Burn injuries often result in temporary or permanent problems that are barriers to return to work after burn injuries. At the Northwest Regional Burn Model System we have studied issues related to returning to work after burn injuries for over 10 years. We discovered that the average time off of work after a large burn injury is about 4 months, but many individuals are able to return to work within a few weeks after injury. Our research shows that individuals with larger burns, a burn to an arm or leg and individuals with a history of psychological issues will have a longer time off work.
In one study, we followed people for up to a year after a burn injury and found that in the first few months after an injury wound care issues and physical abilities (strength, range of motion) were the largest barriers to returning to work. For those individuals who had not returned to work after several months they reported working conditions (temperature, workplace safety), physical abilities and psychosocial issues (stress, depression, concern about appearance) as the largest barriers to successful return to work. This research helps us understand the barriers to returning to work and the need for ongoing treatment and assistance focused on helping individuals be successful in returning to work after a burn injury.