ReEmployAbility, the largest national provider of specialty early return-to-work (RTW) services and transitional employment programs, has successfully matched thousands of injured workers with temporary modified duty assignments at its partner local nonprofit organizations.  In most cases, a successful outcome means the injured worker is able to quickly return to his previous position. But, every now and then, things work out differently and amazing opportunities develop.

One such case is that of forty-nine year old Jim,* who was a courier for a major storage and information management company. His job entailed picking up bins weighing as much as 70 lbs. and driving a company vehicle to transport client materials to company locations. He injured his right arm when he fell while trying to catch a falling container.

A few months after his injury, his doctor released him back to work on light duty. His employer, unable to accommodate those restrictions, enrolled him in ReEmployAbility’s Transition2Work program to match him with an assignment at a local nonprofit that could accommodate his restrictions. He was placed at a nonprofit called Fifty Forward Donelson Station, one of the thousands of agencies in ReEmployAbility’s national network. This organization enriches the lives of adults age 50+ by providing pathways to health, well-being, and lifelong learning. For Jim, this was the first “office job” he’d ever held—and he was nervous.

Fifty Forward’s Program Director, Lisa Maddox, assigned Jim to the front desk, performing mostly administrative tasks, greeting guests, and giving tours. “We rely heavily on volunteers to help us run our nonprofit organization so we welcomed the help,” said Maddox. “Our members took to him right away! He was very well liked.”

Jim worked at Fifty Forward for four months while he continued treatment for his injury. He learned a variety of new skills, met many people, and reported that he enjoyed the organization and the people he met there. Once Jim’s doctor determined that he had reached Maximum Medical Improvement (MMI), meaning he had healed to his maximum capacity but would have some permanent restrictions that impact his work duties, Jim could not go back to his original position at his company. The requirements of his old job were just too strenuous for what he was now able to do. While unfortunate for the company to lose a good worker, it was even worse for Jim because now he was without a job… or so it seemed.

Because of his newly acquired skills and his stand out performance while in placement with the nonprofit, as soon as Fifty Forward Donelson Station had a position available, they contacted Jim and offered him the job. Jim eagerly jumped at the chance and joined the nonprofit on a permanent basis performing the same job he had held during his participation in the Transition2Work program. What started as an unlikely job became his new career.

“In some cases, injured workers cannot return to their pre-injury position,” said Debra Livingston, ReEmployAbility’s co-founder. “This is one of those instances where our program not only gave the injured worker the opportunity to work and learn new skills while recuperating, but also to gain valuable community connections that essentially earned him his next job. The program is a ‘win-win’ – it has positive impacts for all involved – the injured worker, employer, insurance carrier, nonprofit, and the community.”

The Transition2Work program places injured workers with local non-profit organizations to perform modified light duty assignments. The employer pays wages to the injured worker while at the non-profit. The injured worker benefits by easing back into the workforce, enjoys the camaraderie of a work environment, and gets the benefit of helping others.

* Name has been changed.