Over the past months, and more recently when I watched professional surfer Bethany Hamilton’s story, I can’t help but to have noticed that there is definitely a recurring theme on aworkcovervictimsdiary; and it is centered on the one thing that technical application of the law, workcover regulations and claims management can not provide: support. Or more accurately, a rock solid support network for an injured worker.
Many injured workers don’t have the advantage of a rock solid support network
An injured worker needs support from professionals, from the employer, and likely most importantly, from family, in order to truly be successful in elevating above the misfortune that was handed to him or her from a work injury.
In workcover terms we call this the biopsychosocial element – where biology intersects psychology and socialisation.
I know though experience and interaction with countless injured workers, that family is a huge component to the wellness and recovery of an injured worker. Professionals and the employer play big parts too, but family support is the cornerstone.
It all came together for me when I was listening to Hamilton talk about the shark attack, the loss of her arm, growing up in a surfing family, her dedication to her dream of becoming a professional surfer and overcoming her disability – she has and had the steadfast and constant support of her family and the support of her sponsor/employer – Rip Curl, and kept coming back to this central theme – the importance of having a rock solid support network.
Interestingly, many of our injured readers, commentators and contributors also highlight how important it is to have support; that the injured worker feels that the “people behind the system” are there to ensure success after the incident that resulted in a workcover claim.
Many readers also tell us over and over again that, once they discovered aworkcovervictimsdiary, they feel that they’re “no longer alone”; and find some sort of support network, and a place where they are understood.
It struck me that Hamilton’s’ story had/has an element that many injured workers lack, and which is paramount over everything – family support. Just about every other sentence in her story was and is about the support of her mom, dad, brothers, and other family members and friends, and she even praised her employer, Rip Curl, for standing behind her through the ordeal, and thereafter.
This vital support and positive communications not only allowed her to deal with the loss of her arm, but to get back in the water one month after her shark attacks and then even go on to success in the surfing professional ranks.
The best they can have is the support of the people that become engaged in the recovery process, which should be the case manager, their doctors, and their employer. The reality is that the” whole claims management” can not and will not provide this much needed support, thereby dehumanising the injured worker.
Some injured workers are going to need more support than others. Some just need another person who will listen. Others need more material support.
Rosemary McKenzie-Ferguson, the founder of the Work Injured Resource Connection and the Bags of Love programs in South Australia gets that. Her success in helping injured workers overcome their adversity and return to gainful employment isn’t about money, treatment or programs.
Employers are critical in this equation. For many, employment is not just a means to a living, but IS the living. Work defines who we are, whether you’re a professional surfer or a line worker in a factory.
It takes a huge commitment in time, energy and emotion to provide this support. Sometimes that’s not enough – but most of the time it’s what makes the difference between successfully returning someone to work or throw them to the Welfare purse.
We need to remember that workcover claims are uniquely individual. Every single claim is as different as is the person behind the claim.
I think that for most of those working in the workcover industry the appeal comes down to making someone’s life better after an adverse event. But providing support appears to be too exhausting and too difficult within this adversarial, greedy system.
However, I have no doubt that if this vital, basic human support were given to injured workers, the rewards could be measured.
Every injured worker needs support from professionals (doctors, psychologists, but also their case manager(s)), from the employer, and likely most importantly, from family, in order to truly be successful in recovering from the misfortune that was handed to him or her from an employment injury.
I truly believe if injured workers were treated with humanity, dignity, respect, compassion and empathy by their insurers, and if insurers could also offer basic support for the injured worker’s family or carer, i.e. in the form of counseling when things get though and rough (as they do!), many injured workers would be able to recover faster, keep their self-esteem, sanity and sense of humanity.
… and I’m not sure how to incorporate this knowledge into the work injury recovery process. However I feel it would be worthwhile for our “researchers” to undertake some studies into the impact of family support to injured workers’ recovery and return to work!
Injured worker Soula also emphasised her Theo (husband) treatment on A Current Affair. She said “he truly is my largest form of pain relief”
For me personally, without my Tony’s unwavering support, I think I would be dead by now!
[Post dicated by workcovervictim and manually transcribed on WCV’s behalf]