A Developmental Conceptualization of Return to Work
- Cite this article as:
- Young, A.E., Roessler, R.T., Wasiak, R. et al. J Occup Rehabil (2005) 15: 557. doi:10.1007/s10926-005-8034-z
Introduction: Although return to work (RTW) is a phenomenon that has been researched for many years, our ability to understand and improve outcomes is still limited. As an avenue for advancing the field, this paper presents an alternative way of thinking about RTW. Method: The conceptualization was constructed based on a review of the literature and the comments of RTW and workers' compensation researchers. Results: RTW is presented as an evolving process, comprising four key phases: i.e., “off work,” “work re-entry,” “retention,” and “advancement.” In addition, multiple phase-specific outcomes that may be used to evaluate RTW success are advanced. Conclusion: Broadening thinking about RTW to take into consideration the complexities of its developmental nature holds promise for understanding and improving RTW, as it not only clarifies the importance of incremental milestones, but also facilitates intervention choice and evaluation.