BAYADA Home Health Care works with a network of referral partners to help people with a traumatic brain injury enjoy a better quality of life. The following post is contributed by ReMed, a partner organization that provides specialized treatment and community reentry services for people with traumatic brain injury.
Years ago we served an individual who was injured on the job at a company that maintained legal records. He was a valued employee, and his employer was eager to have him return to work. His return to work was smooth and successful due to many key factors. He had an extremely supportive supervisor as well as an adjuster who understood brain injury. Our outpatient program provided assessment, evaluation, and job coaching to the point where he was able to work independently. His position was in a quiet environment, and his job tasks included pulling and filing records which were organized by number as well as keeping the area clean and organized. Once again, he was a valued employee who got the job done.
About a year later, we got a call from his adjuster asking us to do an on-site assessment because things were not going well at work. One of our Brain Injury Specialists (BIS) who was familiar with the case went out to assess the situation (reported as difficulty with problem-solving, anger issues, and impulsively leaving during the work day). The BIS was able to immediately identify the issues. A change in the individual’s supervisor and a short-staffed department meant unfamiliar tasks were being assigned with little or no training. The supervisor did not understand why these relatively simple tasks were so difficult given the years the injured worker had been at the job. The increased workload was causing the injured worker stress and anxiety because he lacked understanding of how to complete new job tasks, felt bad about making mistakes, and feared that he would miss his bus and not be able to get home after work. The new supervisor was short-tempered and frequently became frustrated with constant mistakes and incomplete assignments.
There were two important tasks at hand to ensure that the injured worker could once again be successful at work. First, some education for the supervisor was critical to gain an understanding of the injured worker and his unique circumstances. Second, the injured worker needed coaching to help him better communicate with his supervisor and cope with the stress of working in an area that was understaffed. Eventually, issues were resolved and the job at hand was completed to the supervisor’s satisfaction each day. While the injured worker and supervisor never developed a close relationship, they established an understanding and communication style that worked.
Workplace recipe for success
Being employed following a brain injury is beneficial and makes a dramatic difference in an individual’s overall well-being and satisfaction. While there are many clear-cut aspects to this, there are lesser-known, unique issues that affect an individual’s success beyond the already complex cognitive, emotional, and physical barriers of brain injury. Successful return-to-work is about much more than tasks, responsibilities, and office hours. Individuals need to be motivated to return to work—things like getting up on time, being appropriately dressed, having reliable transportation, and arriving on time are critical parts of being a good employee. Work environment and culture also play a large role in the ultimate success of returning to work and staying at work over the long term. Finally, communication between the injured worker and their supervisor is critical to long-term success.