A critical initial step in work re-entry involves the determination of work readiness. Cancer survivors have requested increased health care provider involvement in their work readiness decisions. However, there has been no exploration of current practices in determining work readiness, and thus no specific recommendations regarding how to assist survivors in answering the question: Am I ready to return to work?
To explore return to work following cancer and the workplace supports survivors require, we completed an exploratory qualitative study. We conducted semi-structured interviews with (i) cancer survivors (n = 16) and (ii) health care/vocational service providers (n = 16). Data were analyzed using thematic analysis. Themes specific to work readiness are discussed.
Three key processes were deemed relevant to determining work readiness by health care providers and survivors: (1) assessing functional abilities in relation to job demands; (2) identifying survivor strengths and barriers to return to work; and (3) identifying supports available in the workplace. Challenges to work readiness determinations, were described by survivors and providers, related to: (i) the complexity of cancer, (ii) the accuracy of work readiness determinations, and (iii) the lack of established processes for addressing work goals.
Health care providers need to work collaboratively with survivors to determine if they are physically, cognitively, and emotionally ready to return to work, and with workplaces to determine if they are prepared to provide the necessary supports. Further stakeholder collaboration is also warranted.
Implications for Cancer Survivors
Supports from health care providers in determining work readiness can ensure survivors do not return to work either “too early” or “too late.”
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This study was supported by a grant through the Dean’s Fund, Faculty of Medicine, University of Toronto. We would like to express our gratitude to the cancer survivors and service providers who shared their time, expertise and experiences to help us understand work readiness. We would also like to acknowledge the assistance of Well spring for their assistance with recruitment.
All procedures performed in this study, involving human participants, were in accordance with the ethical standards and approval from the ethics review boards at the University of Toronto and the University Health Network, and with the 1964 Helsinki declaration and its later amendments or comparable ethical standards. Informed consent was obtained from all individual participants included in the study.
This study was supported by a grant through the Dean’s Fund, Faculty of Medicine, University of Toronto (award no. DF-2013-17).
Conflict of interest
All authors of this paper have no conflict of interest to declare.
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Stergiou-Kita, M., Pritlove, C., Holness, D.L. et al. Am I ready to return to work? Assisting cancer survivors to determine work readiness. J Cancer Surviv 10, 699–710 (2016). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11764-016-0516-9
- Cancer survivors
- Return to work
- Work readiness
- Employment supports