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Experiences of returning to work and maintaining work 7 to 8 years after a stroke: a qualitative interview study in Sweden.

Journal article
Authors Annie Palstam
Marie Törnbom
Katharina Stibrant Sunnerhagen
Published in BMJ open
Volume 8
Issue 7
Pages e021182
ISSN 2044-6055
Publication year 2018
Published at Institute of Neuroscience and Physiology, Department of Clinical Neuroscience
Pages e021182
Language en
Subject categories Other Clinical Medicine, Neurology


To explore how persons experienced return to work (RTW) and their work situation 7 to 8 years after a stroke.An explorative qualitative design with individual interviews. The data analysis was inductive thematic and three researchers collaborated during the analysis process.The study population included five women and eight men who had a stroke during 2009-2010, received care at the Sahlgrenska University Hospital in Gothenburg, Sweden and RTW after stroke and it was a heterogenic sample based on age, occupation, stroke severity and time to RTW.The analysis led to four themes; motivated and RTW while struggling with impairments, mixed feelings in the RTW process, still at work though restricted and social support for a sustainable work situation. The themes revealed that participants were motivated to RTW while struggling with impairments. The RTW process evoked mixed feelings of worry and grief over lost functions but also acceptance and gratitude for being able to work. Although maintaining work 7 to 8 years after experiencing a stroke, most were restricted in some way. Fatigue and cognitive impairments meant having to set limits, omit work tasks and rest at work, but also rest during free time and refraining from social activities in order to manage work. Participants avoided work-related stress if they could because of aggravated symptoms and/or fear of a new stroke. Support from supervisors and colleagues was often crucial for a sustainable work situation.Maintaining work can be a continuous struggle with invisible impairments many years after a stroke. Strategies for managing work are dependent on each individual work situation, where support and understanding at work seem to be crucial for a sustainable work situation.

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