Presentation M P18

M P18 (Poster Presentation):
The meaning of work drives effort to return to work in people with chronic work disability.

Presented by: Sara Saunders


Saunders SL1, MacEachen E2, Nedelec B1

  1. School of Physical and Occupational Therapy, McGill University, Montreal, Canada
  2. Institute for Work & Health, Toronto, Canada



Despite research showing that people with disabilities want to work, that work continues to be meaningful, and that work can promote health, many injured workers struggle with return to work. Additionally, because of a gap in the literature, it is unknown whether people continue to find work meaningful following an injury causing prolonged work disability and job loss. Because of this, benefit service providers and healthcare professionals may question the motivation of those with chronic work disability to return to work.Therefore, the aim of this phenomenological study was to explore the meaning of work for those with chronic pain due to a musculoskeletal disorder, prolonged work disability and job loss.


Twenty-seven interviews were conducted with nine participants recruited through an outpatient rehabilitation center in 2012. These participants had varied work histories and injuries, and had been off work from two to 13 years. Three interviews with each participant explored the impact of their working lives, accident, rehabilitation, job loss and current state of employment on the meaning of work. A phenomenological analysis was completed of the collected data.


The findings show that not only did the meaning of work remain stable following an injury, but that it provided motivation for the participants to continue their efforts to return to work despite pain and system barriers. However, neither the meaning nor the effort exerted by these participants was found to have been identified or optimized within the work disability system.


This study suggests that if the efforts, motivated by the meaning that work continues to have for people with chronic work disability, are not fully acknowledged or supported by the system stakeholders, this population will remain unemployed and their strengths as competent, experienced workers will continue to be wasted.

Schedule Details

Monday September 29
12:45 - 13:45 Poster Viewing
Session: Determinants of RTW