As the new chair of the Vocational Rehabilitation Association (VRA), I expect some of our members are wondering where in the world I, Deborah Edwards came from! Well, I come from Birmingham, but not as you may know it. I was born in Birmingham, Alabama, with the emphasis on the – ham (think southern drawl as you say it).
I trained as a nurse at the University of Alabama and within 3 years of becoming a registered nurse, I moved to Saudi Arabia where I gained experience in neonatal intensive care nursing. This is also where I began my leadership journey as a Charge Nurse, or as it is called in the UK… Sister. Since then, I have endeavoured to engage with multiple areas of nursing, such as orthopaedic, neurological, paediatrics and geriatric (older people) as well.
I am proud to have been one of the first to introduce case managed rehabilitation services to the UK insurance industry. Over the years I have tried to remain at the forefront, by influencing the ongoing development of proactive approaches in support of people with disabilities. I co-authored the first University Accredited Case Manager training programme in the UK, Fundamentals of Case Management, and then went on to provide case management training within the NHS in respect to the Community Matron programme in its inception. I remain active in training case managers as well as influencers and purchasers of case management and vocational services.
In the US and in the UK I have worked with a large multinational insurance services company and corporates. Now I am providing an independent service implementing disability management focused on maximising recovery and reintegration of injured and ill clients into work and society.
I was the first Chair of CMSUK, and for three years Chaired the VRA’s Professional Development Committee, Currently I sit on the cross-party committee with APIL and FOIL, working towards improving access and delivery of minor injury rehabilitation services.
I liked exposing myself to a variety of clinical settings mainly because I enjoyed the new challenges; what I didn’t appreciate at the time, was that it was a great introduction to the world of rehabilitation. In my experience, it is rarely one issue that hampers someone with a disability from living a full and meaningful life. There are many barriers to overcome, especially in work and education in today’s world.
In practice, I know through discussions with many of you, that our VRA members appreciate the challenges on the individual’s life and that of their family when injuries or illness strike; what happens vocationally to overcome these issues can be life changing for the better.
Through these experiences I regretfully still see major obstacles practitioners must overcome to impact the political, economic, social and technological challenges that rehabilitation providers and recipients face in the UK. I count it an honour to be the Chair of VRA and to work in such a positive industry. My dream for the VRA is to listen to the membership, facilitate positive opportunities for learning and helping each other be the best vocational support providers that we can. Please join us as members so that you too can be a part of change for the good.