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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, recovery may take time and for others, they may be permanent changes in their ability to carry out day-to-day tasks. Having a realistic view of your work ability over time and letting your employer know (as part of the return to work plan) by a note or having your healthcare provider fill out a form may prevent pressure that can come with expectations that are not realistic from your employer or colleagues. 

Having a formal return to work plan (Step 8: Contribute to the development of the return to work plan) that outlines your restrictions, limitations, and a graduated return to work plan can allow you to refer to these guidelines when needed. Having these things in a document or on paper is particularly helpful If you are feeling fatigue, pain, or having cognitive problems, as these tend to be invisible and harder for others to imagine or accept. This situation can be the case for some of your colleagues who may not be aware of the details of your medical information. As a result, they may not fully understand why you are receiving certain accommodations (something that can be changed to meet your needs or situation). Click on this link for tips on how to talk to your colleagues.

To help balance your work and your other roles outside of work, discuss what support your family and friends can provide. When you return to work, you may not be as available or able to do as many household tasks or social engagements because of fatigue and time spent at work. It may also be difficult because you may not be used to working anymore. That’s why talking with your family about household duties as your situation changes is recommended. As well, if you are unable to drive, you may need to ask family, friends, work colleagues, or explore car-pooling for help getting to work.

Next step:

Step 11: Monitor the work situation

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