The employment rate among adults diagnosed with MS is consistently lower than other chronic illness groups, despite most individuals having high vocational potential. Dr Diana Dorstyn and colleagues from around Australia are investigating whether vocational skills training could be delivered in an online mode to people with MS.
Research suggests that a combination of disease, demographic and psychological variables contribute to employment stability. Many barriers to accessing vocational rehabilitation have also been identified, including social stigma as well as logistical issues with program access, suggesting that improvements in service delivery are required.
A novel avenue for service delivery is that of ‘tele-rehabilitation’, or services provided through the internet. Online treatments or training programs are both time- and cost-efficient, and are becomingly increasingly available for providing a wide range of services. Online training provides an innovative way to overcoming current service barriers, whilst at the same time helping to educate the community and promote vocational achievements following an MS diagnosis.
However, this type of program has not been well studied in people with MS. Dr Dorstyn’s study will be the first to develop and trial the delivery of vocational guidance and job-seeking skills training using internet technology. It is anticipated that access to online services will promote vocational behaviours, including skills to help individuals with MS adapt, adjust and/or return to work. The preliminary data will subsequently inform a larger-scale trial to examine the effectiveness of online vocational training.
The aim of this project was to develop and trial an innovative, email-based resource for working-age adults with MS. The resource, titled Work and MS, targeted key employment barriers cited in the literature: employment-related knowledge (i.e. recognising skills, how to find a job, employer expectations), job seeking and job retention skills.
Work and MS was trialed with a group of 30 adults recruited from Australian MS Societies. The information package was well received and accepted by consumers.
Preliminary data also suggested that ready access to targeted job information can help to promote knowledge and skills that may positively contribute to employment outcomes (e.g. retaining employment, seeking new employment, developing one’s career) among this group.
The results were presented at the 2015 Biennial MS Research Australia conference. A manuscript based on the project findings has also been published.
A randomised controlled trial is now underway to test this program using more rigorous methodology in a larger sample.
Update: 10 June 2016
Updated: 03 January, 2014