What is a Functional Capacity Evaluation?
A Functional Capacity Evaluation (FCE) is a process of assessing an individual’s physical capacities and functional abilities. A therapist with perform the evaluation and analyze the physical abilities and restrictions of each client. The FCE matches physical performance levels to the demands of a specific job, work activity, occupation. The FCE establishes the physical level of work an individual can perform. The FCE is useful in determining job placement, job modifications, or return to work after injury or illness. FCEs can provide information regarding functional work ability in the determination of occupational disability status. The various uses of an FCE include:
- To determine the individual’s ability to safely return to work full time or on modified duty.
- To determine if work restrictions, job modifications, or reasonable accommodations are necessary to prevent further injury
- To determine the extent to which impairments exist, or the degree of physical disability for compensation purposes
- To predict the potential ability to perform work following acute rehabilitation or a work- hardening/work- conditioning program
The FCE is used for assessing an individual’s strength, flexibility, balance, coordination, cardiovascular limitations, and body mechanics. There are two types of FCE:
1. General Purpose FCE: an evaluation of an individual’s physical abilities and ability to perform a variety of tasks which replicate the physical demands of work
2. Job Specific FCE: an evaluation of an individual’s physical abilities to perform the specific work demands required for the essential functions of his or her job. Work simulation activities are included and assessed to determine if modifications need to be made for improved performance.
Who Should Be Referred for an FCE?
- Individuals who have achieved maximum medical improvement but continue to have issues related to re-injury and return to work.
- Individuals who need quantification of their physical capacities for determination of disability status.
- Individuals who need their function quantified prior to vocational job search and/or return to work
What to expect
A physical therapist trained to administer FCE’s will perform the evaluation. The session lasts between 3 and 6 hours depending on the individual’s needs and the type of FCE performed. The process involves filling out pain and function questionnaires and completing physical tasks that have been selected by the evaluator and that will best meet the individual’s needs. The FCE evaluator will analyze the data collected from the session to reflect the specific objective information regarding functional work ability in the determination of occupational disability status.
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