Research Reports - The experience of return to work in individuals with traumatic brain injury

Lauren Libeson, Marina Downing, Pamela Ross & Jennie Ponsford

Neuropsychological Rehabilitation, 2018. DOI: 10.1080/09602011.2018.1470987

Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) is a leading cause of disability in young people, with return to work (RTW) a major goal of recovery. This qualitative study aimed to understand the RTW experience of individuals with TBI who received comprehensive vocational rehabilitation, and to identify facilitating and limiting factors in the RTW process. Semi-structured interviews were conducted with 15 individuals (mean age = 47.33 years) approximately 4.5 years post-injury, of whom 14 had moderate to severe TBI. Twelve individuals had successfully returned to work. Thematic analysis of transcribed interviews identified three key factors affecting RTW: client, work and rehabilitation factors. Across these factors, 12 themes reported to be critical to the success or failure of the RTW programme were identified. Client themes included social support, cognitive difficulties and motivation, with RTW too early associated with unfavourable outcomes. Work themes included work modifications, employer support and financial incentives. Rehabilitation themes included the RTW programme, the role of the vocational occupational therapist and work preparation. These key factors were reported to have impacted the RTW outcome, comprising three further themes: work satisfaction, future vocational outlook, and quality of life. Consideration of these factors can inform vocational rehabilitation programmes, potentially improving employment outcomes following TBI.

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