Return to work after burn injury: A systematic review

CITATION: Mason ST, Esselman P, Fraser R, Schomer K, Truitt A, Johnson K. (2012). Return to work after burn injury: A systematic review. J. of Burn Care & Research, 33(1), 101-9.

OBJECTIVE: Consequences of major burn injuries often include losing the ability to engage in basic life functions such as work, or employment. As this is a developing area of importance in burn care, the goal of this study was to perform a systematic review of the burn literature to ascertain a comprehensive view of the literature and identify return to work factors where possible.

METHODS: A search was conducted and peer-reviewed studies were examined that investigated predictors and barriers of returning to work of those with burn injuries that were published since 1970 and written in English. From the 216 articles initially identified in our search, 26 studies were determined to meet inclusion criteria.

RESULTS: Across studies the mean age was 33.63 years, the mean TBSA was 18.94%, and the average length of stay was 20 days. After 3.3 years (41 months) post-burn, 72.03% of previously employed participants had returned to some form of work. Important factors of return to work were identified as burn location, burn size, treatment variables, age, pain, psychosocial factors, job factors, and barriers.

CONCLUSIONS: This systematic review suggests multiple conclusions. First, there is a significant need for attention to this area of study given that nearly 28% of all burn survivors never return to any form of employment. Second, the return to work literature is in need of coherent and consistent methodological practices, such as a sound system of measurement. Last, this review calls for increased attention to interventions designed to assist survivors’ ability to function in an employed capacity.