return to work Fort Worth

Return To Work Testing

One of the hardest decisions that has to be made when an employee sustains an injury which causes time off work or restricted duty is whether or not they can return to full duty. Typically, the physician must make the decisions surrounding return to work, but seldom has the physician seen the job description or gone to the worksite to observe the job being performed. In addition, the physician does not generally test the patient’s function to the same degree. The physician usually bases the return-to-work decision on the therapist’s progress note, which includes range of motion, manual muscle tests, pain score, and willingness to participate in therapy. Alternatively, decisions are influenced some by imaging studies or x-rays. These measurements, although important, do not necessarily correlate to functional tasks. Without information about the patient’s work-related functional abilities and the functional demands of the job, the return to work decision can feel like guesswork.

If the employee returns to work too soon, weakness or decreased motion may create another injury to the same or a different body part. If the employee returns to work too late, they will spend unnecessary days out of work and waste valuable dollars in benefits. Physical therapists can play an important role in bridging this gap by providing functional information for the return-to-work process. By providing a comparison of the patient’s functional abilities to the essential physical functions of the job, the return-to-work decision is based on objective data rather than clinical guesswork.

Optimally, the Fort Worth physical therapist will have access to a job description with detailed information regarding physical functional job demands. If a job description is unavailable or has incomplete information, the next best option is to conduct a job site visit. If a job site visit is not feasible, then it becomes vitally important to interview a supervisor who knows the job. Once the job demands have been identified, the functional screening can begin.

Functional testing eliminates the clinical guesswork regarding the tasks the employee is capable of performing, and, therefore, is an essential tool for the professionals involved in the patient’s treatment and recovery. The results of the testing also provide the physician, case manager, employer, and insurance carrier with objective information for light duty work or progression from off work to light duty work. As a result, case managers and employers can better communicate the needs of the employee to human resources and the front line supervisors. The physician has a better picture of the patient’s progression relative to job demands. The case manager can also paint a clearer picture of the patient’s return-to-work status to the employer. Lastly, the employee feels that the clinician understands the job demands and their needs.

If your company would like to learn more about our Return to work testing, please contact us at ClearCut ORTHO today!