Original Research

Work adjustment of cancer survivors: An organisational support framework

Loraine Clur, Antoni Barnard, Yvonne T. Joubert
SA Journal of Industrial Psychology | Vol 43 | a1468 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/sajip.v43i0.1468 | © 2017 Loraine Clur, Antoni Barnard, Yvonne T. Joubert | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 15 June 2017 | Published: 20 November 2017

About the author(s)

Loraine Clur, Department of Industrial and Organisational Psychology, University of South Africa, South Africa
Antoni Barnard, Department of Industrial and Organisational Psychology, University of South Africa, South Africa
Yvonne T. Joubert, Department of Industrial and Organisational Psychology, University of South Africa, South Africa


Orientation: Medical advancements increase incidents of cancer survivors returning to work. Work adjustment of cancer survivors is essential for job satisfaction and productivity and should be supported and facilitated by the organisation.

Research purpose: The purpose of the study was to explore cancer survivors’ return to work experience in order to explicate organisational support needed to facilitate their successful work adjustment.

Motivation for the study: Despite the growing awareness of cancer survivorship, the challenges, expectations and management of the return to work process remain under researched.

Research approach, design and method: Heidegger’s hermeneutic phenomenology formed the methodological foundation to the study. Purposive sampling was used to select eight participants from an oncology unit and cancer support organisation in the Southern Cape and Little Karoo regions. Participants, diagnosed with various types of cancer, were regarded as cancer survivors as they completed treatment and have returned to work. Data were collected using unstructured interviews and analysed through thematic analysis based on Ricoeur’s hermeneutic phenomenological theory of interpretation.

Main findings: Results highlight four themes representing cancer survivors’ needs for organisational support. The support needs are presented in the context of the theory of work adjustment in a hierarchical schema that evolves from a basic need for emotion-focussed support to the need for knowledge and for practical guidance. Support needs culminate in the need for self-actualisation through meaning-making. An organisational support framework is proposed consisting of four integrated functions aimed at addressing the needs that emerged from the data.

Practical and managerial implications: The organisational support framework provides guidance to develop an organisational policy and intervention strategy aimed at managing the successful work adjustment of the cancer survivor.

Contribution or value-add: The study presents original research, contributing to the body of knowledge regarding cancer survivors returning to work, and introduces a new area of research in the discipline of industrial and organisational psychology.


cancer survivor; cancer employee; work adjustment; return to work; RTW


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Crossref Citations

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