Promoting empathy and compassion in the injured employee experience


Workplace injuries often lead employees to step into the unknown and in the worst cases, they do so alone. One second, they are an employee with work-life balance, and the next, they are faced with a problem so large that it works its way into every aspect of their lives. This can come with great stress, fear and anxiety about what is coming next.

Adding more pressure to an already challenging situation is the workers’ compensation system, which can be confusing to navigate. Many workers fear that they may be dismissed and must find the cheapest alternative to excellent care or in even worse in some scenarios, take care of the situation themselves with routes of self-care and assessment. Today, employers and service providers are leaning into an advocacy-based approach, in which each employee is not just seen as an asset but a human being that’s deserving of empathy throughout the process.

Clinical support

A hallmark of quality care is ensuring that injured employees have access to the medical resources needed to maximize their recovery, optimize their experience, and produce the best outcome. Sometimes that means guiding workers to top-performing physicians with experience in occupational medicine or specialty care; other times, it means advising those with minor injuries to pursue first aid or thoughtful self-care instead of unnecessary and costly trips to an emergency room. Clinical consultation and evaluation at the first notice of injury helps to ensure that appropriate care is delivered at the right time while giving injured employees peace of mind.

Case management is another strategy for getting injured employees the care and support they need. Drawing on their clinical training, nurse case managers are ideally positioned to work with treating physicians, employers, claims examiners and others to coordinate proper medical care for injured employees. In case of a severe, or complex injury, a field case manager can be on site to advocate for the injured employee, help them navigate the health care system, and provide a sympathetic ear. Having a nurse case manager in their corner — whether in person or over the phone — can make all the difference for an injured employee and their family, who are looking for a personal connection during a very overwhelming time.

Behavioral health support is a key element of the advocacy model. Behavioral health specialists offer clinical expertise and guidance for injured employees and can help in identifying other related issues that should be addressed to maximize physical and mental/emotional recovery. Behavioral health support is particularly important in claims involving trauma, violence, mass casualties and other catastrophes, or psychosocial concerns like substance abuse, financial difficulties, or family/relationship challenges. All these factors, as well as anxiety or fear about returning to work, can impede healing and negatively affect overall well-being if left unchecked. Behavioral health specialists serve as caring advocates for injured employees, imparting coping skills that promote resilience and providing supportive assistance to help them overcome any barriers on the road to recovery.

Advocacy and empathy

From the first notice of injury to the end of the claim, the tone of every interaction should be supportive rather than adversarial. Clear, empathetic, and frequent communication with the injured employee conveys accountability for their role in the process and their commitment to providing every available support resource throughout the journey.

Claims professionals may touch dozens of employees’ comp cases a day, but it’s likely those injured employees are going through this experience for the first time in their lives. They are scared about their health, their livelihood and taking care of their families. In the advocacy model, claims professionals are charged with building trust and rapport with injured employees and enlisting the right clinical resources to support their recovery. By showing they care, claims and clinical professionals have the capacity to allay injured employees’ fears and bring a hefty dose of sensitivity and understanding to an unexpectedly difficult period.

A holistic approach

Treating injured employees with care and empathy is not only the right thing to do; it also affects how claims ultimately get resolved and yields significant results for employers. Data shows that taking a holistic approach to employees’ compensation reduces claim durations, medical and indemnity costs, litigation rates and lost productivity. The advocacy model cuts down on friction in the process and significantly improves employees’ post-injury experience.

Getting employees back to work after they’ve recovered from injury has always been important in employees’ comp, but it’s taken on greater significance in today’s tight labor market. Many of the jobs that are hardest to fill involve potentially dangerous work. The people in those roles perform critical societal functions but are more susceptible to injury. With many employers and industries already scrounging, they cannot afford for skilled talent to unnecessarily depart from the workforce. If talented individuals in these short-handed industries do sustain injuries on the job, they must be treated in a way that reflects the true value they bring to the table – because caring counts.

Learn more > Explore our case management offerings.

Written by:

Kevin Brown

Vice President, Client Services, Careworks

June 18, 2024