Column: Workers' Comp

The Life Lesson of Tom Petty

By: | March 5, 2018 • 2 min read
Roberto Ceniceros is senior editor at Risk & Insurance® and chair of the National Workers' Compensation and Disability Conference® & Expo. He can be reached at [email protected] Read more of his columns and features.

The concoction of prescription pills that contributed to rock musician Tom Petty’s overdose death mirrors the list of pharmaceuticals prescribed too often to injured workers.

The parallels reach beyond the combination of opioids, anti-depressants, anti-anxiety pills and other prescription drugs that have killed workers’ compensation claimants.


As one wise risk manager told me, “When you are dealing with injured workers, you are dealing with human beings, and there is nothing more fragile than humans.”

I suspect that is one reason workers’ comp increasingly embraces the idea that addressing psychosocial factors, and not just treating an injury’s physical manifestations, produces better outcomes for addressing pain and returning injured workers to the job.

Even the super successful, like the guy whose work topped music charts and gave us “I Won’t Back Down”  — a song that helped our nation stand strong after 9/11 — had human frailties.

He was the quintessential American success story, overcoming adversity and meager beginnings, first by earning money as a teenager performing with hometown rock bands, then by sticking to a plan, working it and taking risks to become wildly successful.

It ended with the accidental overdose of drugs his family said he consumed for hip-fracture pain and other ailments he suffered while on a 53-date concert tour.

Petty’s successes ran beyond the talent required to create numerous hits. He excelled at the problematic task of holding together a band over decades of long nights in the studio and long days on the road.

As one wise risk manager told me, “When you are dealing with injured workers, you are dealing with human beings, and there is nothing more fragile than humans.”

He made the right calls on decisions concerning band personnel and replacing record producers. He was a shrewd businessman who fought the powerful music industry, winning contract litigation to gain control over his creative direction and music rights.

His talent and drive garnered the admiration of greats like Bob Dylan, Roy Orbison and George Harrison who, with him, created the successful Traveling Wilburys project.

Unfortunately, like other humans, including injured workers, he carried emotional and mental health challenges.


Beatings from a father who didn’t like his rebellious streak, depression and heroin addiction are part of Petty’s history. I admired him not only for his work ethic but for his willingness to discuss those parts of his history.

Plenty of injured employees carry equally challenging emotional and mental health histories. They carry them into treatment and they mix dangerously with opioid pain medications — especially when combined with other prescriptions.

Even though much work remains, the workers’ comp industry has outpaced much of the nation in finding solutions for such challenges.

That’s good because emotional and mental health challenges will always accompany many injured workers, even those who are driven and succeed at their work. &

More from Risk & Insurance

More from Risk & Insurance

Risk Management

The Profession

Janet Sheiner, VP of risk management and real estate at AMN Healthcare Services Inc., sees innovation as an answer to fast-evolving and emerging risks.
By: | March 5, 2018 • 4 min read

R&I: What was your first job?

As a kid, bagging groceries. My first job out of school, part-time temp secretary.

R&I: How did you come to work in risk management?

Risk management picks you; you don’t necessarily pick it. I came into it from a regulatory compliance angle. There’s a natural evolution because a lot of your compliance activities also have the effect of managing your risk.

R&I: What is the risk management community doing right?


There’s much benefit to grounding strategic planning in an ERM framework. That’s a great innovation in the industry, to have more emphasis on ERM. I also think that risk management thought leaders are casting themselves more as enablers of business, not deterrents, a move in the right direction.

R&I: What could the risk management community be doing a better job of?

Justified or not, risk management functions are often viewed as the “Department of No.” We’ve worked hard to cultivate a reputation as the “Department of Maybe,” so partners across the organization see us as business enablers. That reputation has meant entertaining some pretty crazy ideas, but our willingness to try and find a way to “yes” tempered with good risk management has made all the difference.

Janet Sheiner, VP, Risk Management & Real Estate, AMN Healthcare Services Inc.

R&I: What was the best location and year for the RIMS conference and why?

San Diego, of course!  America’s Finest City has the infrastructure, Convention Center, hotels, airport and public transportation — plus you can’t beat our great weather! The restaurant scene is great, not to mention those beautiful coastal views.

R&I: What’s been the biggest change in the risk management and insurance industry since you’ve been in it?

The emergence of risk management as a distinct profession, with four-year degree programs and specific academic curriculum. Now I have people on my team who say their goal is to be a risk manager. I said before that risk management picks you, but we’re getting to a point where people pick it.

R&I: What emerging commercial risk most concerns you?


The commercial insurance market’s ability to innovate to meet customer demand. Businesses need to innovate to stay relevant, and the commercial market needs to innovate with us.  Carriers have to be willing to take on more risk and potentially take a loss to meet the unique and evolving risks companies are facing.

R&I: Of which insurance carrier do you have the highest opinion?

Beazley. They have been an outstanding partner to AMN. They are responsive, flexible and reasonable.  They have evolved with us. They have an appreciation for risk management practices we’ve organically woven into our business, and by extension, this makes them more comfortable with taking on new risks with us.

R&I: Are you optimistic or pessimistic about the U.S. health care industry and why?

I am very optimistic about the health care industry. We have an aging population with burgeoning health care needs, coupled with a decreasing supply of health care providers — that means we have to get smarter about how we manage health care. There’s a lot of opportunity for thought leaders to fill that gap.

R&I: Who is your mentor and why?

Professionally, AMN Healthcare General Counsel, Denise Jackson, has enabled me to do the best work I’ve ever done, and better than I thought I could do.  Personally, my husband Andrew, a second-grade teacher, who has a way of putting things into a human perspective.

R&I: What have you accomplished that you are proudest of?

In my early 20s, I set a goal for the “corner office.” I achieved that when I became vice president.  I received a ‘Values in Practice’ award for trust at AMN. The nomination came from team members I work with every day, and I was incredibly humbled and honored.

R&I: What is your favorite book or movie?

The noir genre, so anything by Raymond Chandler in books. For movies,  “Double Indemnity,” the 1944 Billy Wilder classic, with insurance at the heart of it!

R&I: What is your favorite drink?


Clean water. Check out for how to help people enjoy clean, safe water.

R&I: What’s the best restaurant at which you’ve eaten?

Liqun Roast Duck Restaurant in Beijing.

R&I: What is the most unusual/interesting place you have ever visited?

China. See favorite restaurant above. This restaurant had been open for 100 years in that location. It didn’t exactly have an “A” rating, and it was probably not a place most risk managers would go to.

R&I: What is the riskiest activity you ever engaged in?

Eating that duck at Liqun!

R&I: If the world has a modern hero, who is it and why?

Dr. Seuss who, in response to a 1954 report in Life magazine, worked to reduce illiteracy among school children by making children’s books more interesting. His work continues to educate and entertain children worldwide.

R&I: What do your friends and family think you do?

They’re not really sure!

Katie Dwyer is an associate editor at Risk & Insurance®. She can be reached at [email protected]