Study Hall

20 May, 2024 WorkCompCollege

CurriculumWorkers’ Recovery Professional (WRP)
CourseFactors Influencing Return to Work and Overcoming Return to Work Challenges
SchoolReturn to Work
FacultyDebra Livingston, Chief Executive Officer, ReEmployAbility

Debra Livingston started ReEmployAbility almost 20 years ago after a career in various executive roles in the workers’ compensation industry. Today, the Transition2Work program has helped thousands of injured workers, individuals who are typically concerned and uncertain about their lives after having experienced an injury. Through ReEmployAbility, she works with clients to advocate for their employees and to encourage a more empathetic and supportive approach during the return-to-work process. By joining business and community, ReEmployAbility has provided volunteers to thousands of nonprofit organizations across the US who have contributed over 14.7 million hours of community service! Debra is a member of Chief Leadership Group, a private network for women in executive leadership, and serves on several boards. She is a member of the WorkCompCentral Education Advisory Board, on the advisory board for South State Bank, and on the executive board of The Spring of Tampa Bay. Debra is also active in her local church, Nativity Catholic Church, and supports HOPE (Hillsborough Organization for Progress and Equality), and The Heroes Journey Foundation.

Why did you choose this subject matter to teach?

    My decision to focus on RTW programs, particularly through the lens of off-site modified duty and volunteering, stems from a deep-rooted commitment to innovation and progress in the field of workers' compensation. Over the years, I have observed a persistent challenge faced by employers: the struggle to implement effective RTW initiatives that truly prioritize the well-being and successful reintegration of injured workers. Recognizing this gap, ReEmployAbility sought to offer a fresh perspective and practical solutions to empower employers in navigating through these challenges. By choosing this subject matter to teach, WorkCompCollege aims to bridge the divide between theory and practice, providing actionable insights and strategies that resonate with the real-world experiences of employers and injured workers alike. Our approach is not merely academic; it is grounded in the belief that RTW programs should be dynamic, adaptable, and responsive to the evolving needs of both employers and employees. Through our teachings, we aspire to inspire a paradigm shift in how RTW programs are conceptualized and implemented, catalyzing positive change within organizations and the broader WC community.

    Why is this subject matter important to Work Comp stakeholders?

    For Work Comp stakeholders, the importance of effective RTW programs cannot be overstated. At its core, workers' compensation is not just about financial compensation or liability management; it is about restoring the injured worker to a state of productivity, dignity, and well-being. RTW programs serve as the linchpin in achieving this objective, providing a structured framework for facilitating the physical, emotional, and social recovery of injured workers. Moreover, RTW programs play a pivotal role in shaping the overall trajectory of an injured worker's recovery journey. By facilitating early and sustainable RTW opportunities, stakeholders can mitigate the risk of long-term disability, minimize the financial burden on employers, and foster a sense of empowerment and resilience among injured workers. Beyond the individual level, effective RTW programs contribute to the overall health and vitality of the workforce, promoting greater workforce participation, economic stability, and social cohesion. RTW programs are not just a matter of compliance or cost containment; they reflect our collective commitment to the well-being and dignity of injured workers. By prioritizing the development and implementation of effective RTW initiatives, Work Comp stakeholders reaffirm their role as advocates for recovery, rehabilitation, and renewal within the WC ecosystem.

    How does your content help further a workers’ recovery mindset?

    Our content adopts a holistic approach that acknowledges the multifaceted nature of recovery. By addressing the challenges faced by injured workers in the RTW process and exploring innovative solutions like off-site modified duty, we aim to shift the narrative surrounding recovery. By emphasizing the importance of communication, understanding external influences, and embracing best practices, we foster a mindset that prioritizes the well-being and successful reintegration of injured workers into the workforce. Moreover, by integrating volunteering into the recovery process, we aim to tap into the transformative power of community engagement and social connection. Volunteering not only provides injured workers with meaningful opportunities to contribute to society but also fosters a sense of purpose, belonging, and self-worth. By embracing volunteering as a core component of RTW programs, we redefine success not solely in terms of productivity or efficiency but in terms of personal fulfillment, social impact, and holistic well-being.

    What are five takeaways or action items for students?

    • Recognize the Importance of RTW: Understand that RTW programs are not just about cost containment but are fundamentally about restoring the injured worker to productivity and normalcy.

    • Overcome Challenges: Identify and address the obstacles faced by injured workers in the RTW process, whether they are physical, psychological, or systemic in nature.

    • Consider External Factors: Appreciate the external factors that can influence an injured worker's ability to return to work, such as family dynamics, socioeconomic status, and community support systems.

    • Prioritize Communication: Embrace best practices for communication with injured workers and claim stakeholders, fostering transparency, empathy, and trust throughout the RTW journey.

    • Explore Innovative Solutions: Explore the benefits of off-site modified duty as a viable option within RTW programs, recognizing its potential to bridge gaps and provide meaningful opportunities for recovery.

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