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The meaning of work after acquired brain injury
Umeå University, Faculty of Medicine, Department of Community Medicine and Rehabilitation, Occupational Therapy.
2006 (English)In: American Journal of Occupational Therapy, ISSN 0272-9490, Vol. 60, no 1, 60-69 p.Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

PURPOSE: Research in the field of brain injury rehabilitation has tended to regard return to work as a measure of outcome. Researchers have not paid particular attention to the experiences of people living with a brain injury. The aim of the phenomenological study reported here was to identify and describe what characterizes the meaning of work to those with acquired brain injury. METHODS: Ten participants of working age were interviewed about the meaning of work 1-5 years after being inflicted with a brain injury. Data were analyzed and interpreted using the Empirical Phenomenological Psychological method. RESULTS: The findings revealed a meaning structure consisting of four main characteristics. Work was no longer experienced as the primary event in life and the social dimension had become more important. The perceived competence and work identity were threatened after the injury. A common theme across all interviews was the struggle to return to a state of normality, and working was considered to be evidence of success. CONCLUSION: The findings described the altered meaning of work 1-5 years after brain injury. This knowledge should lead to an increased understanding among occupational therapists engaged in work rehabilitation after brain injury and can serve as a basis for individualized intervention strategies.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
2006. Vol. 60, no 1, 60-69 p.
Keyword [en]
Achievement, Adaptation; Psychological, Adult, Brain Injuries/*psychology/*rehabilitation, Female, Humans, Interpersonal Relations, Male, Middle Aged, Occupational Therapy, Social Environment, Social Identification, Work/*psychology
National Category
Medical and Health Sciences
URN: urn:nbn:se:umu:diva-7488PubMedID: 16541985OAI: diva2:147159
Available from: 2008-01-10 Created: 2008-01-10 Last updated: 2010-06-28Bibliographically approved
In thesis
1. Long-term outcome after brain injury with a focus on return to work, life satisfaction and participation
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Long-term outcome after brain injury with a focus on return to work, life satisfaction and participation
2004 (English)Doctoral thesis, comprehensive summary (Other academic)
Abstract [en]

Rehabilitation after brain injury is often a process which is spread over several years and runs through different phases. After sub acute in-patient rehabilitation a community based post-acute rehabilitation can follow. In this late phase after injury the rehabilitation focuses on reintegration into the community through a return to work and participation in other occupations in society. The overall aim of this dissertation was to study the long-term outcome of brain injury, with a special emphasis on the return to everyday domestic and productive occupations and the connection these have to life satisfaction as a whole. The aim was also to describe and understand the lived experience of the consequences of brain injury in these areas.

This dissertation comprises four studies on different aspects of the long-term outcome of those who have had a brain injury. In a sample of 56 people, the value of occupational therapy assessments as predictors of an eventual return to work was investigated. In a longitudinal follow-up study, the life satisfaction of the participants (n 36) was reported and its correlation to a return to work was evaluated. Interviews were conducted (n 10) to explore the main characteristics of the meaning of work after brain injury in ten respondents. And, finally, in the fourth study, 157 people reported their participation in community activities. The extent of the correspondence between the level of participation and life satisfaction was calculated.

The findings showed that occupational therapy assessments were useful in predicting a return to work in the late phase of the recovery after brain injury. A combination of assessments on the level of body function with assessments on activity level appeared to comprise the best predictive model. In two different studies the reported life satisfaction was found to be significantly lower than the level of life satisfaction in a sample of healthy Swedes for almost all domains. When comparing life satisfaction at two points in time with an interval of three years between them in the longitudinal study, no significant improvement was found. There was no difference reported by the participants for their overall life satisfaction regardless of whether they were back at work or in education, or not. On the other hand, participation in daily occupations in a wider perspective was found to have a positive impact on satisfaction with life as a whole. However, half or more than half of the participants claimed that their participation was restricted except for the items self-care and mobility, where a higher degree of participation was reported. The meaning of work after the brain injury had changed: Work had taken on a new place in life and the importance of work had decreased. In contrast, the social dimension of work had expanded in importance. After the brain injury, the perception of the participants’ own competence and work identity had changed and the respondents described their striving to return to normality.

To conclude, brain injury has a lasting effect on a person’s life, even many years after the injury; consequently there is need for rehabilitation in this late phase. Life satisfaction, which is often used as an overriding goal for rehabilitation, did not improve over time. This finding raises the question of whether life satisfaction is too broad a concept and/or insufficiently sensitive to improvements. There is need for further research in this area to clarify the factors that have an impact on life satisfaction.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Arbetsterapi, Umeå Universitet, 2004. 70 p.
Umeå University medical dissertations, ISSN 0346-6612 ; 920
activities of daily living, brain injury, community integration, lived experience, life satisfaction, longitudinal, occupational therapy, participation, phenomenology, prediction, return to work, rehabilitation
National Category
Medical and Health Sciences
Research subject
Occupational and Environmental Medicine
urn:nbn:se:umu:diva-375 (URN)91-7305-739-8 (ISBN)
Public defence
2004-12-10, Aulan, Vårdvetarhuset, Umeå, 09:00
Available from: 2004-11-22 Created: 2004-11-22 Last updated: 2010-06-28Bibliographically approved

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