Journal of Occupational Rehabilitation

, Volume 18, Issue 1, pp 2–15 | Cite as

A Literature Review Describing the Role of Return-to-Work Coordinators in Trial Programs and Interventions Designed to Prevent Workplace Disability

  • William ShawEmail author
  • Quan-nha Hong
  • Glenn Pransky
  • Patrick Loisel


Objective Return-to-work (RTW) coordination has been suggested as an effective strategy for preventing workplace disability, but the scope of these services is not well described. The objective of this study was to describe the activities of RTW coordinators in published trials to provide a basis for establishing necessary competencies. Methods A keyword search of MEDLINE and CINAHL databases was conducted to identify intervention studies with a RTW coordinator providing direct, on-site workplace liaison to reduce work absences associated with physical health ailments. This search yielded 2,383 titles that were inspected by two examiners. Using a stepwise process that allowed for assessment of inter-observer agreement, 90 full articles were selected and reviewed, and 40 articles (22 studies) met criteria for inclusion. Results All but two studies (of traumatic brain injury) focused on musculoskeletal conditions or work injuries. Twenty-nine RTW coordinator activities were identified, but there was variation in the training background, workplace activities, and contextual setting of RTW coordinators. Based on reported RTW coordinator activities, six preliminary competency domains were identified: (1) ergonomic and workplace assessment; (2) clinical interviewing; (3) social problem solving; (4) workplace mediation; (5) knowledge of business and legal aspects; and (6) knowledge of medical conditions. Discussion Principal activities of RTW coordination involve workplace assessment, planning for transitional duty, and facilitating communication and agreement among stakeholders. Successful RTW coordination may depend more on competencies in ergonomic job accommodation, communication, and conflict resolution than on medical training.


Sickness Absence Workplace Intervention Competency Domain Physical Work Demand Workplace Assessment 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.



This study was supported by research funding from the Ontario Workplace Safety and Insurance Board, Toronto, Ontario, Canada, and the Liberty Mutual Group (Project CDR 06-03), Boston, MA, USA.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2007

Authors and Affiliations

  • William Shaw
    • 1
    • 2
    Email author
  • Quan-nha Hong
    • 3
  • Glenn Pransky
    • 1
    • 2
  • Patrick Loisel
    • 3
  1. 1.Liberty Mutual Research Institute for SafetyHopkintonUSA
  2. 2.Department of Family Medicine & Community HealthUniversity of Massachusetts Medical SchoolWorcesterUSA
  3. 3.Centre for Action in Work Disability Prevention and RehabilitationUniversité de SherbrookeLongueuilCanada

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