One of the most important parts of recovery after a serious injury is a return to work. Employment rates among people who experienced severe trauma vary significantly as the likelihood of success depends on many factors. The nature of the injury, the mildness of health consequences, and the presence of comorbidities such as mental illnesses developed due to traumatic experiences may have a critical impact on professional prospects. This paper will comment on the story of Ben, who sought employment after a burn injury, and discuss three adjustments that an employer can make in the workplace.
The Case of Ben
Ben Swanson, a boat captain who now owns a charter business, suffered a serious burn injury. In 1996, while he was working as a mechanic in his garage, a gas can explode in front of him – an accident which resulted in 47% of his body burned, including his legs, arms, and face (Model Systems Knowledge Translation Center, 2014). Ben was bed-bound for many months, and on top of his prolonged hospital stay, Ben underwent 30 surgeries. A few weeks after he left the hospital, he could return to his work as a captain and a crewman.
It was disheartening to see how an unfortunate event disrupted a young man’s life. It appears to be that one of the most challenging aspects of handling the trauma is accepting the scarred face as it is part of every person’s self-image. I was afraid that the injury would jeopardize Ben’s chances to live his passion further, and I was relieved to see that he was rehired by his employer.
Adjustments after Burn Injury
After the injury, Ben’s hands were not as strong as they used to be, and it is obvious that the work duties of a crewman involve a lot of physical labor. Even if he could fulfill his responsibilities properly, it took him more time than prior to the trauma. In this case, an employer can introduce adaptive equipment in the workplace and limit how much an employee with a disability can lift.
It is recommended to return to work as soon as possible, which Ben did; however, he still had to attend hospital for physical therapy and have more leisure time than usual. The key to work-life balance and faster recovery is flexibility: an employer should discuss shorter shifts and flexible working hours to help an employee to adapt. Lastly, burn survivors might have psychological issues, which is often misunderstood since many employers think that past a certain milestone in recovery, a patient is fully healed – mentally and physically. An employer can accommodate a worker with PTSD, anxiety, or depression by making sure that his or her coworkers treat him or her with respect, especially in case an injury impacted a person’s looks.
Even though nowadays, the mortality rate for burn survivors is meager, they may deal with repercussions of the injury for years on end. Ben Swanson suffered from a severe burn injury after an explosion in his garage, and even after multiple surgeries, his working skills were not fully restored. Swanson’s employer was understanding of the man’s struggles and made certain adjustments to accommodate his disabilities. Among the physical consequences of a burn injury is limited body strength, which may be addressed by implementing adaptive equipment.
A burn survivor may have to make changes to his or her lifestyle in alignment with his or her treatment plan, and both a worker and an employer may find flexible hours a workable option. Lastly, working in a friendly environment where the staff is trained to be respectful towards people with disabilities may help with trauma-induced psychological issues.
Model Systems Knowledge Translation Center. (2014). Employment after burn injury. Web.