All September 13, 2023

Life of a cancer rehabilitation therapist

Helping people with cancer live well from diagnosis through treatment and beyond

Have you ever wondered about the world of cancer rehabilitation and the important role it plays in the lives of those impacted by cancer?

Let's take a closer look at the life of a cancer rehabilitation therapist and the profound impact they make in the lives of patients.

While upward of 90% of people impacted by cancer will experience adverse effects amenable to specialized rehab services, less than 10% receive the care they need. That’s why there is an increasing need for trained rehabilitation specialists to help people address the impacts of cancer and its treatment.

Not only are there rewarding opportunities in working with this underserved population, but there are highly stimulating educational and professional growth possibilities as well.

What does a cancer rehab therapist do?

Cancer rehabilitation therapists play a vital role in the journey of those impacted by cancer. Through hands-on care and support, there is an opportunity to help individuals regain strength, increase mobility and regain autonomy amid sometimes overwhelming circumstances.

It's an important job with unique challenges and many rewards. Cancer rehab therapists are there to support patients to be physically active and do what matters most. Being a cancer rehab therapist can provide immense satisfaction in knowing the effort is making an enormous impact in someone's life every single day.

The goal of a cancer rehab therapist is to help those impacted by cancer proactively manage the adverse effects of the disease and its treatments. The ReVital program equips physical and occupational therapists and speech-language pathologists with the knowledge and tools to comfortably and confidently treat the oncology population.

ReVital certified therapists go through extensive training to understand how to manage:

  • Physical issues, such as pain, cancer fatigue, stiffness, etc.
  • Functional limitations, like being able to take care of yourself, dressing, grooming, etc.
  • Daily life challenges brought on by cancer and its treatment, like being yourself, enjoying time with friends/family and participating in life’s roles

In cancer rehabilitation, every patient’s needs are unique and require a personalized treatment plan.

Sarah K., ReVital certified therapist

“Cancer rehab therapists have a unique skill set to best help walk individuals through their journey with cancer, while constantly looking at the big picture. Instead of there being a linear trajectory or “classic” set of symptoms, we have to mold and adapt to whatever challenges each patient may be facing.” – Sarah K., ReVital certified therapist

Beyond what’s clinically required of them, cancer rehab therapists often find themselves as one of the main pillars of support for their patients. It’s certainly one of the most rewarding parts of the job.

Hillary H., ReVital certified therapist

“Practicing as a cancer rehab therapist is one of the most meaningful parts of my practice as a physical therapist. Being the source for this type of specialized support for the physical aspect of healing through cancer is so powerful. To be able to confidently say “here’s exactly what we need to do to get you prepared” or “that can get better, here’s how.” Having the experience and education to not only lead our patients to their maximal recovery but advocate and fight for it with them.” – Hillary H., ReVital certified therapist

Cancer rehab therapists offer crucial support to patients during what may be one of the most challenging moments of their lives. The goal is to provide education and attentive rehabilitative care throughout all points in the cancer journey to help people reach their goals.

Working with people affected by cancer

The experience of working with those impacted by cancer can be a truly transformative one. From survivors to their loved ones and caregivers, there stands to be tremendous personal growth in understanding the physical and emotional scars left behind by a diagnosis like cancer.

Not only do cancer therapists have the opportunity to help ease many of these burdens, but they can also offer hope - empowering individuals to overcome everyday challenges.

“This population is one of the most determined, motivated, and truly enjoyable to work with. Cancer rehab has made me re-learn my ‘why’ and showed me that we really have a role in treating those individuals facing cancer and cancer treatment. And for that, I am forever grateful.” – Sarah K., ReVital certified therapist

There can be a sense of personal satisfaction in helping patients physically achieve something they thought might not be impossible. A key aspect of this is understanding how cancer may impact the patient’s needs and formulating a plan to address those needs. This isn’t as always as straightforward in cancer rehab as it might be in other specialties.

“This patient population often has complex symptoms, yet often are told that what they are experiencing is “normal”. We frequently have to break through this and show patients that what they are dealing with, does not have to just be accepted as normal. We can help them get back to the things that matter most.” – Sarah K., ReVital certified therapist

By working with this underserved population, cancer therapists have the chance to constantly challenge themselves and gain a deeper understanding of their changing impairments due to cancer and its treatment. More importantly, cancer therapists can make a significant impact on their lives with potential long-term benefits.

Being an advocate for patients

Cancer therapists have the important role of advocating for those affected by cancer. It's a sad reality that some health care providers may not fully recognize the advantages of cancer rehabilitation. But with their expertise, cancer therapists can help bridge this gap and provide vital support to those in need.

“A big challenge is the lack of awareness of the need for PT/OT/SLP in the cancer care continuum. Not all oncologists/surgeons/radiation oncologists have had experience or training with specialized rehab professionals. It’s really important that we as rehab professionals commit to advocacy and education for the multidisciplinary team to ensure the best pathways and integration access for our patients.” – Hillary H., ReVital certified therapist

There are many times in this profession, however, when the best way to achieve optimal outcomes for patients is to become an advocate for cancer rehabilitation and ensure people know about the benefits it can provide.

Making cancer rehab standard of care

Founded in 2017, ReVital Cancer Rehabilitation is the first nationwide cancer rehabilitation program of its kind. ReVital was developed by Select Medical, a nationally renowned and community-based provider of post-acute care across multiple settings.

Currently focused in the outpatient space, ReVital began with one goal in mind – to make cancer rehab the standard of care to help those impacted by cancer do what matters most.

Since then, we’ve expanded the program across the country to more than 500 locations in 23 states. We’re still growing and working to bring our mission to life by leading the conversation and continuously innovating in order to enhance patient access, improve clinical outcomes, reduce system costs and support clinician well-being.

This mission isn’t possible without the compassionate, caring clinicians behind us. That’s why we provide ReVital therapists with the opportunity to specialize in cancer rehabilitation at various levels, following a stepwise approach based on clinician goals and desires. Regardless of the chosen path, our clinicians want to help people impacted by cancer not just survive but to truly thrive.

Improving quality of life with ReVital

ReVital’s team of cancer rehab therapist are not just committing to help those impacted by cancer do what matters most – they’re dedicated to improving lives from the ground up. It’s about serving the needs of people currently facing the impacts of cancer and its treatment, and changing the circumstances for future individuals who face a cancer diagnosis.

The ReVital program is built on the passion for making cancer rehab the standard of care.

“ReVital creates the playbook for cancer rehab that was not present prior. ReVital is working to create a standard of care that all cancer rehab should strive for.” – Sarah K., ReVital certified therapist

To find out more about what it’s like to work as a ReVital certified therapist, click here.