Many years ago I ran across a poem titled The Man in the Glass. It is compelling advice regarding the struggle for what you may personally deem to be important (it is perhaps too gender specific, but that is easily changed). Too often, each of us is perhaps driven by base human emotion, and perhaps even the seven deadly sins (lust, gluttony, greed, sloth, wrath, envy and pride). There are also seven virtues (faith, hope, charity, fortitude, justice, temperance, prudence). What drives us?
As I practiced law in the 1990s, I witnessed clients, attorneys, and service providers struggling to do the "right" thing. In retrospect, I am hopeful that I was helpful to some of them as a counselor, regarding both what was required by the law and what was right. I think that most lawyers have faced the challenge of doing what is right. All have made choices, and perhaps regretted some. And, as I reflect on that I am reminded of the closure to The Man in the Glass "your final reward will be heartaches and tears if you've cheated the man in the glass."
Ultimately, we have to be individually and personally proud of what we do. I recently spoke at a seminar on the topic of professionalism. Certainly, there are rules and laws to define what is improper and forbidden, but professionalism is above that. It is similar in that regard to the spirit of our having personal constraints and aspirations, and of striving to do the right thing, to fulfill our expectations of ourselves. If we are true to the "man (or woman) in the glass," perhaps that is a good measure of our professionalism?
I have traveled to, and spoken at, a fair number of conferences and conventions across this country. I find that travel can wear one out, and I go to far fewer events than so many industry regulars. People attend, they display their wares or services, network, and discuss how the world of workers' compensation could be better. Sometimes the flaw they perceive or the suggested solution they propose is directly related to the product or service they are selling. Yes, Virginia, there is self-interest out there.
Don't mistake me, because they are selling something does not mean their perception of either a problem or a solution is wrong. It is possible someone's close association with some niche enhances their perspective. It is possible that some have arrived at perceptions, solutions, and suggestions altruistically. But, it could be that some very small minority has "got a price," see Jesse J - Price Tag. That said, there are some outstanding altruistic efforts underway in the community of workers' compensation that bear recognition.
WorkCompCentral presents the best of workers' comp annually in the Comp Laude Gala. Likewise, WorkersCompensation.com focuses us upon the contributions of industry bloggers. Kid's Chance and many other similar organizations provide academic scholarships to dependents of workers' who suffer workplace injury. RIMS works with Spencer & Sedgwick to provide scholarships for "tomorrow's education leaders." The Workers' Compensation Institute provides an immense volume of support to Give Kids the World Village in Orlando. The Workers' Compensation Claims Professionals conduct a teddy bear drive each December to benefit children. And, each of these efforts involve a great many individuals and companies from the workers' compensation community. There are so many examples (email me if I have missed some).
But, one effort that has recently caught my attention is an effort in Australia called Craig's Table. It is an enterprise focused on returning people to function following a workers' compensation accident. It seeks to "upskill" those who are recovering. That is, by teaching new functions and abilities. A work injury may make return to a former profession or avocation impractical or impossible, but with appropriate training and focus new skills can be gained, honed, and applied. The Craig's Table effort is collaborative and it is focused not on the greater world around us, but specifically upon injured workers. See, you can focus on a single element and through it improve the greater whole. Remember "The Starfish Story?" (“Well, I made a difference to that one!”).
The Craig's Table program runs for 28 weeks, over six months, and is divided into two "stages." The first stage (weeks 1-12) is designed to address the "confidence and capability of the members." Notice that these people are not "patients," or "claimants" or "workers," they are "members." That vernacular distinction is worthy of note (Bob Wilson has advocated for clearer community language, with stress on "recovery" rather than "disability," the words we chose may make a difference).
The list of training that may be provided is extensive, including vocational and personal topics. The vocational includes "food handling," "computer skills," and "leadership." The more personal topics, which may also enhance a worker's employability, includes "emotional intelligence and resilience," "time management," and "effective workplace communication." All of us could likely benefit from those more personal topics.
In the second stage (weeks 13-28), Craig's Table focuses on "reintroducing members to the community and the workforce." The mission is described by Rosemary McKenzie-Ferguson as ensuring "that injured workers no matter where they are can be engaged via a truly community based training and engagement concept." Ms. McKenzie-Ferguson is an injured worker. That such a program exists makes sense, and that it is led by an injured worker is simply poetic.
As I reflect on a fairly long career in this workers' compensation community, I have a couple of conclusions. First, why there are not more such efforts focused on returning people to function and activity? Why is Ms. McKenzie-Ferguson so unique? Second, it seems that much of these efforts to celebrate our community and contribute to others are reasonably recent. In my professional youth, there was no Comp Laude, no Best Blogs, (O.K., no cracks here about there being only stone tablets and dinosaurs back then). That these efforts exist is inspiring, and perhaps could lead us to anticipate that more such efforts will be forthcoming. There is hope that this community will be blessed with more celebration of contribution and more engagement, involvement, and collaboration.
This community has much about which to be proud. There are so many of you out there, making a difference in people's lives. You are what makes this community great. But, what could this community do to promote hands-on, developmental aids like Craig's Table? How could that concept emigrate to America? Would such a focus on re-energizing, strengthening, and re-employing or re-engaging, injured workers benefit our community, employees, and employers alike?
If we are not improving our community, we have simply "cheated the man (or woman) in the glass." Our community needs us. Injured workers and their employers need our community. There are so many ways to engage today, and there is promise for more. How will you engage in and improve this community? Will you invest effort in outlets that exist, or will you bring us new opportunities? How will you participate?
Disclaimer: WorkersCompensation.com publishes independently generated writings from a variety of workers' compensation industry stakeholders. The opinions expressed are solely those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of WorkersCompensation.com.