Perceptions of Breast Cancer Survivors on the Supporting Practices of Their Supervisors in the Return-to-Work Process: A Qualitative Descriptive Study


Purpose Supervisors are known to be key actors in ensuring the success of absent employees in their return-to-work process. However, to date, little is known about the perceptions of breast cancer survivors on the practices put in place by their supervisors to support them during this process. The objective of this study was to describe the perceptions of breast cancer survivors on the practices put in place by their supervisors to support them during their return-to-work process. Method A qualitative descriptive study was conducted. Semi-structured interviews were carried out with breast cancer survivors (n = 10) who had returned to work after treatment and were still at work more than 18 months later. Each interview was audio recorded and then transcribed verbatim for qualitative thematic content analysis using a semi-open codification framework. Results Participants identified three main practices put in place by their supervisors to support them and which they perceived as particularly helpful during the return-to-work process: (1) maintaining communication during their period of absence; (2) working with them to structure their return-to-work process before their actual return; and (3) allowing them flexibility in their schedule for a certain period, particularly at the beginning of the return-to-work process. Breast cancer survivors also identified an omission in the practice of employers: lack of follow-up over time. Conclusion Knowledge about the practices perceived as helpful by breast cancer survivors during their return-to-work process lays the groundwork for the eventual development of services to help breast cancer survivors in their return to work.

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Correspondence to Maryse Caron.

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All procedures followed were in accordance with the ethical standards of the responsible committee on human experimentation (institutional and national) and with the Helsinki Declaration of 1975, as revised in 2000 (5).

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Informed consent was obtained from all patients to be included in the study.

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Caron, M., Durand, MJ. & Tremblay, D. Perceptions of Breast Cancer Survivors on the Supporting Practices of Their Supervisors in the Return-to-Work Process: A Qualitative Descriptive Study. J Occup Rehabil 28, 89–96 (2018).

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  • Breast neoplasms
  • Survivors
  • Return to work
  • Workplace