Stroke project shows the power of collaboration  

The RESET Advisory Group and Network comprises individuals with lived experience of stroke (having had a stroke or caring for someone who has had a stroke) and clinicians interested in better supporting people through the post-stroke return-to-work journey.

This group has been instrumental in refining the return-to-work (RTW) approach taken in the TRIALS research project, RESET, and has co-designed a new brief intervention to help stroke survivors at any time during their work journey. 

Since 2017 the team has been working on a program of post-stroke RTW research. After joining the Stroke Association of Australia in delivering a face-to-face RTW support service, TRIALS researchers developed, trialled and refined a telehealth version of the service, which they named RESET (Resuming Employment after Stroke – Enhancement through Tele-coordination; funded by IMPACT seed funding and the Stroke Foundation). They recruited participants from Barwon, South-West, Western District and Albury Wodonga health services. 

As part of the project, TRIALS engaged an advisory group of people with lived experience (stroke survivors and carers) and clinicians, to help refine an intervention for rural centres.

During those meetings, some key themes emerged, including the need for consistent support, employer education and provision of longer-term (beyond six months) support. There is currently a significant gap in availability of longer-term vocational support following stroke; both within the scientific literature and clinical practice, with most services centring on the early post-acute period (three to six months). Given the differing needs (for example, differences in physical and cognitive/mood/fatigue symptoms) of those stroke survivors who attempt to return to work later compared with those who are sufficiently recovered within the shorter post-acute period, it is unlikely that existing interventions could simply be applied to this later time point. 

Funded by an IMPACT Seed Grant, in 2022 the RESET Advisory Group worked with the research team to co-design a service approach that would fit the needs of this client group. The researchers also engaged a steering committee of clinicians, researchers, lived experience experts and industry partners (Stroke Foundation, Stroke Association of Victoria, Western Alliance, WorkSafe) to oversee the project and provide recommendations. 

The RESET Advisory Group met eight times over the course of this year. Together, the RESET Advisory Group, Steering Committee and research team created a ‘work wellbeing’ module – a three-session brief intervention that a clinician can use to help a stroke survivor identify potential challenges in the workplace (for example, fatigue, cognitive issues), and strategies to address these when things are going well, not so well and in times of crisis. This module can be delivered and re-delivered at any time during the return to work and longer-term work journey. 

In 2023, the researchers will finalise the new RTW service module and seek funding for piloting and evaluation. In addition, the RESET Advisory Group and Steering Committee strongly recommended employer/workplace knowledge be the focus of the next project. The team has successfully secured IMPACT seed funding to start this project in the coming year, enabling the lived experience Advisory Group to continue to provide valuable input into service development efforts. 

This article was published in our 2022 Annual Report. Looking for more? Check it out here.