The team helped me understand this type
of injury and supported me through an uncertain
time to a certain future.
 – Ken

Meet Ken, Lead Hand Maintenance at a long-term care facility and electrical injury survivor

Fixing an electrical panel – it was the kind of job that Ken had done hundreds of times, but this time was different. While standing on a ladder, Ken lost his footing and fell on the panel. His right hand hit first and was so badly burned that a finger had to be amputated.

Ken wanted to go back to work as soon as possible, but first he had to re-learn how to use his injured hand and how to cope with the often unseen impacts of electrical injury. That’s why he came to St. John’s Rehab.

Ken’s therapists analyzed the nature of his injury and his job. "Since Ken worked in maintenance and lost a finger, we focused on splinting and making the hand more functional," says Barbara Panturescu. "We simulated maintenance work with lifting, carrying and using tools."

Most of our patients are in the workforce at the time of their injury, and they need to be able to go back to work. That’s where a Return to Work Coordinator comes in. Serving as a link between a patient’s therapy team and employer, the Return to Work Coordinator provides recommendations about health and duties that will help a patient make a successful, productive return to his or her job.

Revealing the Invisable: Researching Electrical Injuries

An electrical injury isn’t straightforward. After the visible trauma has been addressed and the patient appears to have made a full recovery, there are often unseen psychological, neurological and musculoskeletal after-effects that can have a devastating long-term impact.

After leaving a hospital, patients often find that the lingering, invisible effects of their electrical injuries prevent them from successfully returning to their jobs and communities. If left unaddressed, these effects can result in confusion, depression and even permanent disability.

St. John’s Rehab is the only specialized rehab facility in Canada that is working clinically and publishing research about the long-term effects of electrical injuries. This year, our researchers will continue to investigate these traumatic, often invisible and misunderstood injuries.

The research currently being done at St. John’s Rehab highlights the challenges of correctly diagnosing electrical injuries and their hidden impacts. Funded through the generous support of Hydro One, the research also shows how important it is to have patients assessed and treated by an experienced rehabilitation team.

Not every hospital can provide patients who have an electrical injury with the kind of specialized care and support they need. So, our researchers are also working to raise awareness of the impact of electrical injuries and to show how these injuries can be effectively treated through the specialized, interprofessional program at St. John’s Rehab.