Survivors have to consider many factors when going back to work after a burn injury. The anxieties and questions they have about their employment can make the thought of returning to work overwhelming and daunting.
When will I be able to go back to work?
What if I cannot perform my job anymore?
How will my co-workers look at me and treat me now that I have scars?
For those with severe burns, there are a lot of challenges to deal with and barriers to overcome when returning to work after the injury. However, there are valuable resources and coping tools to help you with the transition. Know that you can do it; thousands of serious burn victims have gone on to have productive careers and happy lives, despite their injuries. You can too.
What employment challenges do burn patients have to deal with?
Returning to work after a burn injury can be a very difficult obstacle for some patients. You may have to face numerous hurdles, such as:
- Scarring and the healing process
- Physical limitations (contractures, pain, exposure to physically harsh elements and work environment)
- Psychosocial issues (nightmares, depression, fear of how they will be perceived by others)
One of the hardest parts of returning to work for burn patients with visible injuries (especially full-thickness burns and those to the face) is dealing with the looks, stares, and questions from others. Fear of rejection or judgment can greatly affect your body image. Your burn care team or therapist can help you learn ways to be comfortable with your “new normal” and to redirect conversations and deal with social situations.
What are some tips for helping burn patients return to work?
Each person, each injury, and each job is different, but research shows that the sooner burn victims safely return to work, the greater the quality of life they tend to experience, explains Shelley Wiechman, Ph.D., psychologist at the UW Burn Center. “It is one of the major steps of getting their life back again and returning to a sense of normalcy,” she says.
The Model Systems Knowledge Translation Center (MSKTC) provides a great selection of videos that address many of the topics burn victims face when returning to work after their injury. Some of the tips they provide in their video, Employment after Burn Injury, include:
- Have a timeframe for how long it will take you until you can return to work. On average, most patients are able to get back to work within about three months of the injury.
- Understand that you may need to make some adjustments. If your burns were on your hands and your job requires fine motor skills, you may need to consider job retraining.
- Both employee and employer should embrace flexibility and find ways to adapt, such as working part-time at first and slowly transitioning to full-time.
- Be prepared for psychological issues to linger, even after you return to the workforce. It may take time to fully heal, inside and out. Counseling and peer support, and even medication therapies can help.
What other employment-related issues should burn patients be aware of?
Financial stresses are a huge issue for many burn victims. Not only may you have to contend with substantial medical bills, but you may also lose wages while you are recuperating. It might be helpful to look into your legal options after a burn injury. If your burn injury was a result of someone else’s negligence, you may be able to obtain compensation for your expenses and lost work time, as well as your pain and suffering and other damages.
Talk to our lawyer referral specialists for helps finding a lawyer in your area to answer your questions and help you file a claim. Call 844-549-8774.