4 March 2020 posted by Nadine Neate

Cautious beginnings

*Tammy, an early childhood educator in regional NSW, was initially a little wary about engaging with Recovery Partners Senior Rehabilitation Consultant, John O’Kelly. ‘Tammy had sustained an ankle injury in the course of her work as an early childhood educator and she’d been waiting a little while for her claim to be accepted so she was feeling a little frustrated about the delay,’ says O’Kelly. ‘Sometimes workers can be cautious about having a Rehabilitation Consultant involved. They know we’re there on behalf of the insurers, but we’re not the insurers, so it can be a little confusing.’

The luck of the Irish

But, in a fortuitous turn of events, John (who has an Irish background) and Tammy’s first meeting coincided with an appointment with her orthopaedic surgeon, who O’Kelly had worked with before. ‘Tammy had some tendon damage in her ankle, so her GP recommended that she see the surgeon for treatment advice. I’d met the surgeon before, as I work a lot in this area. We have a mutually respectful relationship. I don’t interfere with his work, I just seek clarification when I need to, and he understands what my role is, too.’ Once Tammy saw that O’Kelly and her surgeon had an established relationship, it became easier for her to trust him, says O’Kelly. ‘After that first meeting, Tammy understood that I really was there to help facilitate her safe return to work.’

What does a Rehabilitation Consultant do?

Building relationships with health professionals helps everyone to be on the same page, O’Kelly explains. ‘Sometimes a GP only has fifteen minutes with a worker, and other allied health professionals only see them for treatment. I do worksite observations and see what their duties actually involve, and I also attend the medical case conferences and liaise with insurers and employers. I get to know a lot of the health professionals and they get to know me, which helps with communication. I’m tall and Irish so I’m memorable, which also helps!’

Tammy’s outcomes

Tammy’s employers were able to offer her suitable duties to perform as she recovered from her injury, which isn’t always the case in the early childhood education and care industry, says O’Kelly. ‘Some employers insist that educators only return to work when they’re at full capacity, but Tammy’s employers were very supportive. As well as finding suitable duties for her to do at work while she recovered, they offered her a parking space next to the building to minimise the amount of walking she had to do.’ It’s well understood that an early, safe return to work provides better outcomes for workers, so it’s ideal when employers are on board with this.

Tammy was engaged with her treatment, which included physiotherapy and a gym-based strengthening program with an exercise physiologist, and her graded return to pre-injury duties progressed smoothly. ‘Tammy gradually increased her hours and her pre-injury duties over the 8-10 week timeframe that her GP had suggested, so it was a good outcome for all involved,’ says O’Kelly.

If you’re an employer or insurer and you’d like the assistance of a Recovery Partners Rehabilitation Consultant, get in touch with Recovery Partners by calling 1300 OHS RTW (647 789) or emailing enquiries@rrp.com.au .

 

Please note: Not all our Rehabilitation Consultants have charming Irish accents, but they are all very good!

 

*Some names have been changed to protect the privacy of the individuals and organisations involved.

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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 www.workcover.nsw.au