18 January 2021 posted by Recovery Partners

How Kathleen’s proactive approach helped bridge a communication gap with a Portuguese-speaking worker

Usually, when we share the stories of our Rehabilitation Consultants, they’ve come to the end of their engagement with a worker. Often, the worker’s experienced an injury and our consultants have successfully helped them return to work in some capacity or seize a new training opportunity. But sometimes our consultants have little but important wins when they’ve only just started working with someone, and we think they’re worth celebrating, too!

Kathleen Largo originally started working with Recovery Partners as an Assessor in our Injury Reporting Centre, helping employers enact an early intervention approach to injury management in their businesses. In this role, Kathleen provided guidance to employers about what steps to take when a worker was injured so the business adhered to compliance standards and the worker received appropriate care. This early intervention approach is centred on  helping workers make a safe return to work as soon as possible after an injury, as this results in better outcomes. Working in the Injury Reporting Centre enabled Kathleen to get frontline experience in injury management, so it was a natural transition when she began working as a Rehabilitation Consultant as well.

‘My background is in exercise physiology, so I was definitely interested in learning more about occupational rehabilitation,’ Kathleen says. ‘As I was new to the role, I worked closely with some of the more experienced consultants, which helped me to understand their processes and approach.’ Accordingly, Kathleen was preparing to accompany another Recovery Partners Rehabilitation Consultant, Joshua Joseph, to a worksite assessment the following day, and was considering how best she could prepare for it. ‘Reading through the case notes, I learnt that the worker was a Portuguese woman with limited English. She’d fractured a bone in her hand, and we were meeting with her to determine where she was at in her recovery and see how we could help her. As I was familiar with the early intervention approach from my time in the Injury Reporting Centre, I knew that we also needed to evaluate her work environment and find suitable duties for her to do as she healed. I thought the language barrier might make some of these conversations a bit difficult.’ So, what did she do?

This is the good bit, folks…

Kathleen looked up some of the forms they’d need to complete with the worker at the assessment the following day. The forms consisted of a series of statements about the workers’ pain management and mental health, which she would have to respond to. Kathleen had the brilliant idea of seeing if she could find the forms online in Portuguese. Esperta! That’s Portuguese for ‘clever!’ Sure enough, Kathleen was able to find the forms she needed, translated into Portuguese. She printed them and brought them with her to the assessment the next day. ‘The worker was really surprised and pleased,’ said Kathleen. ‘There had been some communication difficulties earlier in the process as she didn’t really understand what was happening and who all the different people involved in her case were. It felt good to be able to present her with information she could understand and show her I cared about that.’

Kathleen confessed that she’d also turned to YouTube to try learning a few phrases in Portuguese so she could greet the worker in her own language but lost her nerve on the day. ‘I was a little unsure about my pronunciation and I didn’t want to make things harder!’ she says. ‘I just wanted to be considerate and help her feel at ease.’

We’re sure you did just that, Kathleen!

We appreciate the proactive effort that Kathleen and all of our consultants make and we’re proud of the humanity, thoughtfulness and respect they show our customers. If you’d like your clients to be treated this way in their journey back to work, get in touch.

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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/