What is a Functional Capacity Evaluation?
This evaluation was scientifically developed to measure and evaluate work-related physical abilities. It involves a series of tests that can take about 4-6 hours to complete but will ultimately be determined by what is being tested. It can sometimes be carried out over a two day time period. Patients will be referred for an FCE to assess their current level of physical capabilities to:
- Determine ability for employment or return to the same or modified job
- Determine their goals for rehabilitation or readiness for discharge as well as their ability to meet work-related demands
- Determine when and if they can return to work (also often needed to determine need/qualify for disability benefits).
How is the Functional Capacity Evaluations Performed?
An FCE involves a few steps beginning with a conversation about your job and what the physical requirements are. A formal job description from your employer will be helpful. The therapist will thoroughly review all your medical records to understand the extent of your injury and will perform a musculoskeletal screening. You will then undergo a series of physical tests that will gauge your ability to perform certain activities. These include:
- Material handling activities – Your ability to lift, carry, push, and pull objects.
- Positional tolerance activities – These will test your ability to squat, kneel, walk, reach, bend over, sit, crawl, balance crouch, handle certain objects, and hand grasping and manipulation.
Depending on your profession, other job-specific physical tests may be conducted. Your therapist may also take note of your pain level while doing certain tasks.
Many people are worried when they are asked to undergo an FCE. It is important to remember that the goal is to ultimately keep you safe. Returning to work before you are ready or performing tasks that you are not physically capable of puts you at risk and you become a liability to your company. There are many benefits to have an FCE completed including:
- Determine if you are ready to return to work
- Determine if you are able to perform certain work-related activities to prevent re-injury
- Use as a reference for any legal cases
- Help reduce the chance of additional injury
- They can provide additional information about your injury