Term Paper: Spinal Cord Job Placement Issues: Impact

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Spinal Cord

Job Placement Issues: Impact on the Population With Spinal Cord Injuries

Job Placement Issues: Impact on Population With Spinal Cord Injuries

The purpose of this research is to examine job placement issues with specific emphasis on the population of people with spinal cord injuries. There are many job placement issues that individuals both with and without spinal cord injuries face. Among them include finding meaningful and long-term employment that match ones individual's skills, talents, experience and ability. Job placement is a critical issue however for many people with spinal cord injuries, as maintaining some form of meaningful employment has been shown to improve the overall quality of life and reported life satisfaction among persons with spinal cord injuries.

Individuals with spinal cord injuries face lifelong challenges with regard to lifestyle and employment. Studies suggest that several factors may impact an individual's probability of acquiring meaningful employment after their injury. Job placement analysis and strategy is complex in a traditional setting. When addressing a population as unique and diversified as that of the disabled, the challenge becomes even more complex and complicated, presenting a unique area of study for rehabilitation specialists.

The majority of the information reviewed suggests that individuals with spinal cord injuries need rehabilitative support in order to have successful job placement experiences. Most individuals with SCI's thrive if they are able to acquire meaningful work after injury that is in the same field or in a similar field to that which they worked in prior to their injury.

Other factors that might contribute to job placement success for individuals with spinal cord injuries include length of employment prior to injury, age, ethnicity and education. Each of these factors is described in more detailed and examined at great length below.


There are several factors that individuals with spinal cord injuries have in common. Most phase physical and mental challenges, and need continual short- and long-term support in order to maintain a strong quality of life and gain meaningful employment.

According to Groah, Stiens, Gittler, Kirshblum & McKinley (2002) individuals that suffer from long-term spinal cord injury face a variety of challenges both physically and mentally that require medical management. Spinal cord injury victims face chronic disease, including an increased for cardiovascular disease which might be attributed to the lack of mobility experienced among this population (Groah, et. al, 2002).

Social isolation, depression and substance abuse are also common factors among individuals suffering from spinal cord injuries, thus it is important that individuals with this injury have adequate support systems in place (Groah, et. al, 2002). Identification and surveillance of emotional symptoms early on is important to help maintain the health and well being of patients.

Patients suffering from a long-term debilitating injury such as a spinal cord injury also require that partners, medical providers and even employers understand the emotional tool a physical disability has on a person, and research suggests that such understanding can help guide rehabilitation professionals in interventions geared toward improving their quality of life and well being (Dudgeon, Gerrard, Jensen, Rhodes & Tyler, 2002). Among the needs of the spinal cord injured population include reassurance and planning for unexpected injuries and illnesses that might result from their primary disability (Dudgeon, et. al, 2002).

Compared with the population at large, individuals with SCI's have a higher rate of unemployment, particularly among adults with pediatric onset SCI (Anderson & Vogel, 2002). For individuals injured during childhood, the average age at injury examined for job placement studies is approximately 14 years of age (Anderson & Vogel, 2002).

In the United States, increasing percentages of individuals with SCI particularly those associated with automobile, motorcycle, bicycle, blunt object attacks, skiing and medical or surgical mishaps have been realized in recent years (Jackson, Dijkers, Devivo & Poczatek, 2004). The male to female ratio of spinal cord injuries over the last decade has remained relatively stable at 4:1, thought the percentage of actual women with injuries has risen somewhat over time (Jackson, et. al, 2004). The majority of spinal cord injuries are tetraplegia and complete injuries, followed by paraplegia or incomplete injuries (Jackson, et. al, 2004). The more severe the injury, the more likely the individual is to have difficulty with job placement and employment in the post injury time period.


Job placement is possible for individuals that have suffered from a spinal cord injury, however the needs of people with spinal cord injuries are unique and complex. Persons with spinal cord injuries require more assistance than traditional workers. They also require more support on the home front. Post, Bloemen and de Witte (2005) point out that a substantial proportion of partners to patients with spinal cord injuries have a serious burden of support, and are more at risk of suffering from burn out.

Gerhart, Koziol-McLain, Lowenstein & Whiteneck (1994) point out that provider's knowledge and attitudes can affect the care an individual received and may influence patients decision, well being and life satisfaction following a spinal cord injury. Likewise one might conclude that one's work ethic, well being and perception of job satisfaction may be impacted by the employers' knowledge, attitudes and influence with regard to the person suffering from a spinal cord injury.

Gibson (2003) points out that a patient with a spinal cord injury also requires support and understanding in order to thrive in any environment after a severe spinal cord injury. This may include professional support from co-workers and supervisors or counselors, as well as personal support from friends and family members. The more support an individual has the more likely they are to thrive in a workplace setting and realize success during the job placement process.

With regard specifically to job placement and the workforce, the National Spinal Cord Injury Statistical Center has reported that more than 59% of people with a spinal cord injury were employed prior to their injury, but less than 29% were employed more than eight years after their injury (Targett, Wehman, McKinley & Young, 2004). There is evidence suggesting that an absence of short- and long-term vocational supports may be impacting the number of individuals with SCI's seeking employment and job placement (Targett, et. al, 2004).

Of particular importance for job placement of individuals with SCI's is the utilization of an employment specialist or job coach who can provide support to individuals with disabilities both before and during the job placement process (Targett, et. al, 2004). The needs of patients with SCI's are best met through "supported employment" that includes technical assistance in addition to long-term job retention strategies and emotional support (Targett, et. al, 2004).

Other studies suggest that interventions are necessary to improve employability and should focus on the education and needs of patients with spinal cord injuries (Krause, et. al, 1999). Specifically, Studies suggest that individuals who had been employed at the time of injury are more likely to have successful job placement experiences than those who were not and that those with less severe injuries or those with more education were more likely to have successful job placement experiences (Krause, et. al, 1999).

Women were found to have a more difficult time with job placement than men, and being Caucasian or younger at injury seemed to improve the likelihood that an individual would have success finding employment after their injury (Krause, et. al, 1999). This study suggests that education post injury might help facilitate more job placement options for individuals with SCI. It also suggests that more support might be necessary for minorities and women suffering form spinal cord injuries.

Further studies suggest that 2 tracks to job placement and employment after a SCI exist. The first is a fast track where people return to their pre-injury job and the second is a slower track that "is generally associated with needs for further re-education and training" (Krause, 2003). Specifically findings suggest that job placement strategies that focus on returning an individual to their pre-injury job or to a position related to it will substantially shorten the interval required for an individual with a SCI to return to work (Krause, 2003).

Time and time again studies suggest that job placement is most difficult for minority men, participants that are more than 50 years of age or older at the time of injury, spinal cord injury patients with complete quadriplegia, and individuals that had less than 12 years of education at the time of their injury (Krause & Anson, 1996).

Predictive models of job placement and employment have "identified four factors that are associated with successful job placement," which include: education, community mobility, functional independence and increased medical complications (Anderson & Vogel, 2002: 800).

Several other variables have been identified that contribute to successful placement and include the extent to which employment is included in community integration, independent driving ability among the patient that has a spinal cord injury, independent living, higher income and overall perceived life satisfaction (Anderson & Vogel, 2002).

Job placement remains a critical force of potential well… [END OF PREVIEW]

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