Sharon successfully went back to school after falling over lounging student
It’s a well-known truism that you should never work with children or animals, but *Sharon, a learning support teacher at a NSW school, loved her job and was itching to get back to school after sustaining a significant back injury while at work. ‘Sharon had been walking backwards out of a classroom when she tripped over a student who was lounging on the floor,’ says Natalie Mizzau, Senior Rehabilitation Consultant at Recovery Partners. Sharon, who is in her late forties, put her hands behind her to break her fall and landed heavily on the hard surface.
‘Sharon had soft tissue damage to both her hands, but that actually resolved itself quite quickly,’ Natalie says. ‘The greater injury was to her lower back, a lumbosacral strain.’ Sharon was certified as unfit for work for a period of three weeks after the injury occurred but was keen to return to her job as soon as she was able, Natalie says. Sharon’s GP also understood the benefits of recovery at work and supported her decision, provided she undertook physiotherapy to aid her rehabilitation.
Return to work plan
To facilitate Sharon’s return to work, Natalie developed a return to work plan that involved a graded return to pre-injury hours and duties for Sharon as her recovery and treatment progressed. The plan served as the framework for medical case conferences with Sharon’s GP. ‘Before we had each case conference, I’d discuss the next stage of the plan with Sharon, and check that she was happy to increase her work capacity and hours,’ says Natalie. ‘Then, the GP just had to confirm it.’
Sharon’s school was able to offer her alternative duties and also made some practical changes to suit her reduced capacity. These changes included: moving her office to the ground floor of her building so she didn’t have to navigate stairs, changing her timetable so she wasn’t required to move between different rooms, and exempting her from playground duty at lunch so she didn’t have to stand for extended periods. ‘Sharon’s employer was very supportive and thoughtful in the way they accommodated her reduced capacity,’ Natalie says.
Sharon went to physiotherapy sessions twice a week, and the professionalism of this treatment provider was another integral part of Sharon’s good progress, says Natalie. ‘The physiotherapist was very experienced, so the treatment she provided was effective and her communication was great, too. It can be frustrating when it’s hard to get in contact with treating parties, as that can slow things down on our end and make it difficult to coordinate everyone. It definitely helps when everyone makes sure they’re available for updates.’
Support through workers’ compensation claim process
Five months after her fall, Sharon made a full and safe return to her pre-injury duties and hours of work. Before their last meeting, Sharon expressed her gratitude to Natalie for guiding her on the return to work journey. ‘Like a lot of people, Sharon had never been through a workers’ compensation claim process before, so she had no idea she would receive as much support as she did,’ says Natalie. ‘She really appreciated it and I was glad to be able to help.’
Wow, teachers really will do anything to get out of playground duty. (Just joking, Sharon!)
If you’d like a supportive consultant to guide a worker through to a successful and safe return to work, give Recovery Partners a call. Call 1300 OHS RTW (647 789) or email email@example.com .
*Some names have been changed to protect the privacy of the individuals and organisations involved.
Disclaimer – these articles are provided to supply general safety information to people responsible for OHS in their organisation. They are general in nature and do not substitute for legal and/or professional advice. We always suggest that organisations obtain information specific to their needs. Additional information can be found at www.workcover.nsw.au
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