Scand J Occup Ther. 2022 Sep 9:1-12. doi: 10.1080/11038128.2022.2120067. Online ahead of print.
BACKGROUND: While many persons who sustain a mild traumatic brain injury (MTBI) can resume work shortly after their injury, some experience persisting symptoms leading to longer-term sickness absence. In-depth knowledge about how these persons experience the return to work (RTW) process is needed.
AIMS: To explore how persons with MTBI experience the process of returning to ordinary competitive work after a prolonged period of sickness absence.
MATERIAL AND METHODS: Semi-structured interviews were conducted with six persons (four women) approximately 12 months after sustaining an MTBI. Data were analysed using a stepwise-deductive inductive method.
RESULTS: When starting work the participants experienced a crisis. They described the importance of making the actual decision to RTW. Being present at the workplace was significant. In the process of increased workload, they expressed having challenges related to time perception and capacity restrictions. The importance of being seen and valued was emphasised. When reintegrated into the workplace revaluing work tasks and priorities shaped the RTW process as well as a further professional career.
CONCLUSIONS AND SIGNIFICANCE: The process of RTW contained the experience of unpredictability and incompatibility with own identity and performance. Working had an impact on social participation, self-worth, daily structure, as well as reconstructing occupational biography.
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