Program supporting injured workers wins top award

Kolling researchers have taken out a highly-competitive, national award for an innovative program helping people get back to work after injury.

Professor Michael Nicholas and Dr Manasi Mittinty from the Pain Management Research Centre were part of a team which received a National Safety Award of Excellence for their initiative targeting injured workers.

The program was trialled with staff from Australia Post and involved early identification and intervention for workers at risk of delayed recovery following a work-related injury.

Participants in the intervention arm of the trial were offered up to six sessions with a psychologist or counsellor, and a workplace rehabilitation provider to assist with barriers returning to work. This was in addition to the medical and physiotherapy care normally provided for such injured workers.

Professor Nicholas said while the long-term follow-up is continuing, the benefits of this approach have been so clear that Australia Post has already implemented the program for injured workers across the country.

“We have shown that by adopting this additional, targeted support, injured workers are getting back to their job in less than half the time of those receiving usual care,” he said.

“Workers felt the connection to positive people and the consistent reassurance were particularly helpful.

“This is a wonderful example of robust research influencing healthcare models and health outcomes, and improving real-life workplace protocols.

“Importantly, the benefits of this research will not just impact workers and their individual organisations, but will extend to the broader community as well.”

There has been further recognition of Professor Nicholas’ contribution to healthcare with the  announcement that he is to receive the International Association for the Study of Pain's John D Loeser Prize for 2022.

This award recognises the recipient’s distinguished lifetime achievement in the clinical science of pain and Professor Nicholas is the first Australian to receive the accolade.

He has welcomed the honour, saying it reflects the standing of our work at the Pain Management Research Centre in pain education, research and clinical services.