This is a part of the Hot Topic podcast series from the Model Systems Knowledge Translation Center on Employment After Burn Injury. Peter C. Esselman, MD, researcher, discusses What Co-Workers & Employers Can Do to Help Workers Return.

PETER ESSELMAN: I think when people with burn injuries are going back to work, uh, I think uh, everybody might be a little bit nervous, that this ind, individual had a major trauma, was, was at Harbor View for a long time. Now they’re coming back to work, it might be a couple months later, it might be six months later. So I think everybody’s a little bit nervous, and people may not know how to act around that individual. Do they, and, do they need to act differently? Do they, how to they approach them? How do they interact with them, can they do the job, can they not do the job? So uh, I would recommend some, even before the person comes back, some interaction with the employer and the co-workers to uh, set the stage for a successful return to work. And maybe identifying one co-worker as almost a coach in a way, as being the key point person there to make sure everything’s going well, day in and day out on the job. Because the boss might not even be on-site, might be someplace else with that, but if there’s a co-worker coach right there, to uh, make sure the person’s doing okay. And if they need a break, take a break. And if they need a little extra time to do something, make sure that they have that extra time.

SHELLEY WIECHMAN: People might find that social interactions might change, um, when they go back to work. Um, you know, for example, um, people might be a little bit more cautious, or you might notice that people are avoiding, uh, avoiding more. Um, not sure to interact, not sure how you’re doing. So we always encourage patients to make the first move, make the first gesture, make the first smile, to let people know, “Hey, I’m okay. It’s okay. I’m alright. You can talk to me. Things are going well.” Reach out to them.

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