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Long-term employment outcomes following rehabilitation for significant neurological impairment in UK military personnel: a 3-year study

Abstract

Background Returning to employment is a major modifiable factor affecting long-term health in brain injury which neurological and vocational rehabilitation attempts to address. In military patients, little is known about long-term employability, whether employment is sustained and how they fare in civilian roles.

Methods A telephone review was undertaken of every military patient having undergone inpatient neurorehabilitation between 2012 and 2014. This was compared to their employment outcomes one to three years post discharge. We further evaluated whether this employment was sustained over successive years in the same patients. Finally, we identify those rehabilitation interventions deemed most influential in improving employment outcomes in brain injury.

Results During this period, an average of 57 (51–61) such patients were discharged each year. A review conducted by telephone successfully contacted 46% (43%–49% across cohorts) of all possible patients; 71.4% (64–81) returned to work increasing to 80.7% (76–85) including those training/actively seeking-work. Overall, 31.7% (24–40) returned to full-time military—in those leaving, 89.6% (85.4–90.9) were discharged for medical reasons. Severity of brain injury was unrelated to successful employment; 63.6%/78.6% had the same vocational outcome over two consecutive years while 36.3%/21.4% showed improved outcomes.

Discussion Despite significant brain/neurological injury (graded by severity/Mayo Portland Adaptability Inventory 4), 80.7% (76–85) were working/training 2/3 years postdischarge from neurorehabilitation with 31.7% returning to full-time military role. Inability to continue within the military was not synonymous with inability to work. Return to work was independent of severity of brain/neurological injury and follow-up over consecutive years demonstrated sustained employment. The argument against inpatient neurorehabilitation has always been cost> This 3-year analysis reinforces that patients can and most likely will return to employment with all the benefits this brings to person/family/society. Vocational rehabilitation is therefore recommended for all brain/neurological injury.

  • vocational rehabilitation, military, neurological injury, employment
  • Received August 16, 2016.
  • Revision received May 7, 2017.
  • Accepted May 21, 2017.

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