A prominent Welsh psychologist told government, industry and union leaders in Sydney – in 2010 – that it is very important that injured workers are provided with an injury management process that addresses not only their medical condition but also their social and personal situation.
Injured workers do need psychological support at work
Work is fundamentally good for health and well-being, whereas ‘long-term worklessness’ can have the equivalent health risk of smoking ten packs of cigarettes per day. In order to stave off long-term impairment, it is important that injured workers are provided with an injury management process that addresses not only their medical condition but also their social and personal situation, a prominent Welsh psychologist told government, industry and union leaders in Sydney (in 2010).
Professor Sir Mansel Aylward, a leading expert in the psychosocial, economic and cultural factors that influence health, illness and recovery, spoke about his experience in major health systems review in Wales at a dinner event in Sydney, which was organised following the launch of the Australasian Faculty of Occupational & Environmental Medicine position paper Realising the Health Benefits of Work.
The following information is based on Comcare’s account of professor Aylward’s address.
Psychosocial – which are personal and social factors — such as an individual’s lifestyle, beliefs about their injury and recovery, social circumstances and peer support — are the dominant determinants of health, illness and recovery, and, in 75% of cases, negative psychosocial factors have proven to be barriers to a successful return to work following injury.
People who suffer from ‘manageable health problems’ or ‘common conditions’ (ie conditions that are common in the working age population, with little evidence of disease or impairment), on the other hand, will generally remain at work or return to work quickly, avoiding chronicity and long-term incapacity, if given the right support, opportunities and encouragement. Where this support is not given, a worker’s injury and their recovery from injury can be aggravated.
Where an injured worker suffers from aches and pain, for instance, work may be only one contributory factor. Therefore, in circumstances where a worker is having difficulty returning to work, focusing the injury management process on a worker’s medical condition alone is not enough. Instead, successful outcomes in injury management are dependent on non-medical intervention that addresses an individual’s personal, social and environmental obstacles to return to work.
A positive work life is important
A set of positive psychosocial workplace characteristics will increase the likelihood of a return to work by ‘cancelling-out’ the negative effects of some other personal risks of long-term incapacity. An individual is more likely to return to work if they:
- have a high level of respect for the employer
- feel valued
- trust their line manager
- have the support of their colleagues.
An important message from this list is that the line manager has the ability to significantly modify the experience of an injured worker and positively influence the return-to-work outcome.
The vital role of the [line] manager
The support of the workplace, especially the [line] manager, is critical to building an individual’s confidence to return to work, thereby preventing disability and long-term worklessness.
A line manager, described by Aylward as a ‘prism through which the organisation is perceived’, must:
- talk to workers who are ill or injured
- seek to address barriers to recovery
- build an injured worker’s trust and confidence to return to work
- recognise people who may be at work but unwell
- increase their support for these workers when a pattern of sickness certification is emerging.
Professor Aylward also described the ‘condition management’ approach, wherein health professionals utilise ‘recovery coaching’ and guidance rather than ‘therapy’, with individuals learning self management and independence.
The key elements of this approach were/are:
- ‘Cognitive and educational interventions — beliefs drive behaviours, injured workers need assistance to understand the nature of their injury and appropriate self management strategies as part of their treatment and rehabilitation program.
- Evidence based treatment — the most appropriate and effective interventions available should be offered and linked to functional improvements.
- Tailored to individual needs — the individual, their injury and the social context need to be considered in program development.
- Case management — there should be a well co-ordinated approach with a designated case worker
- Goals are “owned” by injured workers, not imposed — planning needs to explore their concerns, preferences and expectations to enable a return to work.’
Very very different than for example being forced – at gun point – by your case manager and employer, to return to the most unsuitable duties, by being dictated by those dictators what “ergonomics” are suitable for you, by having those morons override and ignore your specialist’s medical restrictions and return to work plan(s), by treating you like a pain in the butt and /or sacking you for being injured!
So, presumably they fly over such prominent psychologists for talks and what not, but do they listen? Follow recommendations and research based best practices? NOPE! Why not?
Again, if only workers compenstion schemes and the government would actually focus on “claim management and outcomes” we believe MIRACLES could be achieved
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