A common question I receive in my travels as an Work Comp therapist is “What is Work Comp and who needs it?” Essentially Work Comp is an extension of physical and occupational therapy services for injuries that occurred while in a work setting or environment.
The mission of a Work Comp therapist is to evaluate a patient’s ability to perform certain job related activities in reference to their specific job description. Ideally, a job description will come from a formal job analysis performed by a Work Comp clinician prior to the patient injury. The goal of the therapist is to fill in the gaps between the job demands and the individual’s existing performance abilities.
The Work Comp specialist determines what activities a patient has the capacity to perform with regard to all aspects of their job. These activities vary from postural tolerance and lifting ability all the way to patient specific activities such as fire fighters wearing full gear, climbing ladders, and performing rescue procedures.
A Work Comp specialist can also perform specialized testing, such as post offer screenings, Functional Capacity Evaluations (FCE), and Fit for Duty Testing. These specialized tests can help identify individuals, prior to employment, which may be at risk for a specific job as a result of their inability to perform certain job related activities. By identifying these individuals prior to employment, Work Comp therapists can help limit a company’s exposure to potential work related injuries.
A Functional Capacity Evaluation is a multifaceted test performed by a Work Comp therapist. This test is based off evidence that is peer reviewed, and has predictive reliability. Information is gathered about the worker’s ability through extensive testing, which contains a wide variety of activities related to their job. This is invaluable, as most FCEs are conducted due to an occupational injury or disability, and therefore are exposed to legal scrutiny. The skill of a Work Comp therapist in determining the patient’s ability or inability to perform certain activities is extremely important to determining as to whether inappropriate health behavior is an obstacle to return to work.
Work Comp therapists are highly versatile professionals with much to offer to the injured worker, employer and referral sources. Their services provide a wide variety of information related to job performance-related tasks. In turn this allows physicians, and employers, to make more accurate decisions on one’s ability, or inability, regarding their specific job description.