Return to work experiences of persons with cancer
Berry, Donna Lynn, 1956-
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Maintaining employment after a diagnosis of cancer and even during therapy is a major challenge for an increasing number of individuals. Although limited, the literature on the return-to-work experience for persons with cancer suggests that they confront a variety of issues and barriers. The individual experience, as understood as meaningful by the worker who has cancer, has been infrequently reported. The purpose of this study was to understand the experience of returning to work after a diagnosis of cancer, discovering the nature and processes of the dimensions. This exploratory, longitudinal study examined and systematically analyzed the dimensions of the return-to-work experience that were evident in data from 19 unstructured interviews. The purposive sample included full time workers who had received surgical treatment or combined modality treatment for a genitourinary cancer. Grounded theory methods of study design and constant comparative analysis guided the interviews and data analysis. Trustworthiness and integrity of the data and the findings were established and confirmed through application of several techniques: triangulation of data sources, peer-debriefing, member checks, maintenance of a field journal, and an audit trail. The core social process suggested by the interview data is one of "Mobilizing social support" in the work environment. Critical dimensions of the core process were expressed by the participants: the normalizing effect of re-establishing the worker role, the significant event of sharing the diagnosis with others at work, the use of stories, the social comparisons which enhanced a sense of well-being, and the exploration of priorities. The inceptive theory explains and delineates steps in a process which ultimately facilitates a person's reintegration of normal activities after a diagnosis of cancer. Further research is now needed to verify these grounded theoretical dimensions of the return-to-work experience, to determine transferability to other samples and then to focus on the critical processes identified here. The added understanding available in these results can guide nurses to focus not only on related dimensions of the return-to-work experience such as time off for treatments, but on central concerns, such as the social benefits of going back to work.
- Nursing - Seattle