Illness Perceptions and Return to Work in Patients With Moderate to Severe Injuries

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Abstract

Aim

Research indicates that injured patients’ illness perceptions constitute a strong influence on their return to work (RTW). This study examined the relationships between illness perceptions and RTW in injured patients.

Design

A prospective cohort design was employed.

Methods

One hundred fifty-six patients were recruited from three hospitals, and 132 completed follow-up data at 3 months after injury. Three-month illness perceptions were measured using the Chinese Illness Perception Questionnaire Revised-Trauma. Return to work was defined as being able to return to a paying job covered by national work insurance.

Results

Non-RTW in injured patients tended to occur among patients who were older, less educated, more severely injured, and more likely to be admitted to intensive care units than patients who did RTW. Return to work patients also had more positive illness perceptions than non-RTW patients. Illness perceptions were associated with non-RTW, but the most important determinants of non-RTW were serious injury and older age.

Conclusions

This study provides evidence to indicate that illness perceptions, personal data, and illness characteristics are associated with injured patients’ RTW or non-RTW. The role of rehabilitation nurses may be extended accordingly based on findings from this study.

Implications for Practice

Case management with an interprofessional team may have positive impacts on RTW in injured patients. Rehabilitation nurses should identify patients’ expectations of RTW and should work with an interdisciplinary team to develop interventions to reshape the patients' perceptions of returning to work, facilitating their transition back to work, if possible.

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