The Experience of Workers Who Do Not Successfully Return to Work Following a Work-Related Injury
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BACKGROUND: A minority of workers with work-related injuries experience challenges returning to work. While factors that hinder return-to-work (RTW) are well-documented, the consequences of failing to successfully return to work on the lives of workers who have experienced a workplace injury remain poorly understood. OBJECTIVE: The purpose of this study is to explore the experiences of workers who do not successfully return to work following a work-related injury. METHODS: Using an interpretive approach to qualitative research and maximal variability sampling, 11 workers who have sustained work-related injuries without a successful RTW and four service providers were recruited through community organizations. Participants were interviewed using a semi-structured interview guide. A constant comparative approach was used to identify key themes across the worker and service provider experiences. RESULTS: The findings that emerged from the analysis capture the challenging RTW experiences of workers and describe wide ranging impacts on their lives when their workers' compensation claims are denied or discontinued, including ongoing financial strain, family tensions, subsequent health concerns, and negative employment experiences. The findings also highlight the negative consequences of existing cost-cutting frameworks that can restrict entitlement and benefits for many people with disabilities. CONCLUSIONS: The findings from this study highlight the experiences of workers who might need additional supports throughout the RTW process, and begin to shed light on the impact on their lives when RTW is not successful.
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