The Changing Role of Vocational Rehabilitation Counselors
By Dr. Michael Lacroix
By Rachel Wesley, MEd, CRC
Dir., Vocational Rehabilitation
Vocational rehabilitation has become much more than just “voc rehab.”
Sometimes this profession performs valuable little “chores”, such as getting a new pair of boots for a delivery driver or a bus pass to enable an employee to return to work. Sometimes it can be a more life-changing activity, such as helping the claimant who is living out of her car find stable housing. Whatever the case, a vocational rehabilitation counselor (VRC) has a toolbox stuffed with resources to help claimants return to work (RTW) sooner, or, even better, stay at work (SAW) altogether.
The most effective way to minimize the amount of time and money lost from employee absence is to avoid time off work altogether. To achieve this goal, large employers are starting to recognize the value of paying for or arranging to have VRCs onsite.
The VRC can partner with frontline managers, wellness coaches, the human resources (HR) team, and, most important, the employees to help make the work environment more workable for those struggling. A VRC can quickly assess a workstation for an employee complaining of lower back pain. Often, the solution is as easy as an antifatigue mat or a sit/stand stool. The VRC can work with the employer to order the appropriate equipment and assess the impact. If successful, the employee has avoided any lost time from work and the employer doesn’t have to hire replacement staff or burden other employees with overtime. It’s a win all the way around.
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