Creating a plan can help amputees get back to work

Greensboro, N.C. — New amputees should take time to examine their situation and figure out their goals before returning to work, according to James Daley, MD, a physician specializing in prosthetic and orthotic rehabilitation at Good Shepherd Rehabilitation in Allentown, Pa. Daley shared tips for return to work after amputation at the Amputee Coalition National Conference, here.

“When you go back to work, it is an individual process. It is an individual journey. Some people are going to have an easier time than others. The road is going to be curvy. There are going to be potholes in the road,” Daley said.

James Daley

James Daley


Daley recommends starting with a plan. First, amputees need to decide whether they want to — and will be able to — continue in the same career they had before amputation. Some amputees, Daley said, may take the opportunity to start a new career instead.

After thinking about their career path, Daley said amputees should “Look at the environment of your work.”

An upper limb amputee who needs to make quick responses with their hands should probably look for a body-powered prosthesis rather than a myoelectric system, as the latter has a slower reaction time, Daley said. Conversely, someone who is typing for most of the day or performing other precise finger motions may prefer a myoelectric hand, he said.

The best time to return to work is different for everyone, but Daley said the amputee should try to look at the situation from an employer’s perspective.

“You need to show them that you can do the job,” he said.

Employers may have misconceptions about an amputee’s abilities, and the amputee may have to overcome those.

“Your employer is probably [holding] the same misconceptions that general society has,” Daley said, such as the idea that an amputee “is not going to be as good of an employee as an able-bodied person.”

While this can be frustrating for the amputee, Daley said amputee organizations and resources can help. He recommended checking in with state vocational rehabilitation agencies. These agencies can help amputees with a variety of challenges, from convincing an employer they are ready to get back to work, to brushing up on skills that may have lapsed as they dealt with medical issues. These agencies may also help amputees who need to make a career change and regularly help employees fight for workplace accommodations, such as periodic rest breaks, closer parking spots and guardrails in the work place, according to Daley. As putting people back to work helps the economy, he said, “Their short-term investment has a long-term payoff.” – by Amanda Alexander


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Daley J. Navigating your way back to employment – A user’s guide. Presented at: Amputee Coalition National Conference; June 9-11, 2016; Greensboro, N.C.

Disclosure: Daley reports no relevant financial disclosures.

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