Presentation M O20

M O20 (Oral Presentation):
Oncologists’ and family physicians’ reflections on cancer survivors’ work integration

Presented by: Tricia Lynne Morrison


Morrison T1, Thomas R1, Guitard P1

  1. University of Ottawa, Faculty of Health Sciences, School of Rehabilitation Sciences Ottawa, Canada



Often the only healthcare providers in contact with cancer patients, physicians are routinely asked to comment upon cancer survivors’ work ability/integration (e.g., insurance forms). Despite this, survivors previously reported limited advice and the necessity to independently navigate work-related decisions (e.g., working through treatment versus taking leave, when and how to return). In order to glean an improved understanding of physicians’ perspectives, this study explored their perceptions, beliefs, and attitudes related to survivors’ work integration.


Using vignette methodology, individual interviews were conducted with 10 Canadian and American physicians (five oncologists and five family physicians) in the fall of 2013. Vignettes consisted of cancer survivors’ photographs and narratives describing important work-related experiences. After reviewing each vignette, participating physicians were asked questions intended to elicit rich responses toward uncovering covert and explicit opinions. Vignette methodology provides the safe distance required to encourage participants' discursive exchange about what they or a third party would, or should, do given the presented context. Interviews were audio recorded and transcribed verbatim prior to an interpretive descriptive analysis.


Preliminary analysis revealed physicians do not address work integration unless the topic is specifically raised by the patient (e.g., questions, insurance forms). Patients are then pivotally involved in work integration planning, often asked to dictate the timing of return and required accommodations. Busy physicians, focused on medical needs, often resent involvement in work integration issues, considering that these issues better fall into other professionals’ scopes of practice. Despite this, referrals to other professionals are rarely facilitated.


Work integration support for cancer survivors is currently lacking. Although often asked to provide opinion, physicians are ill-equipped to address work integration issues. Informed work integration support services, such as that provided by occupational therapists, are required by cancer survivors to address this key quality of life survivorship issue and relieving this ill-placed expectation from physicians.

Schedule Details

Monday September 29
13:45 - 15:15 Afternoon Concurrent Sessions (M O13 - M O24 and Seminar 2)
Session: Work disability in cancer survivors
Room A