Workplace Barriers and Job Satisfaction Among Employed People with Multiple Sclerosis

Rumrill, P., Roessler, R. , Vierstra, C. , Hennessey, M. , & Staples, L. (2004). Workplace barriers and job satisfaction among employed people with multiple sclerosis: An empirical rationale for early intervention. Journal of Vocational Rehabilitation, 20(3), 177-183.

Article Summary

Individuals with multiple sclerosis (MS) tend to be well-educated and productive members of the workforce prior to the onset of symptoms. However, their employment status often decreases with the progression of the MS. (Rumrill, Roessler, & Fitzgerald, 2004). The authors of the current study wanted to determine the kinds of workplace barriers, in terms of physical access as well as performance of essential job functions, which individuals with MS typically encounter. They also wanted to establish the relationship between these barriers and job satisfaction. Job satisfaction for individuals with a mid-career disability, such as MS, is a function of the number of barriers encountered, according to the authors.

Fatigue, coordination and balance, weakness, and cognitive symptoms are among the more common aspects of MS that affect continuous employment. Participants in this study had called a telephone hotline to request assistance for managing their symptoms of MS on the job. In the course of their contacts with the MS Employment Assistance Service through the National Multiple Sclerosis Society, 59 employed individuals with MS completed six sections of the Work Experience Survey through telephone interviews. Their responses provided data as to barriers to worksite accessibility, barriers to performance of essential functions, job mastery problems, and overall job satisfaction.

The results of the study indicated that the respondents with MS encountered few barriers to workplace accessibility, moderate challenges in performing the essential functions of their jobs, few issues related to job mastery, and high levels of overall job satisfaction. The authors attributed these findings to early intervention through the MS Employment Assistance Service. Individuals with MS don't generally access vocational rehabilitation (VR) services, possibly because their issues don't involve entering the workforce but trying to maintain a contributing role in it. An implication of this study, according to the authors, is that VR professionals need to provide the earliest possible assistance to individuals with MS to remove barriers to job satisfaction before they begin to significantly affect job satisfaction and subsequent job mastery.