Ask the Expert: Managing Cancer at Work

Terry Langbaum is the chief administrative officer of the Johns Hopkins Kimmel Cancer Center and one of the lead developers of the Managing Cancer at Work Program.  Read more about the new benefit program in DOME.

  1. What inspired you to create this program?
    One in two men and one in three women will face a cancer diagnosis, and for most, it will occur during working age. That means all of us are experiencing cancer at some level. We’re either dealing with it ourselves, caring for a loved one with it, or working with someone who has it or is in the role of caregiver. As a three-time cancer survivor, I’ve experienced firsthand what it’s like to hold a job, raise a family and juggle cancer treatments. I’ve also worked closely with individuals who have faced cancer or have been responsible for a loved one with it. It’s challenging. Cancer turns your life upside down and that includes your work life. Employees are stressed about what they should or should not tell their supervisors and co-workers. Managers often feel unsure about how to respond to such news from an employee and what, if anything, they can do to support him or her. Co-workers are asked to “step up” while someone is out with cancer. The Managing Cancer at Work program fills in those gaps and provides the resources and support both employees and supervisors need.
  2. How does the program work?
    The program combines personalized nurse navigation with a unique Web-based educational program for employees and managers, designed specifically for the workplace environment.  Our goal for all employees is to prevent cancer, or to detect it at its earliest stage, so that it is curable.

    • A nurse navigator is available by telephone to provide confidential guidance to employees on medical and work issues while being treated or when serving as a caregiver, as well as access to support groups and other resources. To speak with Marie Borsellino, the nurse navigator, call 410-955-6229 or email her at managecancer@jhmi.edu.
    • The Managing Cancer at Work website, managingcanceratwork.com, provides comprehensive information and videos for employees, including types of cancer, screening, prevention and caregiver education. A separate portal on the website is available for managers. It offers guidance and resources on how best to support and manage when an employee has cancer or is caring for someone with cancer. Access the employee and manager portals on the website with PIN 6229.
  3. What do you hope to achieve with Managing Cancer at Work?
    We want to create a supportive and flexible work environment that will enable the employer and employee to maximize their goals. That’s possible when managers and supervisors are better prepared to support employees during their treatment and plan appropriately, even if the employee is unable to work, and when employees understand their options. For instance, employees may assume that they cannot work during cancer treatment, and often this is not the case. Many employees find it important to work because it keeps their lives “normal” while they undergo treatment.
    We want all of our employees to have the most up-to-date information about cancer — how to prevent it, detect it early and get treatment if necessary. Optimizing care and avoiding waste are important factors today in health care delivery.
  4. Do I have to pay for the services in this program?
    No. It’s free to you as an employee of Johns Hopkins.
  5. Am I required to participate as part of my insurance plan?
    No. The Managing Cancer at Work program is an added benefit for Johns Hopkins faculty and staff that is provided at no cost to you and accessing the services is completely voluntary.
  6. How can I be sure my supervisor will keep my information confidential?
    Federal law requires that personal health information be kept confidential unless a written consent form is signed indicating certain information can be shared with others. As your employer, Johns Hopkins is bound by that law, known as the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA). You can learn more about your rights and how your information is protected here: www.hhs.gov/ocr/privacy/hipaa/understanding/.
  7. Will Johns Hopkins be providing my cancer care?
    It is completely your decision where you decide to receive care. Johns Hopkins is not offering this service to increase patient volume. However, employees are welcome to access the expertise that the Johns Hopkins Kimmel Cancer Center provides.
  8. If I’m part of union (bargaining unit), can I receive these services?
    Yes. Johns Hopkins has made the Managing Cancer at Work Program available to every employee, union and non-union.
  9. Can I use the Managing Cancer at Work resources (web site, navigator) while I’m at work?
    Yes. Johns Hopkins has made a financial commitment to all its employees to provide this program free of charge. Your employer wants to make it as easy as possible for you to access the services Managing Cancer at Work offers.
  10. How much time off will I get if I use the Managing Cancer at Work program?
    That is a decision for you and your supervisor to make. Each individual situation is different and depends on many factors, including an employee’s current amount of allotted time off for vacation and sick time. For more information about talking with your supervisor if you or a loved has cancer, visit:
    www.managingcanceratwork.com. Use access PIN: 6229 to navigate through the site.
  11. Will the nurse navigator for Managing Cancer replace the other support nurse navigators and coordinators that are already in place at Johns Hopkins?
    No. This role is not intended to duplicate existing navigators but instead to make sure patients and caregivers understand what’s available to them and assist them in making connections to those resources.

  

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3 Comments

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Valerie January 21, 2015 at 9:19 am

WONDERFUL CONCEPT. THANKS.

Reply

Beatrice January 21, 2015 at 6:15 am

My husband was recently diagnosed with prostate cancer in Nov., 2014. He is an employee of Johns Hopkins. The cancer is in the early stages and will be having surgery in February. We are still dealing with it emotionally. Although my husband tries to hide it from me, but I know he thinks and worried about it all the time. Can you send more information about this program? I want to know before during and after the surgery. Thank you.

Reply

Marie Borsellino January 21, 2015 at 9:56 am

Dear Beatrice,
Please feel free to contact the office at 410 955-6229 or via email at managecancer@jhmi.edu
This program was designed to support the both of you on this journey. Education about the diagnosis and treatments and what to expect will help to alleviate some anxiety.
As mentioned your information is confidential and the program is totally free.
I hope to hear from you soon.
Sincerely,
Marie Borsellino
Oncology Nurse Navigator
Managing Cancer at Work

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