Funded Research

Early Intervention Vocational Rehabilitation and Employment Outcomes for People following SCI

Lead investigator: Dr Gillean Hilton, Austin Health

Co-investigators: Dr Vanette McLennan, Dr Mohammad Mosayed Ullah, Prof James Middleton, Dr Jo Nunnerley, Ms Rachel Harper, Ms Tania Goossen, Ms Ruth Stewart, and Mr Andrew Hall


Over the last 15 years vocational rehabilitation interventions have been delivered to people with SCI in Australia and New Zealand, as early as possible following impairment with relevant data collected.

With emerging evidence for the effect of early intervention in vocational rehabilitation (EIVR) (Hilton, Unsworth, Browne, Murphy, & Olver, 2017; Middleton et al., 2015), clearly defining what constitutes an ideal intervention/s is necessary (Bloom, Dorsett, & McLennan, 2017) and how to aggregate and generalise findings across broader populations (Charlifue et al., 2016).

The aim of this project was to collaboratively develop a deidentified, aggregate dataset of vocational rehabilitation and employment outcomes after SCI. This enables exploration of a larger, cross-jurisdictional sample, and identification of recommendations for an international minimum dataset.


Previously collected deidentified longitudinal cohort data from spinal injury units across Australia and New Zealand have been extracted, collated and analysed. Researchers worked cooperatively with clinicians, supported by the Spinal Cord Research Hub (SCoRH) platform, to compare and contrast datasets, with cross-referencing to international literature. A minimum dataset was identified for variables relating to pre-injury vocational history, demographics, vocational interventions and employment outcomes following injury.


Five collaborating sites contributed datasets (n = 1083). Preliminary analysis indicates a return to the labour force in at least 27.6% of the EIVR participants, with time to return to employment under investigation. Recommendations for minimum dataset have been identified.


To our knowledge this is the first vocational-specific aggregate dataset and contributes to understanding of employment experiences for people with SCI undergoing EIVR across Australasia. Significant progress has been made to inform future international collaboration in this important area.

This project was funded as a collaboration pilot for the Spinal Cord Research Hub (SCoRH).

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