Returning to work after spinal cord injury: exploring young adults' early expectations and experience

Disabil Rehabil. 2011;33(25-26):2553-8. doi: 10.3109/09638288.2011.579224. Epub 2011 May 19.


Purpose: The study sought to explore experience and expectations about paid work among young adults on sick leave after spinal cord injury (SCI).

Method: Eight participants with traumatic SCI, who were 20-34 years of age, and had not yet returned to work 1-5 years post-injury, were interviewed. Selection was made with purposive sampling. Data were analysed using a constant comparative method.

Results: Four main themes emerged as relevant: 'finding your way to an everyday life where work is possible', 'at the crossroads, expectations of work through education', 'expectations of paid work as part of a desired future life' and 'expectations of finding a solution within oneself or with help from others'. The findings reveal high expectations of work ability but at the same time difficulties to plan for return to work and lack of support in this process.

Conclusions: The participants represent a vulnerable group in vocational rehabilitation due to their young age and recent injury. Without formal training or suitable work experience, they need tailored work support as part of their general rehabilitation.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Activities of Daily Living
  • Adult
  • Disabled Persons / psychology
  • Disabled Persons / rehabilitation*
  • Employment / psychology
  • Employment / statistics & numerical data*
  • Employment, Supported / psychology
  • Employment, Supported / statistics & numerical data
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Paraplegia / psychology
  • Paraplegia / rehabilitation*
  • Quadriplegia / psychology
  • Quadriplegia / rehabilitation*
  • Rehabilitation, Vocational / psychology
  • Rehabilitation, Vocational / statistics & numerical data*
  • Sick Leave
  • Spinal Cord Injuries / psychology
  • Spinal Cord Injuries / rehabilitation*
  • Sweden
  • Young Adult