Functional Capacity Evaluations (FCE) may be required to assess your capacity to perform specific tasks when you work for an office, need to fly planes or drive heavy machinery – and also if you want to claim workers compensation. In Australia, functional capacity evaluations are completed by clinical specialists such as physiotherapists, occupational therapists and doctors.
The functional capacity evaluation (FCE) will assess your current physical capacity and abilities in relation to the physical demands of your work or desired activity. Such evaluation may also identify any factors that may limit your ability to safely participate in work or recreational activities.
Your comprehensive functional capacity evaluation report will provide recommendations to help you return to work or participate in recreational activities. The report may also identify any necessary modifications or equipment that may assist you to safely participate in work or recreational activities.
If you are required to complete a functional capacity evaluation, you can expect the assessment process to include the following:
- A review of your medical history
- A physical examination
- Functional ability testing or activity based assessment
- Assessment of your ability to safely participate in work or recreational activities.
- Identification of any limitations that may affect your ability to perform specific tasks that enable you to participate in work or recreational activities.
- Recommendations for returning to work or participating in recreational activities.
- Identification of any necessary modifications or equipment that may assist you to safely participate in work or recreational activities.
If you are required to complete a functional capacity evaluation, it is important that you attend all appointments and follow the advice of your clinician or occupational therapist.
What to expect during a functional capacity assessment
Functional capacity evaluation, or fitness for work assessment, is a process used in Australia to assess an individual’s functional abilities with regard to their physical ability to do certain tasks at work.
This type of testing is usually undertaken when someone has been off work for a period of time and they need to return to their place of employment. In this instance, it is used to determine what physical activities an individual can safely perform on a work site.
This type of testing typically involves the person undertaking a series of tests, which assess their ability to undertake various tasks that they might be expected to perform at work. These are usually assessed by comparing results of the standardised tests with those of individuals who are considered ‘fit for work’. This should provide an individual with sufficient information to guide their treatment and ultimately allow them to return to work safely.
Functional capacity evaluation generally involves the following steps:
Assessment of medical history and current symptoms
The first step in a functional capacity evaluation is to assess the individual’s medical history and current symptoms. This usually involves having a medical examination in which tests are undertaken to assess the individual’s fitness for work.
A physical examination is required before undertaking functional testing to help identify any medical conditions that may be relevant when planning a functional assessment of a worker’s ability. The type of tests undertaken will depend on a specific worker’s abilities that are assessed during such standardised testing. For functional evaluation testing, physical tests are usually undertaken to assess strength, range of motion and coordination abilities.
Functional ability assessment
In this step of the process, a variety of functional activities are assessed in an attempt to make a connection between the individual’s functional capacity and their ability to undertake various daily tasks at work. The type of functional activities undertaken will vary depending on the type of work an individual does. For example, if someone is employed in a job that requires them to do heavy lifting, their ability to complete heavy lifting tasks would be relevant (this works similarly for various manual handling tasks).
Review of functional capacity evaluation results
Once all functional testing has been completed, results are analysed and discussed with the individual. It is important that the individual understands how this information relates to their ability to undertake functional tasks at work.
Once all test results have been reviewed, a discussion takes place with regard to the individual’s capacity for work. This may involve organising an occupational health assessment which would consist of undertaking workplace observations and discussing any workplace adaptations that may be required to enable the individual to return to work safely.
How are functional capacity evaluations used in return to work programs and rehabilitation programs?
Functional capacity evaluations are used in disability and return to work programs in order to assess a person’s ability to return to work. The evaluation will assess a person’s physical capabilities, such as their strength, range of motion and endurance, as well as their cognitive abilities, such as their memory and problem-solving skills. This information can be used to return an injured person back to work following medical treatment or can assist people with disabilities in understanding what modifications they may need to return to the workplace.
Functional capacity evaluations are most commonly used in return-to-work programs for injured workers, though it is also used by employers and employees as a way of helping return people with disability back to work.
The return-to-work process can be difficult for both the injured worker and their employer. The evaluation can help to identify any potential barriers to being employed in a specific job and provide a plan to address these issues. Employees who are returning to work after an injury or illness can use the evaluation as a way of monitoring their progress and ensuring they are able to return to their pre-injury job or an equivalent position.
Functional capacity evaluations can be used in a number of ways to return people to work. For example, if a person has difficulty with strenuous activity, the evaluation may recommend a return to work program that includes a gradual return to work plan. If a person has cognitive difficulties, the evaluation may suggest a return to work that is less physically demanding or has reduced hours.
Functional capacity evaluations are an important part of return to work programs and can help both employees and employers ensure a safe and successful return to work.
As functional capacity evaluations (FCEs) measure how a person performs a set of activities necessary for daily living, these tests are often completed as part of the vocational rehabilitation programs. This can be done through standardised measurements or subjective observation by an individual’s vocational rehabilitation counselor.
How are functional capacity assessments (capacity evaluations) used in occupational therapy?
Functional capacity evaluations (FCEs) are often used in occupational therapy to help determine a person’s ability to carry out certain tasks. These evaluations can be used to create an exercise program that is tailored to the person’s specific needs, and can also help to modify any NDIS plan (or NDIS plans) that may be in place. FCEs can be a valuable tool for helping people to regain or improve their functional abilities.
If you are considering having an FCE done, here are some things to keep in mind.
An exercise program should be tailored specifically to your needs. Your therapist will work with you to create a program that is suited to your individual abilities and goals.
A home exercise program can be just as effective as a gym exercise program. Your therapist may give you some exercise equipment that can be used from the comfort of your own home, or they might refer you to a local exercise professional who is qualified to help you with a specific exercise regime.
Modifications can also help if you have trouble carrying out certain tasks. The therapist might be able to change the height or placement of a table, for example. They may even be able to provide you with specific tools that can help you carry out certain tasks on a day-to-day basis.
Other cases when functional capacities evaluation may be required
Functional capacity evaluations are used after motor vehicle accidents to determine the extent of an individual’s injuries. They can help to identify any limitations in an individual’s ability to return to work or resume normal activities.
FCEs are often used in legal cases, as they can provide evidence of the severity of an individual’s injuries. They can also be used to assist the motor vehicle accident injury recovery process and reduce an individual’s chance of becoming permanently disabled.
Functional capacity evaluations may be conducted by occupational therapists, physiotherapists or exercise physiologists. Their purpose is to observe and measure physical functions such as lifting, reaching for objects and performing common tasks like opening jars and climbing stairs.
As a result, assistive technology involving modifications aids and appliances may be suggested and implemented to assist an individual with their daily tasks.
At Optimal Support, our health professionals are happy to offer a full range of comprehensive FCE services – whether to ensure your safe return to work, full participation in daily or recreational activities, or for any other purposes.