Early access to vocational rehabilitation for inpatients with spinal cord injury: A qualitative study of patients' perceptions

Kumaran Ramakrishnan, Deborah Johnston, Belinda Garth, Gregory Murphy, James Middleton, Ian Cameron

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21 Citations (Scopus)


Background: A pilot early-intervention vocational rehabilitation program was conducted in Sydney, Australia, over a 2-year period. It was postulated that the early provision of integrated vocational rehabilitation services in the hospital settings for newly injured individuals would be well received and result in better employment and psychosocial health outcomes. Objective: The objective of this qualitative inquiry was to examine the perspectives of program participants who had completed the intervention about the timeliness, perceived value, and critical elements of the early intervention. Methods: A convenience sample of participants was selected by accessibility; participants were interviewed individually after discharge using a semi-structured approach. Transcripts of the interviews were created via audio recordings; interviews were transcribed verbatim, and the contents were analyzed thematically. Results: Thirteen participants aged from 19 to 60 years with varying levels of impairment and vocational backgrounds were interviewed from 7 to 21 months post injury. Overall, the early introduction of vocational rehabilitation services was well received and viewed positively. Emerging themes include sense of direction and distraction, advocacy, and support, with "hope" (early after injury) emerging as the overarching theme. Criticisms voiced about the program were that it was offered too early in the intensive care unit and there were competing interests and information overload in the early recovery phase. Conclusions: Vocational rehabilitation provided during inpatient rehabilitation appears appropriate, important, and valuable from patients' perspective. Early engagement results in feelings of hope and encourages patients to see the possibility of returning to work or education very early after injury, and it allows rehabilitation to be directed accordingly.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)183-191
Number of pages9
JournalTopics in Spinal Cord Injury Rehabilitation
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 2016
Externally publishedYes


  • Early intervention
  • Employment
  • Return to work
  • Spinal cord injury
  • Vocational rehabilitation

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