to start a return to work plan, and it may take some time to recover fully. Once you have reviewed these steps, you are ready to discuss your return to work plan with your healthcare provider. A good return to work plan also involves monitoring the progress and addressing concerns that arise at the workplace.

Return to work steps:

  1. Understand your current abilities about your work
  2. Understand your challenges in returning to work
  3. Communicate with your healthcare team
  4. Consider strategies to improve your abilities, enhance your wellbeing, and meet workplace challenges
  5. Identify supports that will enable you to work
  6. Develop a formal return to work plan
  7. Prepare for the first days, weeks, months back at work
  8. Monitor your progress
  9. Manage expectations at your workplace