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11. Monitor the work situation

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 11 of 11 in getting ready to return to work:

Your return to work is unique to you and it can be difficult to predict what challenges you might face. Even when you resume full work hours, you may continue to struggle. The key to staying at work once you go back is to keep monitoring and checking in with your employer and healthcare provider during and after the return to work plan is completed. Returning to work is a process, and the plan may need to be changed along the way to help you stay at work safely and successfully.

With the healthcare provider, it may be helpful to set up follow-up meetings during and, if needed, after the return to work plan is completed.

Suggested topics to discuss:

  • How you are coping with the job demands.
  • Review the next steps in the return to work plan.
  • Review if the plan needs to be revised, and if so, get a medical note for the employer and insurance provider (if you are receiving insurance benefits) indicating the recommended changes for the plan. Remember that also having regular meetings with your employer during and after your return to work plan has been completed will be helpful to address challenges that may arise. Be sure to address any issues and concerns right away. Also, strategies can be reviewed, such as job accommodations that would enable you to keep working.

Use these meetings to remind your manager about any upcoming medical appointments, especially if you are still receiving treatments. If any limitations and restrictions have changed (activities you should avoid, as well as what may be difficult or impossible for you to do), this is the time to give your employer updated medical information. If you are struggling at work and need a change in your return to work plan, it is important to discuss this with your employer representative (supervisor, human resources professional, disability manager, return to work coordinator, occupational health professional).

If you are facing challenges at work and these are difficult to deal with, ask your healthcare provider, insurance provider, and employer to refer you to a vocational or rehabilitation specialist, occupational therapist, disability manager, return to work coordinator, or to another health professional if this has not been done. You may also need your healthcare provider to recommend that employers or insurance providers fund this support if it is not available within the healthcare system or at the worksite. Getting expert advice on your work situation not only helps you stay at work but also guides your employer to support your successful return to work.

Next steps:

Back to the list of return to work preparation steps

Go to the Cancer and Return to Work Planner Tool