Functional Capacity Evaluations

A functional capacity evaluation is a type of test performed by an occupational therapist to evaluate somebody’s physical ability to perform their job duties. Certain functional capacity evaluations contain a cognitive ability test as well, depending on the person and the job. The tests used for both physical and cognitive testing are pulled from standardized assessments to offer clear results to employers and the employee at hand. Although the test offers helpful information about what type of work environment the employee could continue to work in, the main purpose of the evaluation is to keep the employee safe and healthy.

The most common reason a person undergoes a functional capacity evaluation is to determine if they’re ready to return to the workplace after an injury, either in their previous position or in an alternate position as they continue to recover. Most workers compensation cases require a functional capacity evaluation before allowing the injured employee to return to work or close their case. The government can also utilize functional capacity evaluations to determine a person’s disability status before approving or denying their application. For physically intensive jobs, some employers choose to use these evaluations before hiring a new employee to ensure they’re capable of meeting the required physical demands of the job.

Occupational therapists play a significant role in these evaluations because they understand how people work within certain environments and if that environment is safe for the employee or not. After an evaluation, an occupational therapist may decide to set new goals for the employee before sending them back to work, or they may be able to offer job modification recommendations to the employer to get the employee back to work sooner.

Each functional capacity evaluation is slightly different, but they typically include exercises that test the following:

  • Balance
  • Dexterity
  • Hand eye coordination
  • Strength
  • Endurance
  • Ability to perform certain motions
  • Pain with specific actions

Typically, these evaluations take 4-6 hours to complete. After the assessment is completed, the occupational therapist will create a summary for the employer and patient to review and determine whether or not the patient is ready and able to return to work.

If you or your employee is in need of a functional capacity evaluation, give us a call to schedule an appointment with one of the expert occupational therapists on our team. If the conclusion is that new goals need to be set before returning to work, our physical and occupational therapists can continue working with you after the evaluation to reach those goals!

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