"Now everybody is thinking about things like that.": Young Adult Cancer Survivors Reimagining Work During the COVID-19 Pandemic

Nurs Res. 2021 Nov 23. doi: 10.1097/NNR.0000000000000567. Online ahead of print.


Background: Diagnosed between ages 20-39, young adult (YA) cancer survivors have faced disruption to their lives well before the COVID-19 pandemic. Often seen as an at-risk population within cancer survivors, YAs experience the demands of a serious illness, such as cancer, alongside meeting the typical milestones of young adulthood and often have worse quality of life than their non-cancer peers. There is a need to further study the effect of the COVID-19 pandemic on specific populations, including YA cancer survivors (YACS), as it relates to work.

Objectives: Explore working YACS' experiences during the COVID-19 pandemic and identify facets of cancer survivorship that researchers can use to explore COVID-19 survivorship further.

Methods: Secondary thematic analysis of 40 semistructured, qualitative interviews conducted through Zoom audio during the COVID-19 pandemic. YA hematologic cancer survivors were recruited through social media; they were eligible if they had completed active therapy, were within 5 years of their diagnosis, and working at the time of diagnosis. Interviews were transcribed verbatim and subjected to thematic content analysis.

Results: Themes surrounded COVID's influence on working YACS' experiences, with the overarching theme: "From solo to shared experience: A change in awareness and understanding." A subtheme was "Lesson reaffirmed: Reimagining the work environment."

Discussion: The consequences of COVID-19 on the overall quality of life for YACS are multilevel. Establishing the evidence for effective interventions to support YACS in the workplace, whether physical or virtual, is critically needed. Research is needed on YACS' risk and resilience factors that could ultimately impact future health and quality of life.