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The Impact of Psychosocial Issues on Injured Workers

11 May, 2023 Claire Muselman

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In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, many individuals experienced feelings of isolation, loneliness, and loss of connection. However, injured workers also experience these psychosocial issues, including anxiety, fear, financial insecurity, and relationship challenges, from the moment they become injured. The treatment of injured workers is often very different from that of personal injury cases, which can have a significant impact on their healing process.

Recovery is not simply a matter of fixing a physical injury, but involves the mental, emotional, and psychological components of the person as well. Psychosocial issues can be identified as High Risk Factors within the workers' compensation system and can include lifestyle choices, life events, and other high-risk characteristics. Understanding these factors is essential in helping injured workers navigate the healing process and return to work successfully.

Fear is a common emotion associated with injury, particularly for those entering the workers' compensation system. The unknowns associated with the process, including pay, medical treatment, job security, and family dynamics, can be overwhelming, and fear can be debilitating. Injured workers often require support to help them manage their anxiety and move forward with their recovery.

Marital issues can also have a significant impact on an injured worker's recovery process. Injuries can alter the dynamics of a relationship, and existing problems can be amplified during times of uncertainty. While the nuclear family can be a valuable support system, it can also create additional challenges if they are overly involved in the recovery process.

Financial issues are another significant source of stress for injured workers. Workers' compensation benefits are state-mandated and vary based on jurisdiction and specific statute language. Injured workers are often ill-informed about what they are entitled to and may be influenced by advertisements from attorneys that exaggerate the potential pay-outs. This misinformation can make it difficult to help injured workers understand their options and manage their finances during the recovery process.

Psychosocial issues can manifest in a variety of ways and can have a significant impact on an injured worker's recovery. Low back pain, for example, is a common diagnosis in workers' compensation cases, and while many injured workers have a relatively smooth recovery, some may experience more significant challenges. In some cases, injured workers may over-treat, use a heavy amount of prescription drugs, and magnify their pain, exhibiting a lack of motivation or persistence to get better. They may also be passive or resistant to recovery and return-to-work.

The differences in the healing process for individuals with the same diagnosis highlight the importance of addressing psychosocial issues in workers' compensation cases. A plan that encompasses the whole person, not just their physical injury, is essential for successful recovery. Injured workers need support that recognizes and addresses their psychosocial needs, including fears and anxieties, relationship challenges, and financial stressors. By providing support that addresses these needs, injured workers can achieve a successful return-to-work and manage their recovery effectively.

In conclusion, psychosocial issues are a critical component of an injured worker's healing process and must be taken into account when developing treatment plans. The workers' compensation system must recognize and address these factors, including fears, relationship challenges, and financial stressors, to ensure that injured workers receive the support they need to return to work and manage their recovery effectively. With the right support, injured workers can overcome psychosocial issues and successfully navigate the healing process.

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    About The Author

    • Claire Muselman

      Meet Dr. Claire C. Muselman, the Chief Operating Officer at, where she blends her vast academic insight and professional innovation with a uniquely positive energy. As the President of DCM, Dr. Muselman is renowned for her dynamic approach that reshapes and energizes the workers' compensation industry. Dr. Muselman's academic credentials are as remarkable as her professional achievements. Holding a Doctor of Education in Organizational Leadership from Grand Canyon University, she specializes in employee engagement, human behavior, and the science of leadership. Her diverse background in educational leadership, public policy, political science, and dance epitomizes a multifaceted approach to leadership and learning. At Drake University, Dr. Muselman excels as an Assistant Professor of Practice and Co-Director of the Master of Science in Leadership Program. Her passion for teaching and commitment to innovative pedagogy demonstrate her dedication to cultivating future leaders in management, leadership, and business strategy. In the industry, Dr. Muselman actively contributes as an Ambassador for the Alliance of Women in Workers’ Compensation and plays key roles in organizations such as Kids Chance of Iowa, WorkCompBlitz, and the Claims and Litigation Management Alliance, underscoring her leadership and advocacy in workers’ compensation. A highly sought-after speaker, Dr. Muselman inspires professionals with her engaging talks on leadership, self-development, and risk management. Her philosophy of empathetic and emotionally intelligent leadership is at the heart of her message, encouraging innovation and progressive change in the industry. "Empowerment is key to progress. By nurturing today's professionals with empathy and intelligence, we're crafting tomorrow's leaders." - Dr. Claire C. Muselman

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