Return to Work

Kelley Simoneaux, a former Shepherd Center patient, practices law in Atlanta.
Reprinted from PN/Paraplegia News August 2015

After more than 30 years of collecting and analyzing data, researchers at the Shepherd Center in Atlanta have identified the keys to returning to work after sustaining a spinal-cord injury (SCI).

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With funding from the National Institute on Disability, Independent Living and Rehabilitation Research, James S. Krause, PhD, and Shepherd Center researchers looked at the processes and predictors of working post-injury in people who got new jobs after their injury and people who went back to the same jobs they had before they were injured. These are their conclusions: 

-Transitioning to new employment is highest among those youngest at the time of injury and decreases with increasing age. Sufficient training and education for new employment can take years.

-Those 45 and older at the time of injury rarely transition to new employment. Rather, when they do work after SCI, it’s almost always with the pre-injury employer either at the same job or a new job. Therefore, training for new jobs post-injury is likely to be more successful in younger individuals.

-Job retention with a pre-injury employer rarely occurs among those in the youngest age group, but increases to higher levels among those in their late 20s and early 30s. Relatively high rates occur among those in the oldest age groups at injury. Because of this, retraining and pursuing new employment will likely prove more successful for younger age groups.

-For those in the oldest age groups, post-injury employment with the pre-injury employer is most common. For this age group, it’s important to work with pre-injury employers to help accommodate those with SCI whenever possible. Creating architectural and logistical accessibility to their pre-injury workplace is the key here.



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