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When to Return to Work or School After a Traumatic Brain Injury

Returning to work or school after a traumatic brain injury can mark an important milestone in recovery and quality of life. However, there are many variables that contribute to whether someone will successfully return to their work or school program. These can include the injury severity, the type of pre-injury employment, and the number of cognitive, physical, or emotional effects that arise from the injury. Even so, it can be difficult to predict who will successfully return to work or school, and how.

In a recent randomized controlled trial (the gold standard for quality of evidence), researchers found that people who participated in a resource facilitation group were more likely to successfully return to a productive, community-based activity. While only half of the control group successfully returned to work, nearly 70% of those who participated in the resource facilitation group returned to work—and at a faster rate than the control group.

The resource facilitation program consisted of patient and family education; referrals; access and advocacy for resources; follow-up plans; coordination of services through calls and conferences; comprehensive assessment of cognitive, psychological, social, and vocational functions; and a plan for sustaining the work or school outcome. This comprehensive program supported even those who had moderate to severe impairment related to their injury. Returning to work or school after a brain injury is non-linear and complex, but a comprehensive vocational support program can level the possibilities.

Trexler LE, Parrott DR, & Malec JF. Replication of a prospective randomized controlled trial of resource facilitation to improve return to work and school after brain injury. Archives of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation. (February 2016).

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