Researcher perspectives on competencies of return-to-work coordinators

Purpose.Return-to-work (RTW) coordination programs are successful in reducing long-term work disability, but research reports have not adequately described the role and competencies of the RTW coordinator. This study was conducted to clarify the impact of RTW coordinators, and competencies (knowledge, skills, and attitudes) required to achieve optimal RTW outcomes in injured workers. Methods.Studies involving RTW coordination for injured workers were identified through literature review. Semi-structured interviews were conducted with 12 principal investigators to obtain detailed information about the RTW coordinator role and competencies not included in published articles. Interview results were synthesized into principal conceptual groups by affinity mapping. Results.All investigators strongly endorsed the role of RTW coordinator as key to the program's success. Affinity mapping identified 10 groups of essential competencies: (1) individual traits/qualities, (2) relevant knowledge base, (3) RTW focus and attitude, (4) organizational/administrative skills, (5) assessment skills, (6) communication skills, (7) interpersonal relationship skills, (8) conflict resolution skills, (9) problem-solving skills, and (10) RTW facilitation skills. Specific consensus competencies were identified within each affinity group. Most investigators endorsed similar competencies, although there was some variation by setting or scope of RTW intervention. Conclusions.RTW coordinators are essential contributors in RTW facilitation programs. This study identified specific competencies required to achieve success. More emphasis on mentorship and observation will be required to develop and evaluate necessary skills in this area.


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