The injured worker: assessing “return-to-work” status

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In workers injured on the job, the physical findings tell only part of the story. Physicians must also consider psychologic, economic, social, and legal factors when performing a return-to-work assessment.


The most effective approach to avoiding long-term disability after most work-related injuries is a prompt medical evaluation and an early return to work. The process of safely returning a person to work includes performing a history and physical examination, assessing the physical demands of the job, educating the injured worker regarding the natural history of the injury, setting a return-to-work date, and recommending work restrictions if appropriate. An assessment of job satisfaction and of relationships with supervisors may be more helpful than physical findings in predicting return-to-work outcome. A formal evaluation of functional capacity can assist in this process and also assess the injured worker’s motivation to return to work. A comprehensive evaluation by a multidisciplinary team may be required in persons who have been out of the workplace for more than 3 months.



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