Return to Work for People with Hand Injuries: Strategies and Barriers

Michelle Elizabeth Uys, Helen Buchanan, Lana van Niekerk


Introduction: The socio-economic burden of a hand injury in South Africa is substantial, particularly for manual labourers whose job
tasks are physically demanding and require hand function. Barriers to participation in work occur on an economic, social and political
level, as well as on a therapist and client-specific level.
Aim. This study aimed to identify the strategies and barriers encountered by occupational therapists in work-related transitions after
a serious hand injury.
Methods: A descriptive cross-sectional design was utilised. A questionnaire was developed for the study through a rigorous development
process that included piloting. The final instrument was disseminated as an online questionnaire to occupational therapists working
within the field of return-to-work and hand injuries. As no data were available on the number of occupational therapists working within
this field, convenience sampling was used with snowballing as a strategy to increase the number of possible respondents. Data were
exported into Microsoft Excel and descriptive analyses were conducted.
Results: Forty three occupational therapists completed the questionnaire. Respondents mostly focused on treating components of
function (100%), addressing activities of daily living (97.67%) and issuing home programmes (97.67%) as direct intervention strategies
to facilitate work-related transitions. One of the least used strategies was issuing assistive devices for work (30.23%). The least used
work-specific strategies included conducting worksite visits, observing clients (or proxies) completing work tasks in the workplace and
implementing work trials. Financial support and compensation were viewed as both an asset and a barrier.
Conclusion: Without knowledge about the representability of the study sample, the results of this study cannot be generalised.
However, the therapists who responded to the questionnaire were offering a range of strategies to address work-related transitions for
people with serious hand injuries, despite the numerous barriers that exist.

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ISSN 0038-2337 (print), ISSN 2310-3833 (online)

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