A Day in the Life of a Vocational Rehabilitation Consultant

There is no such thing as a typical day in my job.  I know it sounds like a cliché but each one is unpredictable, exciting and interesting.

As a Vocational Rehabilitation Consultant (VRC) and qualified nurse, I work within the Claims Management Services (CMS) area of Canada Life Group Insurance, focussing on Group Income Protection (GIP) business. Our regionally based Rehabilitation Team is an integral part of the overall CMS provision and I work alongside my claims colleagues, our in-house medical specialists and many others, internal and external, aligned to our service.

I visit absent employees and their employers, gathering information to help the Claims Management Consultant (CMC) assess a claim. I also support the interpretation of medical information and the extrapolation of relevant medical details from the claimants GP and specialists’ reports.

Sometimes I work with the sales team or attend industry related conferences, to help me train others and undertake new learning for myself. My role is so variable that one day I may be sitting in the board room of a prestigious bank and the next I am on a remote farm surrounded by amorous sheep!

Amongst the many duties, for me, the most rewarding is working with absent employees and their employers, enabling them to make a successful return to the work place, where possible and medically appropriate.

One morning last year, I met an employee who was absent from his place of work due to anxiety and depression. Stephen (alias) was 32 and employed as a solicitor in a busy commercial law firm. On paper his absence seemed sad but straightforward and his medical condition was verified by his GP. Stephen was considered to be suffering from a reactive psychological illness, precipitated by a marital breakdown. To assist the claim assessment, I wanted to offer Stephen the opportunity to share details of his situation and clarify his general day to day functionality. I also needed to explore any medical interventions and the perceived response to treatment.

I was prepared for the fact that Stephen was reported to be “not coping too well" and knew he was receiving counselling via a psychologist but I had little information about his current situation, or his hopes and expectations for the future. There were no specific risk factors but, as a lone worker, I follow normal practice and consider potential risks, utilising our safe working remote tracking device.

At Stephen's, I was met by his friends who, although polite, were protective and questioned my motives. There was an air of passive aggression but, gaining consent from Stephen, I explained my role and the reason for my visit before moving to the task in hand. Unsurprisingly, Stephen was tearful, angry and emotional. His dishevelled state and lack of coherent speech made the interview challenging but, with time, I was able to build a rapport with him and reassure his friends that I meant no harm.  I left 1½ hours later, with enough information to write my report.

Before my next visit, I took a call from an anxious employee, who was currently on a return to work plan but "experiencing a blip" and one from an employer, seeking help with workplace adaptions needed to support the return to work of one of their employees. Then, I contacted a Consultant Psychiatrist to update him on a treatment regime for an employee I was supporting, before receiving an update from one of our CMC’s on preparations for an initial meeting with a large employer about their new scheme. Each call was very different.

Travelling home that evening, I remember reflecting on the day’s activities. I admit to feeling proud of a productive day, though slightly less gleeful about the length of my 'to do' list.

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