CHHS faculty members Vidya Sundar and Debra Brucker awarded a Field-Initiated Research Grant
Vidya Sundar, assistant professor in occupational therapy, and Debra Brucker, research assistant professor at the Institute on Disability, were awarded a Field-Initiated Research grant from the National Institute on Disability, Independent Living, and Rehabilitation Research (NIDILRR)/Administration on Community Living.
The three year, $599,975 grant will support their research project “Career self-management through job crafting for people with physical and mild cognitive disabilities." Sundar and Brucker will partner with Northeast Rehabilitation Hospital Network, Marsh Brook Rehab, and the UNH Office of Environmental Health and Safety to develop and test a new approach to assisting persons with disabilities to retain employment and seek opportunities for growth in the workplace through the use of career self-management strategies.
The project was developed to address the structural and interpersonal barriers persons with disabilities experience in the workplace. Sundar and Brucker will conduct a mixed methods study to develop and test a career self-management intervention based on job crafting. Job crafting is an informal, idiosyncratic, strengths-based approach that involves redefining and renegotiating daily job tasks. Job crafting includes modifying the physical (how and where the task is performed), cognitive (meaning attached to the job task), and relational (social interactions) boundaries inherent in the job task. Job crafting has not been tested among people with disabilities, thus far.
“Occupational therapists play an important role in helping clients live life to the fullest and that includes being able to achieve their fullest potential at work”, says Sundar. “The project activities will help persons with disabilities identify and implement simple, everyday solutions to address challenges in job task performance, communication, and interpersonal interactions and also think about new opportunities for growth within their chosen careers. Our graduate students in the occupational therapy program were instrumental in conducting the pilot study for the grant. We will continue involving students in the research and intervention development.”
Elaborating on the project, Brucker says “We will work directly with 80-90 individuals with disabilities over the next three years to develop and test the career self-management program. We anticipate that our results will inform the development of self-directed workplace practices that can help people with disabilities better achieve their career goals.”