Returning to work, starting a new job and changes to career plans after a burn

This section covers:

  • Concerns and difficulties about returning to work after a burn
  • Positive experiences of returning to work
  • Starting a new job
  • Changes to career plans

It is common after a burn injury to need to take some time off work to recover. This could be days, weeks, or months, depending on the individual circumstances of the burn and treatment needed. The length of time taken off work will also vary according to the type of job and what it entails. Helen Y, Rhian, and Haydn felt that being self-employed granted them the flexibility they needed whilst they recovered.

Rhian said that being self-employed allowed her to prioritise her well-being.

Concerns and difficulties about returning to work after a burn

Sometimes the people we spoke to said that they felt they had returned to work before they were ready. Sarah, who works in the emergency services, returned to work but realised it was too soon and that she needed more time off to recover. When Frazer went back to work, his colleagues could see he was struggling and he was signed off on paid leave.

Sarah initially found the stress of being at work difficult to manage.

A fear of being judged by colleagues was a reason some of the people we spoke to found it difficult to return to work. Haydn told us he felt uncomfortable having to explain his burn scar to the people he worked with. Helen X is a school teacher and was initially concerned about how the pupils would react.

Chris X and Lindsay both talked about the ‘knock-on’ effects of going back to work whilst caring for a child with a burn injury. This included disrupted sleep and, as Lindsay said, feeling distracted when “your mind is whirling on many an occasion”.

Positive experiences of returning to work

Some of the people we spoke to looked forward to returning to work, once they felt able to. Helen X and Sarah both told us that they wanted to return to work in order to regain a sense of normality.

Helen X, who is a teacher, wanted to return to work to see the children she taught and to get back to normality.

When his son was burnt, Simon explained how being at work allowed him the personal space to deal with his feelings. He would often speak to his colleagues about what had happened.

After his son was burnt, Simon felt that returning to work gave his family the space they needed to process what had happened.

Starting a new job

Some people, like Claire and Frazer, had started new jobs since having burn injuries. India talked about her concerns in the run up to a job interview. Because she had been working from home during the pandemic, Claire thought that there might be colleagues who didn’t know that she has burn injuries.

When starting a new job, for example, Saffron thinks it’s important employers and colleagues know that burns can be life-long and visible injuries.

India talked about her burn injury experiences at a job interview, which gave her a chance to highlight her volunteer work and characteristics like resilience.

Changes to career plans

Not everyone we spoke to had been able to return to work after their burn injuries. Gary’s previous career plans were no longer possible because of the severity of his burn injuries, and his volunteer work gives him a sense of purpose and enjoyment.

Gary initially struggled coming to terms with the impact of his burn injuries on his career plans. He has since found it rewarding volunteering in roles with the fire service and young people.

Sabrina, Tara and Saffron also said that their burn experiences had shaped their career aspirations. Tara felt her own burn injury experiences gave her “connection” with patients she cares for her in job in mental health.

Helen Y was in the process of changing jobs when her burn injury happened. It was “handy” that she still had a job and received sick pay whilst recovering, otherwise she would have been in a difficult financial position.

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