An Investigation into the Occupational Status of Persons with Incomplete Spinal Cord Injury

‘Exploring the factors associated with an Incomplete Spinal Cord Injury and the impact on the person’s occupations in areas of leisure, self-care and work’

Catherine Logan

The subgroup of persons with incomplete spinal cord injury (SCI) has been somewhat neglected in Spinal Injury research to date. This descriptive study was designed to explore the factors associated with an incomplete SCI and the impact on the person’s daily life, their occupations in self-care, leisure and work.

A non-experimental descriptive research design was chosen to explore the impact of incomplete SCI. People with incomplete SCI who had completed their inpatient rehabilitation and who were ambulant were invited to participate in this study. There were three phases of data collection: a qualitative Focus Group of people with incomplete SCI (n=4) to identify common issues, based on the findings of the focus group a postal questionnaire was designed and mailed to a larger group of participants, the final phase consisted of four in-depth qualitative semi-structured interviews to explore the individual experience of coping with incomplete SCI.

An incomplete spinal cord injury has a broad, varied physical and psychological impact on daily life, much of it hidden. Understanding the impact of the injury should assist health professionals to collaborate with the person to improve the rehabilitative process in the hospital and in the community.

Qualitative findings indicated a loss of many leisure activities and consequently groups of friends. The emotional/psychological impact was described as the need to adapt, sadness at loss, altered self-image, while also feeling fortunate/gratitude for the level of function that was spared. The influence of external factors was identified, particularly the importance of social support, the availability or lack of services, the need for regionally based resources, improved welfare benefits and counselling.

Final Report presented to the NRH Ethics Committee –  May 2006

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