Objective: To give insight into the vocational situation several years after a traumatic spinal cord injury (SCI) and describe the personal experiences and unmet needs; to give an overview of health and functional status per type of SCI and their relationship with employment status.
Design: Descriptive analysis of data from a questionnaire.
Setting: Dutch rehabilitation centre with special department for patients with spinal cord injuries.
Subjects: Fifty-seven patients with a traumatic SCI, aged 18-60 years, admitted to the rehabilitation centre from 1990 to 1998.
Main measures: Questionnaire with items related to vocational outcome, job experiences, health and functional status.
Results: Of 49 patients who were working at the moment of SCI 60% currently had a paid job. Vocational outcome was related to a higher educational level. A significant relation between the SCI-specific health and functional status and employment was not found. The respondents who changed to a new employer needed more time to resume work, but seemed more satisfied with the job and lost fewer working hours than those who resumed work with the same employer. In spite of reasonable to good satisfaction with the current work situation, several negative experiences and unmet needs were reported.
Conclusions: Despite a high participation in paid work following SCI, the effort of the disabled worker to have and keep a job should not be underestimated.