Success in the workplace following traumatic brain injury: are we evaluating what is most important?

Disabil Rehabil. 2004 Mar 4;26(5):290-8. doi: 10.1080/09638280310001647615.


Purpose: Vocational outcome, and in particular full-time paid work, is considered an important indicator of successful rehabilitation following traumatic brain injury (TBI). However it has not been established that these outcomes adequately or accurately represent the values of the people with TBI. This paper describes a study exploring the experiences of individuals who attempted returning to work following TBI, with emphasis on factors that related to perceptions of 'success' or 'failure'.

Method: A phenomenological study, interviewing seven people with moderate to severe TBI was conducted. The interview data were analysed for themes relating to experiences of success or failure in the workplace. Community consultation provided additional perspectives in the interpretation and validation of results.

Results: The results of this study support in part the assumption that paid employment is indicative of success following TBI. Equally prevalent were findings that challenged this assumption, including situations where: (1) return to employment contributed to catastrophic personal events, (2) feelings of success were achieved even though paid employment was not, and (3) success in the workplace was associated with factors other than hours worked or pay earned.

Conclusions: This research suggests that the use of work placement as a measure of successful rehabilitation might misrepresent the perspective of individuals with TBI. A multifactorial approach to evaluating vocational rehabilitation is recommended, which incorporates the subjective experience of work.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Achievement
  • Adult
  • Brain Injuries / rehabilitation*
  • Employment
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Rehabilitation, Vocational*
  • Workplace