Returning to work after cancer is associated with improved physical and psychological functioning, but managing this return can be a challenging process. A workbook based intervention (WorkPlan) was developed to support return-to-work among cancer survivors. The aim of this study was to explore how participants using the workbook engaged with the intervention and utilised the content of the intervention in their plan to return-to-work.
As part of a feasibility randomised controlled trial, 23 participants from the intervention group were interviewed 4-weeks post intervention. Interviews focussed on intervention delivery and data was analysed using Framework analysis.
Participants revealed a sense of empowerment and changes in their outlook as they transitioned from patient to employee, citing the act of writing as a medium for creating their own return-to-work narrative. Participants found the generation of a return-to-work plan useful for identifying potential problems and solutions, which also served as a tool for aiding discussion with the employer on return-to-work. Additionally, participants reported feeling less uncertain and anxious about returning to work. Timing of the intervention in coordination with ongoing cancer treatments was crucial to perceived effectiveness; participants identified the sole or final treatment as the ideal time to receive the intervention.
The self-guided workbook supports people diagnosed with cancer to build their communication and planning skills to successfully manage their return-to-work. Further research could examine how writing plays a role in this process.