Content » Vol 48, Issue 9

Original report

Early access to vocational rehabilitation for inpatients with spinal cord injury: A qualitative study of staff perceptions

Deborah Johnston, Kumaran Ramakrishnan, Belinda Garth, Gregory Murphy, James W. Middleton, Ian D. Cameron
John Walsh Centre for Rehabilitation Research, Sydney Medical School Northern, Australia. E-mail:
DOI: 10.2340/16501977-2131


Introduction: Early intervention is among the factors frequently associated with more positive vocational rehabilitation outcomes; however, vocational rehabilitation is not generally a core component of inpatient rehabilitation following spinal cord injury.
Objective: This qualitative study explored the opinions and perceptions of health professionals regarding InVoc, an early vocational rehabilitation intervention provided to spinal cord injury unit inpatients. The aim of this evaluation was to determine the critical elements of the InVoc programme, and whether it was perceived as successfully implemented in the hospital setting.
Methods: Twenty-five medical and allied health staff working in the 3 Spinal Cord Injury Units in New South Wales, Australia, participated in the qualitative study. Three staff focus-group discussions were conducted and data analysed thematically.
Results: Four themes emerged: timeliness of the intervention, support and advocacy, value of early intervention, and conflicting messages to patients. Three critical programme elements were identified: flexibility, coordinators working on the ward, and good communication between all staff.
Conclusion: Early vocational rehabilitation was perceived as appropriate and successfully implemented in the spinal injury unit in-patient setting, addressing an existing gap in patient care. The InVoc programme was seen to assist patients identify the possibility of returning to work and/or education. The importance of programme flexibility was highlighted.

Lay Abstract


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