Return to Work Screens: Eliminating the WAG

[fa icon="calendar'] Aug 31, 2020 1:32:08 PM / by Erin Norton

How is the typical return to work decision made? You probably know the drill. The patient returns to the physician and the physician says: “So, do you think you’re ready to go back to work?” And the patient’s response drives the physician decision. Or the physician takes a look at the patient’s MRI or lab work and says, “Well it looks like you’re ready to get on back to work.” Either way, the end result is a WAG. If you’re not sure what a WAG stands for, let’s just say the first word is Wild and the third word is Guess and I’ll leave the middle word up to your imagination…Guess dice

The Return to Work Screen (RTW) can be an extremely helpful substitution for the WAG. If used appropriately it’s a valuable asset to the patient, physician, case manager and employer for achieving a successful, safe and efficient transition back to work. These screens are similar to post-offer/pre-hire screens, but are preformed at the end of a course of acute or sub-acute outpatient care following an injury or illness. If the patient is receiving physical or occupational therapy, the screen can be performed as a part of a discharge evaluation at the conclusion of therapy. The discharge note is then sent to the physician who uses the information as he/she makes the return to work recommendations and sets restrictions.


RTW screens typically take a little longer than post-offer/pre-hire screens because the tasks selected are chosen based on their relevance to the injury and the job requirements. For example, in the presence of a back injury, the RTW tasks that are tested would focus on tasks that require the use of back and lower extremity muscles and joints and that are relevant to the job. By comparison, for a shoulder injury, job tasks in a RTW screen would focus on tasks that place higher demand on the shoulder and neck.


The RTW screen report is typically brief, not exceeding one-two pages and should include a table that shows the match between the patient’s abilities –and the job demands.


Once physicians, case managers and adjusters begin to receive this objective comparison between job requirements and patient abilities, they will come to rely upon it. No one enjoys the WAG process.

Be confident in your return to work recommendations. Call today for information on FCE/RTW software and training.  205-879-6447





Erin Norton

Written by Erin Norton

Erin help clinics find the best solution to fit their needs from functional capacity evaluations, to job analysis, pre-employment screens or impairment ratings.