Early vocational rehabilitation following neurological disability (EVocS study)


Research Framework

Maximising Participation


Stroke affects over 8000 people each year in NZ, making return to work (RTW) difficult. One method of supporting RTW is vocational rehabilitation. The best model of vocational rehabilitation has not been determined, although there is evidence supporting early intervention for people with a new health condition or disability. In NZ, one vocational service that incorporates a focus on early intervention is the vocational rehabilitation service provided by the NZ Spinal Trust. This novel early intervention model may hold promise for other health conditions or disabilities, in particular stroke, where similar barriers to employment as those associated with spinal cord injury have been identified.

This study aims to:

  • Understand how the early intervention vocational rehabilitation programme provided by the NZ Spinal Trust works, and how the context in which it is provided impacts on RTW outcomes among people with SCI.
  • Use this theoretical understanding to develop an implementation plan for this programme to be trialled in the stroke population.

Key Outcome: An implementation plan is developed for an early intervention vocational rehabilitation service for people with stroke in New Zealand.

This study is funded by the Health Research Council in collaboration with the Ministry of Social Development.


This study will take place over 2 years (2020 – 2021) and will:

  • Gain a better understanding of how early intervention vocational services work for people with SCI by conducting:
    • Literature review of early intervention vocational support literature
    • Interviews with people with SCI who have received early intervention vocational support from the NZ Spinal Trust (at various time points)
    • Survey of people with SCI who have and haven’t returned to work
    • Focus groups with existing and previous NZ Spinal Trust EIVS staff
    • Focus group with both MSD and ACC vocational providers in Auckland and Christchurch to determine how the developing theoretical framework integrates with the current RTW pathway for SCI
  • Explore how to transfer the programme to a stroke population by conducting:
    • focus groups with vocational providers currently working with people with stroke in Auckland and Christchurch
    • interviews with people with stroke who have or have not returned to work following their ABI
    • presenting the draft framework to groups of stakeholders based in Auckland and Christchurch in a knowledge translation workshop.

Status of Research

  • Ethics and planning complete
  • Literature review underway
  • Interviews with people with SCI  – Complete
  • Survey Complete
  • Interviews with people with Stroke  – Complete
  • Focus group with vocational providers – Complete
  • Knowledge Translation Workshops –  Coming soon

Early Conversations about Vocational Aspirations with people after Acquired Neurological Conditions

EVOCs SCI participant feedback March2021

Key Contact

Dr Rachelle Martin,
Knowledge Translation Lead,
Burwood Academy
Phone:  +64 3 383 6871
Mobile:  +64 21 223 3362
Email: rachelle.martin@burwood.org.nz

Researchers and Collaborators

Dr Jennifer Dunn (Principal Investigator)
University of Otago Christchurch

Dr Jo Nunnerley,
University of Otago Christchurch

Dr John Bourke
Burwood Academy 

Dr Jonathan Hackney
Burwood Academy 

Emily Timothy
Burwood Academy 

Julianne Johns
Burwood Academy 

Assoc. Prof. Debbie Snell
University of Otago Christchurch

Prof. Sarah Derrett
University of Otago Dunedin

Timothy Young
Burwood Academy

Andrew Hall
New Zealand Spinal Trust