Have you ever disagreed with a return to work decision on one of your workers' compensation patients but felt powerless to influence the decision? What if you had done a Return-to-Work (RTW) screen or mini-FCE as part of your standard discharge evaluation? Could that have made a difference?
For Sue, the RTW test made all the difference, likely preventing a second injury.
Sue works at a large manufacturing plant, climbing ladders, going up and down stairs and walking most of the day. After a knee surgery, she spent 6 weeks out of work, regularly participating in physical therapy. As the prescribed six weeks was nearing an end, her doctor was ready to send her back to work because she had finished her treatment. Knowing that there was a lot of walking and climbing involved in Sue’s job, the PT felt that she wasn’t ready to go back to work and performed a RTW screen as part of her discharge. The test revealed balance issues which would have been dangerous for Sue climbing ladders and walking up and down stairs. Thanks to this objective data, the doctor authorized additional therapy and job specific strengthening. The therapist created a “ramp-in” program for Sue, much like an abbreviated work conditioning. The ramp-in program targeted areas to strengthen, which are related to Sue’s injury and specific to her job.
Donning her steel-toed boots for the ramp-in training, Sue didn’t even make it an hour into the program before her knee began to swell. Sue was able to get an immediate appointment with her doctor for further evaluation.
Can you imagine what could have happened if Sue had been sent back to work? Eight hours up and down stairs in heavy boots. Would she have pushed herself to complete a day’s work, causing severe damage to her knee? Would she have stumbled and fallen creating additional injuries? So many tragic outcomes were potentially avoided with a simple RTW test.
RTW testing provides objective data
By performing a brief mini-FCE or RTW test as part of your discharge evaluation and comparing the results to the patient’s job demands, you’ll be able to clearly and objectively show whether the patient is ready to return to work. If you include a consistency of effort test in the mix, you’ll also be providing some extra support for your feelings about the patient’s level of effort – good or bad.
Help physicians make the right return to work decision. Call today for information on FCE software and training. 205-879-6447