Transitioning back to work as a head and neck cancer survivor: a holistic systems perspective

The most recent Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (2019) report indicates that Head and Neck Cancers (HNCs) will be the 4th most diagnosed cancer in males (behind prostate, colorectal, melanoma and lung) and the 11th most diagnosed in females in Australia in the next 12 months. This cohort of cancer survivors are also getting younger on average, with the majority being of working age. HNCs and their complex treatments may lead to significant and persistent impairments following the completion of treatment, many of which pose challenges in the context of transitioning back to work.  This project is offered as part of a collaborative venture between Monash University and the Radiation Oncology team at the Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre. This PhD project builds on the results of a recent project that explored and documented using cross-sectional qualitative approach, the experiences of individuals with head and neck cancer when attempting to transition back to work. Dr Dianne Sheppard provides expertise in the psychosocial predictors of return to work (RTW) and life for those with chronic conditions. Expertise in head and neck cancers support comes from the senior radiation oncologists (Drs McDowell and Coleman) at the Peter MacCallum Centre. The project would focus on identifying employer-related and system-related barriers experienced by those with head and neck cancer when attempting to return to work, and come up with recommendations to address these barriers.The project could also include the validation of a psychosocial assessment tool for use within this setting, i.e. exploring the predictive nature of the tool in relation to return to work and work capacity outcome measures.

This thesis would be supervised by Dr Dianne Sheppard (MUARC, Monash University), Dr Lachlan McDowell & Dr Andrew Coleman (Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre, Moorabbin).

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