Firefighter postinjury return to work: A balance of dedication and obligation

Lauren B. Nosanov, Kathleen S. Romanowski

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Firefighters are at significant risk for burn injuries. Most are minor and do not significantly affect ability to work in full capacity, but there exists risk for both short- and long-term incapacitation. Many push for earlier return to work than is medically advisable. An online cross-sectional survey was sent to a statewide Professional Firefighters’ Union. Multiple-choice format was used to assess demographics, injury details, medical care received, and return to work, with free-text format for elaboration. The survey was sent to 30,000 firefighters, with 413 (1.4%) responses. After exclusions, 354 remained for analysis with 132 burn-injured. Burns were small and affected the head (45.5%) and upper extremities (43.2%). Reported gear use was 90.7%, and the majority were not treated at a Burn Center. While 12 (12.1%) returned prematurely, nearly half knew a colleague who they felt had returned too soon. Factors cited include firefighter culture, finances, pressure from peers and employers, dislike of light duty, and a driving desire to get back to work. While many cite love of the job and a culture of pride and camaraderie that is “in our DNA,” firefighters’ decisions to return to work after burn injury are equally driven external pressures and obligations. Additional education is needed, which may best be facilitated by treatment at a Burn Center. Improved understanding of factors driving firefighters’ views on returning to duty after injury may help establish support systems and improve education regarding risks of premature return to work, particularly with regard to reinjury.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)935-944
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of Burn Care and Research
Issue number5
StatePublished - 2020
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Surgery
  • Emergency Medicine
  • Rehabilitation


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