Safety + Injury Management Blog

RTW Challenges: "Sometimes workers start to believe they are their injury"

Posted by Recovery Partners on Oct 21, 2019, 1:43:39 PM

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Case study: *Alison, QLD

Recovery Partners provided: Occupational Rehabilitation 

Alison* is a staff member at Kmart in Queensland who sustained an injury to her right shoulder (frozen shoulder) while working in a customer service capacity in the retail outlet. Alison had a secondary issue of a partially frozen left shoulder which occurred because of overcompensation in her movements following the initial injury. She had made a claim for workers’ compensation through WorkCover Queensland.

 

Alison was referred to RP because her case was complex, and not progressing. Demi Pye, the Injury Management Advisor for Queensland and New South Wales, had been receiving intensive contact from Alison over a period of several months, and did not have the capacity to maintain this level of engagement. ‘She needed more TLC than I could provide,’ says Demi. Under the guidance of Alasdair Grant, RP assigned Kristin Sykes, Occupational Therapist and Rehabilitation Consultant at RP, to be the case manager for Alison and Demi.

 

When Alison was referred to RP, Kristin Sykes conducted a thorough rehabilitation assessment and biopsychosocial screening to ascertain the status of Alison’s injury, claim and recovery. The following barriers were identified that impacted Alison’s ability to return to work in a pre-injury capacity:

Injury

  • Frozen right shoulder
  • Secondary left shoulder injury

Comorbidities: 

  • Type 1 Diabetes (which makes Alison more susceptible to this sort of injury)

Psychological factors

  • Perception of being perpetually victimised/treated unfairly
  • Tension with colleagues
  • Disengaged from rehabilitation process

Psychosocial factors

  • Low pain threshold
  • Single parent, living in a low socio-economic area, limited availability/duties

Other factors

  • Strict store operational requirements

In order to gain a balanced perspective of the situation, Kristin conducted a site visit at the store Alison’s worked at, and met with her, her Store Manager, Regional Manager, a Human Resources representative and Demi Pye to discuss Alison’s capacity for work. Kristin also contacted Alison’s treating doctor, specialist and physiotherapist to discuss the status of Alison’s injury and treatment. 

 

In interpersonal terms, Kristin identified that a compassionate approach to Alison would be the most productive.  ‘Alison felt that she was very much on the back foot with her injury,’ says Kristin, ‘and she was concerned about her long-term employment prospects. Alison had returned to work after her initial injury, but the suitable duties she’d been undertaking had exacerbated it again, so she was feeling quite negative and a reassessment was necessary.’

 

In building this relationship with Alison, Kristin was able to understand her injury in the context of her life and reflect back to her how her recovery would benefit her in this way. ‘Sometimes workers start to believe they are their injury,’ says Demi Pye from Kmart. ‘Kristin knew how to talk to Alison in a way that showed she cared but was also objective and factual. She kept her focus on recovery, and also acted as an intermediary between Alison and Kmart, as her employers. Alison regarded her as an advocate.’

 

Part of Kristin’s role was also to reopen lines of communication with the medical and allied health professionals involved in Alison’s treatment. ‘The doctor and physio had been difficult to contact,’ says Demi, ‘but Kristin got everyone back on the same page.’ When it comes to rehabilitation and Return to Work, Kristin says, this typifies the Recovery Partners strategy. ‘We always try and take a coordinated and collaborative approach with the worker and all other stakeholders involved. We find this gives the best outcomes for everyone.’

 

RP exercise physiologists, Ben and Scotty, assessed Alison’s injury and suggested hydrotherapy as a way of helping her to regain some of the motion she’d lost. This turned out to be an effective treatment method, and Alison identified improvements quite quickly. Together with Demi and Alison’s store manager, Kristin devised a new plan for Alison’s recovery, including daily physiotherapy. They set goals, and Alison was also given training in alternative skills (including manual handling) for different roles at work that would better support her recovery. 

 

The contact and care she received helped to sustain Alison’s motivation, Kristin says, and eventually she was able to conclude her physiotherapy and transition into an independent exercise program at a local gym. ‘As Alison recuperated, Kristin was able to move her gently towards more self-managed care,’ says Demi. ‘She helped Alison to understand that she’d continue to be supported but would also need to take responsibility for her continued recovery.’ 

 

‘Alison’s now back at work in her pre-injury capacity, and is very diligent about her exercise program,’ Kristin says. ‘Ultimately, we need to give the worker the tools to facilitate their own recovery. In the long-term, that’s better for them, and Kmart appreciated this, too.’

 

As for Recovery Partners, Demi Pye says she’s a longstanding fan of the company and has had a great relationship with them over many years and many cases. ‘I’ve actually taken RP with me when I’ve changed jobs,’ Demi says. ‘I don’t use any other rehab provider in the industry.’  It’s important to note that Alasdair is particularly skilled in assigning the right consultant for the right case. He seems to understand exactly who could be the most helpful and facilitate the best outcomes.’

 

‘I’ve always enjoyed open, transparent communication with Recovery Partners. They provide great service, but if there are gaps in it, I can give them that as constructive criticism and they’ll take it on board. They don’t get defensive; they investigate it and fix it.’

 

If you’d like some help to facilitate positive return to work outcomes for your business, get in touch with Recovery Partners by emailing admin@rrp.com.au or calling 1300 OHS RTW (647 789) today.

 

*Names have been changed to protect the privacy of the individuals concerned

 

Disclaimer – these articles are provided to supply general safety information to people responsible for OHS in their organisation. They are general in nature and do not substitute for legal and/or professional advice. We always suggest that organisations obtain information specific to their needs. Additional information can be found at www.workcover.nsw.au