A Human-Centered Worker’s Compensation Model

Dr. Clair Muselman had the opportunity to join ReEmployAbility National Sales Manager and ReAudio Host Todd Loomis on how to make the Worker’s Compensation Industry more injured worker-centric. With her breadth of experience in the field as a speaker, professor, and advocate, her point of view allows us to see a more human-focused method of working with the industry.

Dr. Muselman advocates for a human-centric approach within Worker’s Compensation and the need for a shift in the industry to focus on the human element of a claim. Dr. Muselman also elaborates on her background within the foster care system and how that propelled her passion for helping individuals.

She emphasizes the importance of designing models within the industry that support individuals; part of this design comes from a deeper understanding of the Worker’s Compensation system.

Another of her focuses is establishing the Worker’s Compensation of Excellence, a division of North American Risk Services, and its goal of empowering injured workers through empathy, emotional intelligence, and customer experience. Additionally, she highlights the need for a cultural transformation in the industry, including a mindset shift, changing the language surrounding workers, and creating a supportive work environment.

Her advocacy marks her as a prominent changemaker in the Worker’s Compensation field.

*The interview has been modified and shortened for print. For the entire podcast, go to the episode.*

The Beginning of a Journey Towards Empathy

Todd Loomis:

Would you mind just giving us a little bit of your back story? So, why are you such an advocate for injured workers?

Dr. Claire Muselman:

My background is that I was a foster child that was adopted, and so I’ve started to own that story a lot more throughout the years, especially after last year [when] I was presenting at the Comp Laude awards for the People’s Choice Award.

I’ve been able to own quite a bit on why I feel like it’s so important that we really do everything that we can to take care of an injured worker. I think a lot of times the systems that we have designed over the years and over the 100 years for work comp, they are intended for good use but don’t necessarily lead to the right outcomes.

I would also say that the foster care system operates in a very similar manner. And so, I think I see a lot of similarities because this was my purpose in life is to make good things happen for people, whether we’re on the foster child or we are on the worker’s compensation side.

And so I think a lot of it comes from a misunderstanding of the intention and the purpose, and to who we are actually serving. I think there are, when you look at when we go into the foster system, for example, they’re working with social workers that are the most amazing human beings on the face of the earth, and also have a very thankless job. I would say that the adjusting role also is very mimicking of that, where there’s a thousand hats to wear. And we are dealing with a plethora of people who are multifaceted and have a lot of multi-emotions that go into this. And so, the systems are both designed very similarly.

But overall, I think the vast majority of people want to get better. They want to be functional, contributing members of society. It’s just how do we make it consumable? And how do we design models that actually help people want to achieve that?

Dr. Muselman’s focus on creating a better advocacy-centered system in the Worker’s Compensation and Insurance Industry makes her a thought leader and natural advocate for workers’ rights. This empathy-based approach is a much-needed revolution in the Worker’s Compensation field and informs her work. New research is coming out daily regarding the importance of communication, connection, and empathy to impact an employee’s claim meaningfully. It is time to start supporting the changes leading to this new approach. New models within the Industry are much needed and will create a new paradigm for Work Comp stakeholders.

Establishing the Worker’s Compensation Center for Excellence

Todd Loomis:

I think it’s interesting you said “industry” instead of the foster care “system”. It is an industry, and that human element is absolutely taken out of it.

Now, you’re doing something really special. You’re currently with North American Risk Services and established the Worker’s Compensation Center for Excellence. So tell us more about that. What does that mean, and what are your goals for that?

Dr. Claire Muselman:

This is a division of North American Risk Services. Its values are about treating people like family, which aligns with how I work.

We have teachers, social workers, psychologists, and adjusters who have a lot of expertise in the industry and various backgrounds. It’s not the stereotypical approach that the claims world or the insurance industry has taken previously.

So, we’re taking different expertise, coupling it with education and a lot of science and psychology of, okay, what happens when we take those human elements such as empathy, emotional intelligence, and focus on that customer experience with the customer actually being the injured worker? If we succeed in doing everything they need to be successful throughout this process, then we’re doing the right thing. So it’s been a shift of that, and a lot of it stems from different communication models.

So, looking at getting that injured worker back to life, but finding a way that we can actually empower them. It’s much more about motivational interviewing and having the right conversations that stem understanding and trust. Trust is a huge component of this.

This is where those human elements we need more than ever because this is where we’re taking injured human beings that could be at their most vulnerable part of their life, and with so much uncertainty. Human connection matters and checking in on people.

The Worker’s Compensation Center for Excellence is at the forefront of new and innovative changes in the Industry by changing how Adjusters work with injured employees on their claims. By bringing together professionals across the field, such as psychologists, social workers, teachers, and adjusters, the Worker’s Compensation Center for Excellence can break from the stereotypical approach often taken in Work Comp. This inventive approach empowers injured workers, centers trust, communication, and understanding within the system, and helps create better outcomes through empathy and compassion.

Changing Your Mindset on Work Culture

Todd Loomis:

In your mind, what are some of those little pivotal baby steps that a leader can take to start changing the culture in their work environment?

Dr. Claire Muselman:

We started it with a mindset shift because you have to start thinking differently before you can start acting differently. And so we started shifting words, which I think is one of the biggest components. You’ve got to start shifting your words. People know that if they come [to] say the word claimant to me, I will, 1. be unbelievably offended, and then I will correct you in front of everyone because I don’t care.

Dr. Muselman explains the benefits of starting the day off with gratitude, listing three things that have happened that you’re grateful for. By doing this exercise with her students, she is able to begin classes from a positive mindset that allows for a better learning experience. She claims that this simple exercise, done either with adjusters or injured workers, allows the mind to be in a state of rest and allows better outcomes for stakeholders.

Overall, Dr. Muselman’s philosophy revolves around deliberately treating injured workers with kindness and respect, realizing that having a workplace injury is often someone’s most challenging time. With true empathy and a model focused on human-centric worker’s comp, the Insurance Industry can begin a revolution, putting injured employees at the center of their work and creating a more positive effect on the lives of countless people.

ReAudio: Reassess Your Workers Comp Toolbox Podcast is a ReEmployAbility podcast focused on the positive stories that come out of the Worker’s Compensation Industry and on how to make positive changes within the industry. It can be found on all major Podcast Platforms. Go here to subscribe. You don’t want to miss an episode!

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