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A considerable proportion of patients with mild to moderate traumatic brain injury (TBI) experience long-lasting somatic, cognitive, and emotional symptoms that may hamper their capacity to return to work (RTW). Although several studies have described medical, psychological, and work-related factors that predict RTW after TBI, well-controlled intervention studies regarding RTW are scarce. Furthermore, there has traditionally been weak collaboration among health-related rehabilitation services, the labor and welfare sector, and workplaces.
This study protocol describes an innovative randomized controlled trial in which we will explore the effect of combining manualized cognitive rehabilitation (Compensatory Cognitive Training [CCT]) and supported employment (SE) on RTW and related outcomes for patients with mild to moderate TBI in real-life competitive work settings. The study will be carried out in the southeastern region of Norway and thereby be performed within the Norwegian welfare system. Patients aged 18–60 years with mild to moderate TBI who are employed in a minimum 50% position at the time of injury and sick-listed 50% or more for postconcussive symptoms 2 months postinjury will be included in the study. A comprehensive assessment of neurocognitive function, self-reported symptoms, emotional distress, coping style, and quality of life will be performed at baseline, immediately after CCT (3 months after inclusion), following the end of SE (6 months after inclusion), and 12 months following study inclusion. The primary outcome measures are the proportion of participants who have returned to work at 12-month follow-up and length of time until RTW, in addition to work stability as well as work productivity over the first year following the intervention. Secondary outcomes include changes in self-reported symptoms, emotional and cognitive function, and quality of life. Additionally, a qualitative RTW process evaluation focused on organizational challenges at the workplace will be performed.
The proposed study will combine cognitive and vocational rehabilitation and explore the efficacy of increased cross-sectoral collaboration between specialized health care services and the labor and welfare system. If the intervention proves effective, the project will describe the cost-effectiveness and utility of the program and thereby provide important information for policy makers. In addition, knowledge about the RTW process for persons with TBI and their workplaces will be provided.
ClinicalTrials.gov, NCT03092713. Registered on 10 March 2017.
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