Importance: Persons living with and beyond cancer (PLWBC) are rarely referred to occupational therapy services despite their functional difficulties. An understanding of the barriers to and facilitators of occupational therapy referrals from the perspective of cancer health care professionals could help minimize referral gaps.

Objective: To explore cancer health care professionals’ perspectives on and knowledge of occupational therapy’s role in cancer care, identify the barriers, and explore solutions to optimize referrals.

Design: Multiexplanatory qualitative case study.

Setting: Community and hospital cancer clinics in Israel.

Participants: Six in-person focus groups of cancer care Israeli nurses and social workers, totaling 28 participants.

Results: Two main themes were identified: (1) barriers to occupational therapy referrals and (2) partial facilitators of occupational therapy referrals. The four barriers subthemes were (1) gaps in knowledge about symptoms’ effects on daily functioning, (2) gaps in knowledge regarding occupational therapy’s role in cancer care, (3) bureaucratic and organizational barriers, and (4) unavailability of occupational therapy services. The two facilitators subthemes were (1) collaborations and communication with occupational therapists and (2) awareness of occupational therapy services. Participants suggested practical solutions for improving occupational therapy referrals, interdisciplinary collaboration and communication, and integrating occupational therapy into cancer care.

Conclusions and Relevance: Barriers to referrals included gaps in participants’ knowledge that link side effects to functional difficulties indicating a need for referral to occupational therapy. Participants’ suggestions to bolster referrals can be implemented by occupational therapists to reduce patients’ unmet needs and bridge existing gaps in cancer care.

Plain-Language Summary: This research helped to identify barriers and facilitators regarding insufficient knowledge about occupational therapy’s role in cancer care and adds a better understanding of gaps in referrals to occupational therapy. In addition, cancer health care professionals who participated in the study suggested practical solutions for reducing barriers and maximizing support for referral. With these nuances, occupational therapy practitioners can work with medical cancer care units (i.e., acute care hospitals, medical cancer centers, and community health care clinics) to target the use of strategies that work for their units to ensure that persons living with and beyond cancer receive needed occupational therapy services.

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