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Public Policy and Administration


Frances Goldman


People who suffer a traumatic brain injury (TBI) experience challenges in returning to work differently and at a rate that surpasses the return to work transition for people who experience other types of disabling injuries. In part, this challenge is a result of a lack of policy structure that promotes the successful return to work transition. The purpose of this ethnographic study was to explore the policy implications of the return to work transition for TBI survivors, address the gap in the literature, and identify key factors that contribute to the success of return-to-work programs in Washington State. A hybrid of Smith's institutional ethnography approach and Foucault's critique of bureaucratic institutions was used as the framework for this study. Data were gathered from 12 interviews and 2 focus groups with TBI survivors who had access to TBI support groups and employers connected to the TBI community. Data were inductively coded and categorized using a comparative analytical method. The study results indicate that an inclusive culture, collaborative communication, TBI-focused knowledge, integrated support, and survivor/employer motivation to interact are key factors in the successful return to work process. This study promotes positive social change by providing information for use in expanding TBI employment policy, TBI employment education, and accommodation practices. The study findings are intended to inform new policies to improve employment post-TBI outcomes for TBI survivors, employers, and their community.

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