Building a novel occupational rehabilitation program to support cancer survivors to return to health, wellness, and work in Australia

D. M. Sheppard, D. Frost, M. Jefford, M. O’Connor, G. Halkett

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

6 Citations (Scopus)


Purpose: With a substantial increase in the population of cancer survivors of working age, issues concerning sustainable employment must be addressed. The health benefits of work are well established; however, the lack of support to transition back to work is a gap in survivorship care. Researchers, occupational rehabilitation and insurance sectors, cancer support services, and consumers have collaborated to develop a tailored, multimodal occupational rehabilitation program to support resumption of meaningful work for cancer survivors. This paper describes intervention development and refinement based on pilot results and expert- and consumer-recommendations. Methods: The pilot was conducted within the life insurance sector, a collaboration fostered by global reinsurance company Swiss Re, with cancer survivors referred to an Australian provider of occupational rehabilitation services. Results: Preliminary outcomes from 15 of 72 cancer survivors following adequate engagement (excluding those who withdrew or were still actively engaged) showed 10 (67%) with improved certified capacity to work, translating to 13 (87%) with improved work status. Consultant survey results indicated barriers to participation in and engagement with the program, including referral delays, health concerns, and cancer recurrence. Expert panel recommendations were used to refine the intervention and tailor to breast cancer survivors for the feasibility stage. Conclusions: Strengths include an innovative model of referral and funding, through a life insurance provider, the involvement of a multidisciplinary collaborative team to design, develop and implement the pilot, and considerable consumer involvement. Implications for Cancer Survivors: The refined intervention will address a critical gap to improve reintegration into work and society, contributing to improved quality of life for cancer survivors in Australia. Models of referral through insurers to rehabilitation services could be adopted in other jurisdictions.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)31-35
Number of pages5
JournalJournal of Cancer Survivorship
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2020


  • Cancer survivors
  • Rehabilitation
  • Return to work
  • Vocational

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