A Quick Look
This paper looked at individuals’ perceptions of emotional and physical functioning and self-management on career development for survivors of childhood cancer. Survival rates have increased for pediatric brain tumors, but youth survivors often experience late effects, or the lingering physical, cognitive, and emotional effects after the remission of the cancer.
Cognitive Changes: Tumor location and treatment type (e.g., cranial radiation, surgery, chemotherapy) have been linked to cognitive changes such as depreciated memory, auditory attention, concentration, processing, and abstract reasoning. These changes can impact individuals’ abilities to meet the demands of the labor market (Feuerstein, Hansen, Calvio, Johnson, & Ronquillo, 2007; Mostow, Byrne, Connelly, & Mulvihill, 1991).
Physical Changes: Common late effect physical changes include increased levels of fatigue, visual and hearing problems, gait and mobility problems, and inability to stand for extended periods. Research indicates childhood brain tumor survivors also face decreased social adjustment and higher levels of depression and anxiety (Schulte & Barrera, 2010).
Without opportunities to develop necessary skills and career vision through paid work experiences, survivors may lack the motivation necessary to pursue educational opportunities that are consistent with their residual functional capacity, and ultimately, become ready to enter the workforce (Chan, Cardoso, & Chronister, 2007; Strauser, Wagner, & Wong, 2012). As a result, many survivors have limited career development and employment. Establishing an appropriate career path and pursuing one’s occupational development is critical to enhancing the cancer survivorship experience (Short, Vasey, & Tunceli, 2005; Strauser, Jones, Chiu, Tansey, & Chan, 2015).
- Physical and emotional functioning impact on specific career development factors.
- When exploring work options (job awareness) emotional functioning affected strategies and skills to differentiate between disability limitations and employability.
- Emotional functioning also influenced self-management while searching for jobs.
- The relationship between self-management and job maintenance was partially determined by physical functioning.
Putting It Into Practice
- Study findings underscore the importance for social work, health, and rehabilitation professionals to help young adult CNS survivors in managing their physical and emotional symptoms. Health self-management increases young adult CNS survivors’ perception of physical and emotional functioning just as higher levels of physical and emotional functioning are associated with higher levels of engagement in career development activities.
- Research in the career and vocational rehabilitation literature suggests that a young adult who is involved in making an educational or career choice who has a low level of perceived emotional functioning may present as lacking motivation, less likely to be engaged, more resistant, and may potentially lack the necessary self-efficacy to participate in the necessary career awareness activities (Strauser, 2014). As a result, when working with young adult CNS survivors to promote career awareness, assess the adults’ emotional health and target interventions directed at increasing emotional, psychological, and social functioning resulting in increased levels of motivation, engagement, and self-efficacy to engage in job exploration activities.
- Addressing career acquisition, emotional functioning was also implicated suggesting that addressing an individual’s emotional functioning would be important to address in the job search process.
- In addressing job maintenance, it’s important to address the individual’s perceived level of physical health and functioning. Health promotion interventions should be an integral part of career development and job placement services for young adult CNS survivors.
Strauser, D. R., Iwagana, K., Chan, F., Tansey, T. N., Carlson-Green, B., Greco, C. E., & Wagner, S. (2019). Impact of self-management and functioning on the career development of young adult CNS survivors. Journal of Vocational Rehabilitation, 51, 409-418.
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