Looking after a room full of four-year-olds is no child’s play! RP’s Stacey used persistence and empathy to help educator Julia return to work after bilateral shoulder injuries.
Lifting and carrying kids puts a strain on the body
As any parent can attest, lifting and carrying babies and small children can put a lot of strain on your body. For workers in childcare and other early education settings, the same injury risks apply. As an early childhood educator working with pre-school aged children (around 4 years old), *Julia experienced injuries to both her shoulders that prevented her from working for more than six months.
Julia’s functional capacity was very limited
‘Julia’s bilateral shoulder injuries were quite extensive, and she required surgery and several months of physiotherapy to treat them,’ says Stacey Walker, Recovery Partners Rehabilitation Consultant. ‘Shoulder injuries are notoriously slow to heal, particularly rotator cuff injuries. When someone has bilateral shoulder injuries, their capacity for upper body movement is really restricted. Julia could only lift her arms straight out in front of her, and no higher. She couldn’t sleep on her side or pull a shirt over her own head. I’d describe her as hugely functionally limited.’
Stacey conducted a workplace assessment
The nature of Julia’s work made it difficult for her employer to find suitable duties to complete while her capacity was so limited.
‘Julia and I visited her work so I could conduct a workplace assessment and understand the tasks required of her. When we got there, the kids just flocked to her,’ says Stacey. ‘Julia clearly has a strong connection with the children, so they want to go to her for comfort and help, but they also climb all over her – young children don’t really understand when an adult has an injury.’ It was also untenable for Julia to move to a different room within the centre, as younger children would typically require even more in terms of her capacity, particularly with the amount she could lift. ‘If you can’t lift a bottle of milk, you certainly can’t lift a child,’ Stacey points out.
Stacey used her counselling skills to facilitate clearer communication
Julia was also experiencing a lot of anxiety about her injury which led to her being quite emotional during their meetings with her employers, Stacey says. ‘As a Return to Work consultant on a Same Employer case, it’s part of our role to act as an intermediary between the employee, employer and other stakeholders, like the insurers, union representatives and treating medical and allied health professionals. Understandably, Julia was stressed and upset about her situation, but it was important that she try and stay calm and focussed for the meetings, otherwise no progress would be made. So, I spent some time with Julia helping build the skills she needed to participate effectively in those discussions about her future at work.’
As an undergrad in psychology, Stacey had useful counselling skills to call upon when she was working with Julia and running interference between all the parties involved.
‘A lot of this case was trying to help everyone to see each other’s perspectives, keeping the communication open so that things could keep moving. Persistence helps, too. I’m like a dog with a bone when I’m trying to get something done! I just keep at it.’
Julia sings Stacey’s praises
Stacey’s approach was clearly an effective one, as Julia is now back at work and coping well, much to the satisfaction of everyone involved. ‘When her lifting capacity had improved enough, Julia was able to pick up suitable duties and gradually increase the hours she worked and the tasks she could do. Her employer has also relocated her to a centre that is closer to home and requires less travel, so she doesn’t get too worn out.’ For her part, Julia was very appreciative of Stacey’s efforts, saying, ‘Stacey has been nothing but professional during the time that she has managed my case, but she also knows how to care about the client and not treat them as another case. She has been available after hours/over weekends and this made me feel important.’
Get in touch
Congratulations to Stacey on a job well done and best wishes to Julia for your continued recovery! If you are an insurer or employer who’d like this persistence and compassion for your own clients or workers, get in touch with Recovery Partners by calling 1300 647 789 or sending an email through to firstname.lastname@example.org.
*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 https://www.safeworkaustralia.gov.au/
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