By Deborah Johnson
A healthcare worker who himself lives with brain injury is now supporting businesses to understand how to better support employees living with neurological injuries and conditions.
John McDonald has previously worked in high dependency brain injury care, and in 2016, became a patient himself after brain surgery for hydrocephalus, finding himself on the same hospital ward in which he used to support survivors.
After living with the ‘hidden’ effects of brain injury – including fatigue and memory issues – John has decided to use his experience as a healthcare patient, survivor and employee to help businesses increase their support in the workplace for those with neurological conditions or illnesses.
Eagle’s Wings Consultancy aims to support employers to be more inclusive, and will work directly with businesses to assess their policies and procedures and recommend positive change, also helping to train disability champions within organisations.
The business is also committed to assisting employees in disclosing information about their condition, and has designed a disclosure template to enable them to raise the issue at interview and detail any adaptations they may require.
“Businesses often have processes in place to support employees with physical disabilities, but with brain injury, the effects can often be ‘hidden’ and not instantly recognised,” says John, who supports businesses nationally from his North Tyneside base.
“As someone with a brain injury, I have the benefit of understanding what it’s like.
“I gave a presentation to a business group and asked what they imagined someone with a brain injury to look like. Many said they’d imagine them needing a high level of care – but when I told them that I had a brain injury, they were very apologetic.
“That showed me that if this is how many employers imagine someone with a brain injury, then if they see it on an application form, or if it’s disclosed to them, then their perception might be a long way from the reality.
“Through Eagle’s Wings, I want to help employers better understand brain injury and how to improve the lives of their employees in the process.”
The business has identified a number of ways in which to make the topic of brain injury easier to discuss for both employer and employee, one being at the first contact, says John.
“You often find that with physical disability, employers feel a lot more confident in knowing what to do, knowing they need to make adaptations to their office, for example – but with brain injury, that can be very different,” he says.
“For someone living with brain injury, it’s often difficult to know what to say about their condition and how to say it. I know I’ve previously found myself dancing around the issue at times.
“Through our disclosure template, that can allow someone to detail ahead of an interview the nature of their disability and any adjustments they’d need – enabling them to interview as themselves and not worry at what point and how to raise the issue of brain injury.”
Through support in how to make adjustments to existing practices, Eagle’s Wings can help create a more positive and diverse culture, says John.
“After my brain injury, I had a job where they were very happy with my work, but I was told I’d need to ‘knock it up a gear’ as I needed to work faster,” he recalls.
“When I told them I couldn’t do that, I can’t work at the pace you expect, they said they were really sorry but you won’t be able to continue in the role.
“I think because things like fatigue and problems in thought processing are unseen, these can be very difficult things for employers to understand – and these are the exact things we hope to address.
“We will work with them to help and support and introduce positive change and awareness – if we can change the lives of people who may be struggling at work or suffering in silence, then it’s absolutely worth it.”
Source: Neuro Rehab Times