Graduation Year


Document Type


Degree Type

Open Access Capstone

Degree Name

Doctor of Occupational Therapy (OTD)


Occupational Therapy

Department Name when Degree Awarded

Department of Occupational Science and Occupational Therapy


Background: Participation in productive work after a traumatic spinal cord injury (SCI) can often be a challenging experience. This experience is unique to each individual and is often impacted by personal and environmental factors as well as government policies. Previous studies have aimed to identify the factors associated with promoting successful return to work after SCI, but often the perceptions of those who experience SCI are excluded from these studies. This study aims to gain insights regarding the experiences of persons with SCI and participation in productive employment. Purpose: To analyze existing literature about the perceptions of persons with (SCI) and their experiences with participation in productive work after SCI. Theoretical Framework: This capstone project was guided by Engel and Romano’s Biopsychosocial Model, an interdisciplinary model (Lugg, 2021). Methods: A scoping review, guided by the Arksey and O’Malley’s five stage framework was selected to explore the existing literature for this study. Qualitative studies with methods consisting of interviews and focus groups with adults who had experienced a SCI and engaged in productive work after their injury were synthesized for this review. Results: Eleven studies were included in this scoping review and five common themes were identified. These five themes describe the experiences of individuals with spinal cord injury post injury as they return to work and sustain and maintain employment: (1) Persons who engage in productive employment after SCI report positive benefits on social and emotional health. (2) Successful participation in work starts with a strong desire. (3) The work environment is significant. (4) Access to financial educational resources influences return to work post SCI. (5) Social support impacts on return-to-work post SCI. Conclusions: The findings of this review represent the common experiences reported by participants on their experiences with return to work post spinal cord injury. The results may be used in the rehabilitation of this population to enhance these experiences through interventions and increase the rate of employment in this population.

Faculty Mentor

Cassandra Ginn, , OTD, OTR/L, CBIS

Department Affiliation

Occupational Therapy

Committee Member

Amanda Balser, OTD, MS, OTR/L, BCPR, ATP/SMS

Department Affiliation

Occupational Therapy

Department Affiliation

Occupational Therapy