The experience of seeking, gaining and maintaining employment after traumatic spinal cord injury and the vocational pathways involved Academic Article uri icon


  • Vocational potential in people with spinal cord injury (SCI) are unrealised with rates of employment substantially lower than in the labour force participation of the general population and the pre-injury employment rates.To understand the experience and pathway of people achieving employment outcome after traumatic spinal cord injury by; classifying participants into employment outcome groups of stable, unstable and without employment; identifying pre and post-injury pathways for participants in each group and, exploring the experiences of people of seeking, gaining and maintaining employment.Thirty-one participants were interviewed. Mixed methods approach including interpretive phenomenological analysis and vocational pathway mapping of quantitative data.The most common pathway identified was from study and work pre-injury to stable employment post-injury. Four super-ordinate themes were identified from the interpretive phenomenological analysis; expectations of work, system impacts, worker identity and social supports. Implications for clinical practice include fostering cultural change, strategies for system navigation, promotion of worker identity and optimal use of social supports.The findings increase insight and understanding of the complex experience of employment after spinal cord injury. There is opportunity to guide experimental research, policy development and education concerning the complexity of the return to work experience and factors that influence pathways.

publication date

  • 2018

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