UBC Theses and Dissertations

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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Formation of expectations of return to work by injured workers with sub-acute back pain : The role of perceived uncertainty Stewart, Alison M.


This thesis explores the formation of expectations of return to work from the perspective of injured workers who were off work due to sub-acute back pain. The findings are based on one-to-one semi-structured interviews conducted with injured workers from the Lower Mainland region of British Columbia. Interview data were recorded from 12 participants (6 female, 6 male) between ages 29 and 63 years. Most participants were in receipt of compensation benefits and were recruited through WorkSafeBC. The average duration of work absence was 3 1/3 months. The data were transcribed and analyzed using grounded theory. The findings identified several interactive categories from the data that influence the formation of expectations, including the overarching category of perceived uncertainty, as well as five inter-related sub-categories: (1) perceived lack of control over the return-to-work process, (2) perceived lack of recognition by others of the impact of the injury, (3) perceived inability to perform the pre-injury job, (4) fear of re-injury, and (5) perceived need for workplace accommodations. Perceived uncertainty was determined to be the core category influencing the formation of expectations, which have been identified as an important biopsychosocial element of the return-to-work process. This qualitative study, the first to explore the formation of expectations of return to work, serves to unpack the dynamic, complex and multi-faceted construct of expectations of return to work from the perspective of the injured worker.

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