The focus of work hardening therapy at Midwest Rehabilitation Associates is to return the injured employee to work as safely and quickly as possible. Goals of therapy are individualized to the injured worker based on the nature of their injury and include a reduction in pain intensity, improvement in strength and endurance, education in strategies to self manage pain, reduce pain-related stress and return to work and recreational activities.
A successful return to work is possible with coordinated efforts of the treatment team, injured worker and employer. The treatment staff works closely with the injured worker’s employer to assess work requirements and potential suitable job duties for return to work. Review of the patient’s job description is essential in designing a treatment plan and is obtained from the employer prior to beginning treatment. Patients begin their rehabilitation program with a thorough assessment of functional capacity and a treatment plan is designed.
Patients participate in occupational and physical therapy on a daily basis with continual evaluation of functional progress. As the patient progresses through the program, a job site evaluation may be completed. The purpose of the job site evaluation is to assess job specific tasks and recommendations for any modifications to the work area to promote an injury free environment, assess the patient’s body mechanics in the work environment to improve safety and use of protective body mechanics and to gather weights, heights, environmental setup and other components of physical demand for tasks/movements most frequently used by the patient ensuring accurate simulation of work tasks during the work hardening program as well as provide the patient with concrete, specific return to work restrictions/modifications.
To insure maximum success with return to work, most patients are transitioned to a graded return to work while they are participating in treatment. This method of having the patient gradually reintegrate into the work place creates a successful return to work outcome. Graded return to work allows for the patient to participate in real job duties at the workplace that cannot be simulated in the clinic, while also allowing for dedicated therapy in the clinic to address any concerns/issues the patient has with their job duties as they continue to progress toward maximum functional ability. This approach is ideal for addressing any unanticipated or difficult barriers to successfully complete return to work and allows employers to communicate with the treatment team regularly to address concerns as they arise. Also, most injured worker’s experience anxiety and fear about returning to work including a fear of re-injury. A graded return to work plan formulated with the cooperation and commitment of the employer helps alleviate these fears and ultimately leads to a productive safe return to work within the patient’s functional capacities.