Vocational Resources

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By Lee Brinkley Bryan, M.Ed., C.R.C., C.V.E



While transition is part of everyone's life process, the burn survivor experiences multiple transition experiences that can result in different journeys of grief stages concurrently involving self-image, self- esteem, as well as the realities of loss of career identify and earning potential. The transition journey for the burn survivor is initially focused upon medical recovery and physical rehabilitation, the bodily changes and the emotional implications of surviving a burn injury. The burn survivor must experience this initial transition journey before being ready for vocational planning. The vocational rehabilitation needs of the burn survivor are frequently not addressed during their initial transition journey and when an survivor's vocational transition journey begins they are frequently unsure how to begin return to work planning and what assistance there may be in this new and yet another uncharted journey for them. Success in returning to vocational activities following a burn injury requires the development of self-determination and self-assessment strategies.

  1. Think about old situations in new ways. You may not be able to return to your old job, but in retrospect - what did you like most about your job? what did you dislike about your job? Describe your dream job.
  2. Accept the implication of change…What things about your new "norm" are good? Imagine your self in your dream job - what would you be doing, identify the people around you? How would you like to feel at the end of a work day? 
  3. Change doesn't occur…The burn survivor's transition journey will involve assessment, exploration and goal planning. In retrospect, the journey may look like several maps that were followed to realize employment success and intrinsic satisfaction. Patience is encouraged for the burn survivor and their family as the process may take many twists and turns.
  4. There is no timeline…Each burn survivor's vocational transition journey will not be identical to another person's journey. Identify where you are and recognize the small steps that together result in large steps forward in vocational planning. Develop goals that are realistic for your vocational transition journey that allow you to realize progress in small and large intervals and time.
  5. Change is always…The burn survivor has faced many journeys throughout medical and physical rehabilitation and when faced with yet another journey to return to employment, it is not uncommon for the stress to paralyze the survivor impacting the desire to return to work and their ability to effectively develop a vocational plan. Family and practitioner assistance can provide the support the survivor needs to channel this stress into positive energy and growth.

Common issues when faces with a back to work transition:

  • Anxiety related to being with strangers and new co-workers;
  • Narrow view of career opportunities;
  • Concerns about physical ability and tolerance to work;
  • Apathy regarding work due to on-going adjustment issues;
  • Impact of depression on positive thinking and planning;
  • Lack of self- confidence.

Often times the survivor is focused on recovering from the burn injury and isn’t thinking of work or their job. After a burn injury the focus is on physical rehabilitation and there is a lack of vocational focused support systems. There is often a diminished sense of selfconfidence and physical limitations that prevent the survivor from going back to their previous vocation. It is important to support the survivor and family throughout this process and identifying a vocational plan. In order to develop a vocation plan it is important to encourage them to:

  • Think about old situations in new ways
  • Accept the implications of change; outward change happens to us; inner change occurs only with intention
  • Change doesn’t occur in a straight line
  • There is no timeline for change. Everyone changes at his or her own pace.
  • Change is always stressful--this same energy can be channeled into positive energy and personal growth

Some common issues to think about when considering a change in vocation are:

  • No believing in self
  • Loss of prestige, respect and ego boost that came from being identified by a past profession
  • Concerns of loosing SSDI/LTD benefits
  • Fear of failure
  • Having no idea of where to begin or who to help in exploring careers
  • Anxiety over health insurance

Potential Supports

  • Insurance benefits – Workers Compensation, LTD, etc
  • State Vocational Rehabilitation Agency
  • Public Schools – Vocational Ed, Transition Services, etc.
  • College Tuition Loan Programs
  • Personal Financial Resources
  • State Lottery College Funding
  • Scholarship Programs

Resources for developing a vocation plan after injury

  • Your state’s Department of Labor or Employment Security Commission Website
  • O-NET Online – Interest Profiler  www.onetcetner.org/CIP.html
  • Occupational Outlook Handbook – US Department of Labor – online at  www.bls.gov/oco/


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