Unexpected barriers in return to work: lessons learned from injured worker peer support groups.
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Some workers who are injured at work have unexpectedly prolonged absences from work. Experiences of workers who constitute a disproportionate cost to the return-to-work system and the systemic and compliance-related barriers they encounter during the process of returning to work are reported. A qualitative interview based study was conducted with 37 members of three injured worker peer support groups in a Canadian province. Four dimensions of peer support were identified: worker experience of being misunderstood by system providers, need for advocates, social support, help with procedural complexities of the workers' compensation, and health care systems. Peer support constitutes a partial return-to-work solution for workers with injuries, but injured workers encounter an uneven playing field. Injured worker peer support group needs and activities show us that sensitivity to structural and social issues may lead to better return-to-work outcomes.
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