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Psycho-social factors impacting return to work following traumatic injury

The contribution of social identity context to psychological appraisals of traumatic injury and subsequent return to work   

What we are doing?

The PhD will contribute to developing a psycho-social theoretical approach to better understand successful vocational rehabilitation among people recovering from traumatic injury. This work will inform the NIHR sponsored multi-site clinical trial ROWTATE (Return to Work After Trauma) which aims to develop and test a vocational rehabilitation (VR) intervention for trauma patients. The PhD has reviewed the existing evidence and psychological theory on outcomes following traumatic injury. Three qualitative studies have been undertaken to understand stakeholder perspectives (lived experiences and service providers). Two studies were secondary analyses of qualitative data generated during the ROWTATE development phase and a third data set has been generated independently.  

Why we are doing it?

Moderate or severe traumatic injuries can be life changing and long-lasting, and there is evidence of both psychological and physical impairment delaying return to work. In England in 2015, there were 700,000 major trauma hospital admissions of patients of working age. The ROWTATE vocational rehabilitation intervention includes psychological support but there is limited theoretical and empirical understanding of the specific psychological mechanisms of successful return to work.  The PhD will address this knowledge gap by through analysis informed by psycho-social theory which can be applied in practice to vocational rehabilitation for recovering patients. 

What the benefits will be and to whom?

The cost of delayed return to work following injury is not only financial (for patients, the NHS, and society through welfare provision) but also psychological and social. The PhD will: contribute to greater understanding of the complex mechanisms affecting vocational rehabilitation; develop psycho-social theories; and enhance the potential impact of the ROWTATE intervention. The knowledge has the potential to benefit patients and practice within health and social care and to contribute to theoretical understanding of psychological responses to trauma. 

Who we are working with?

The parent NIHR sponsored study: ROWTATE (Return to Work After Trauma; is based in the Medical School at the University of Nottingham.  The Chief Investigators are Professor Denise Kendrick (injury epidemiology) and Dr Kate Radford (occupational health). The ROWTATE team is comprised of multidisciplinary contributors as well as PPI. Accounts from traumatic injury survivors and service providers will inform core mechanisms and potential factors that can contribute to vocational rehabilitation. 

Co-funded by Nottingham Trent University Centre for Public and Psychosocial Health.


Kay Bridger, Lecturer in Trauma, Social Isolation and Mental Health and PhD Researcher at NTU,