Poster Presentation COSA-IPOS Joint Scientific Meeting 2012

Employee to employer communication skills: Balancing cancer treatment and employment (#411)

Richard F Brown 1 , Myra Owens 2 , Cathy Bradley 1
  1. Social and Behavioral Health, Virginia Commonwealth University School of Medicine, Richmond , VA, United States
  2. Center for Clinical and Translational Research, Virginia Commonwealth University Office of Research , Richmond , VA, United States

Background- Continuing to work during cancer treatments provides cancer patients with a sense of normalcy, positive self-esteem, better quality of life and protects against potential loss of income or insurance. Cancer patients face difficulties accessing legally mandated benefits and accommodations when they return to the workplace during treatment. Poor employer – employee communication, inflates these difficulties. Although proven methods to facilitate physician – patient communication exist these have not been applied to the workplace. Thus, we aimed to assess the feasibility and utility of applying these methods to educate patients about their workplace rights, and provide them with communication skills training to aid conversations with their employers.

Methods- A DVD was produced to educate patients about patients’ legal rights in the workplace and facilitate workplace communication. The DVD depicted an employee working through a variety of workplace communication challenges. Participants consisted of 28 solid tumor cancer patients (14 female and 14 male) who completed primary cancer treatment in the past 12 months and were employed at the time of diagnosis. Participants watched the communication skills training DVD, and completed a telephone interview. The interview elicited information about workplace experiences and evaluation of the DVD training program.

Results- The physician-patient communication skills training model utilized was successfully translated to the employer-employee setting. All but one participant found the DVD useful and easy to understand and indicated a high degree of confidence using the communication skills to help them ask for workplace accommodations. All agreed that it would help newly diagnosed patients in discussions with their employers.

Conclusion- Our data provides promising preliminary evidence that patient communication skills training can be applied to the workplace setting and is a welcomed aid to newly diagnosed cancer patients in their discussions with employers regarding the impact of treatment on their work performance and needs for accommodations.