Job stability in skilled work and communication ability after moderate–severe traumatic brain injury
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PURPOSE: Communication deficits may play a critical role in maintaining employment after traumatic brain injury (TBI), but links between specific communication deficits and employment outcomes have not been determined. This study identified communication measures that distinguished stably employed versus unstably employed adults with TBI. METHODS: Participants were 31 adults with moderate-severe TBI who were employed full-time for at least 12 consecutive months before injury in skilled jobs and had attempted return to skilled jobs after injury. Sixteen had achieved stable employment (SE) post-injury, defined as full-time employment for ≥12 consecutive months; and 15 had unstable employment (UE). Participants completed a battery of communication tests identified in a prior qualitative study of communication skills required for skilled work. RESULTS: Measures of spoken language comprehension, verbal reasoning, social inference, reading and politeness in spoken discourse significantly discriminated between SE and UE groups. Two nested models were completed and compared. The first model excluded discourse data because of missing data for two UE and one SE participant. This model revealed that measures of verbal reasoning speed (β = -0.18, p = 0.05) and social inference (β = 0.19, p = 0.05) were predictive independent of the overall model. The second model included discourse politeness data and was a better overall predictor of group membership (Likelihood ratio test, Model 1: 3.824, Model 2: 2.865). CONCLUSION: Communication measures were positively associated with SE in skilled jobs after TBI. Clinicians should include assessment of communication for adults attempting return to work after TBI, paying specific attention to social inference and speed of verbal reasoning skills. IMPLICATIONS FOR REHABILITATION: Traumatic brain injury (TBI) often results in communication impairments associated with the cognitive skills underlying interpersonal skills. Communication impairment after TBI has been anecdotally associated with job instability. This research associate communication functioning with work stability after TBI in skilled jobs. These findings indicate that communication impairment should be assessed in persons with TBI returning to skilled employment after injury.