PURPOSE. Research in the field of brain injury rehabilitation has tended to regard return to work as a measure of outcome. Researchers have not paid particular attention to the experiences of people living with a brain injury. The aim of the phenomenological study reported here was to identify and describe what characterizes the meaning of work to those with acquired brain injury.
METHODS. Ten participants of working age were interviewed about the meaning of work 1–5 years after being inflicted with a brain injury. Data were analyzed and interpreted using the Empirical Phenomenological Psychological method.
RESULTS. The findings revealed a meaning structure consisting of four main characteristics. Work was no longer experienced as the primary event in life and the social dimension had become more important. The perceived competence and work identity were threatened after the injury. A common theme across all interviews was the struggle to return to a state of normality, and working was considered to be evidence of success.
CONCLUSION. The findings described the altered meaning of work 1–5 years after brain injury. This knowledge should lead to an increased understanding among occupational therapists engaged in work rehabilitation after brain injury and can serve as a basis for individualized intervention strategies.