The goal of every return-to-work (RTW) program should be to help an injured employee do one very important thing: return to pre-injury employment. Ideally, all employees should be educated about the return-to-work process before an injury occurs, and injured employees should always be encouraged to return to work as soon as medically appropriate.
In theory, determining if and when an injured worker is ready to return to work should be relatively straightforward: A worker receives treatment from a medical professional, who in turn determines when the patient has recovered sufficiently to resume work activities.
But it is not always that simple.
It’s no secret that injured workers don’t always follow their treatment plans, which can delay their return to work. The success of any return-to-work program depends largely upon the engagement of all the partners involved in the process: the employer, the case adjuster, the nurse case manager, co-workers who will be assisting the injured worker, and most importantly, the injured worker.
Evidence shows that the more time an employee spends away from work the greater the risk of never returning to work. At CORA Physical Therapy, our workers’ compensation program emphasizes the collaborative nature of the return-to-work process. We work very hard to hold injured workers accountable for their share of the rehabilitation process and keep patients involved in their treatment plan by:
- Providing a positive environment
- Including patients in treatment decisions
- Maintaining constant interaction with injured workers
- Regularly assessing progress toward the goal of getting back to work
In my opinion, the most important decision an injured worker can make is to stay positive and focus on the end goal instead of pain and discomfort. Over the years, I’ve witnessed miracles, where patients’ recovery exceeded doctors’ expectations because the injured workers were determined to get back to work.
CORA’s Workers’ Compensation Program
We have more than 150 physical therapy and rehabilitation centers in the Southeastern United States, and our workers’ compensation program offers employer solutions for injury prevention, injury evaluation and treatment, and worksite assessments, as well as successful return-to-work programs.
Our staff is well versed in pre-employment guidelines, benchmarking processes, capacity evaluations, ergonomic modifications, essential job demand assessments, and home evaluations. We integrate treatment to align seamlessly with employers’ return-to-work plans.
The key aspects of our return-to-work program that set us apart from others include:
- Replication and simulation of work specific tasks
- An emphasis on strength training, body mechanics, and ergonomics
- A focus on endurance to enhance the injured worker’s ability to tolerate a full-time workday without significant fatigue
Our entire team of certified physical therapists understands the importance of being able to safely perform essential job tasks to lower the risk of re-injury. As patients progress from low-level to high-level simulated work activities in the clinic, their fear of re-injury is greatly reduced and they are more comfortable with performing the same tasks in a real work environment.
Back to Work, Back to Life
The rehabilitation of every injury, no matter how big or small, is more successful when the patient is fully involved in the program. Investing in the return-to-work process is well worth the effort, as it often leads to healthier, more functional, and productive recoveries for employees.
For injured workers or employers looking to design or improve upon a successful return-to-work program, contact us at CORA Physical Therapy and learn why we’re better at understanding, motivating, healing, and protecting patients.
This article was originally published on LinkedIn Pulse by Jaime Sigurdsson, CEAS, Director of Workers’ Compensation, on December 5, 2017.