Readiness for return to work following injury or illness: conceptualizing the interpersonal impact of health care, workplace, and insurance factors
Journal of Occupational Rehabilitation, 12(4), 233-256.
Return to work after injury or illness is a behavior influenced by physical, psychological, and social factors. Disability research lacks a conceptual framework for combining these factors in the study of the return-to-work process. Two extant theoretical models withinthe social context are considered as they apply to the behavior of returning to work: 1) the Readiness for Change Model originating from the field of health promotion and addressing the issue of motivation for behavior change, and 2) the Phase Model of Disability developed for the epidemiological study of occupational disability addressing the developmental and temporal aspects of disability. A new Readiness for Return-to-Work Model is proposed focusing on the interpersonal context of the work-disabled employee. Employee interactions with the workplace, the health care, and insurance systems are considered as they impact the three defining dimensions of change-decisional balance, self-efficacy, and change processes. The evidence for their impact on return-to-work is examined within the framework of the Phase Model of Disability, which puts forth the phase-specificity of symptoms, risks, and interventions for disability. The Readiness for Return-to-Work Model has the potential to account for individual variation in optimal stage-specific timing of interventions based on an individual’s readiness for return-to-work. The model therefore complements the Phase Model of Disability by allowing for an individual-level staging of the disability and recovery process within the broader group-level-derived framework of occupational disability phases. This link between the two models needs to be empirically tested in future research.