Occupational rehabilitation helps people who have been injured or have suffered an illness to get back, both physically and mentally, in working shape. There are many rehabilitation clinics that address different needs, but all are designed to increase the patient’s maximum independent functions. Many employers pay for their employees to use these programs in order to maintain performance, as well as keep up with safety standards.
An occupational rehabilitation therapist develops a plan of action for the injured worker by assessing his or her needs, and evaluating what the areas in which he or she requires help. Other specialists can also be enlisted to aid in such a program, including nutritionists, physiotherapists, and psychologists. Sometimes a rehabilitation team must consider whether the worker will return to his or her job or, if that is not a possibility, the team may help a patient regain function in order to seek a new job.
There are many types of people who may seek occupational rehabilitation. Some may need help with work-related injuries, such as broken bones, back problems and other strains. Others may suffer from cognitive limitations as a result of a brain injury or heart attack, or from neurodegenerative disorders, like multiple sclerosis. People who may also require occupational therapy include those with mental health issues, learning and development disabilities or post-traumatic stress disorders. All of these problems require their own specific recovery plans.
To check the progress of any therapy program, the patient often undergoes a functional capacity evaluation, which tests his or her endurance and performance in work-related activities. Additionally, tolerance levels, flexibility, body strength and mechanics, and effort are also analyzed to determine to what extent the rehabilitation program is working. This can also help therapists to identify new areas of function that may need to be addressed. During such a test, therapists often consider the length of time the patient has for recovery before he or she is scheduled to return to work.
The next step in an occupational rehabilitation program may be a personalized work conditioning course, which may take weeks. During this time, the working conditions of an employee are examined to determine what activities he or she needs to accomplish. This can include an on-site job analysis by the therapist. The patient is also given information about work safety and how to prevent future injuries.
In addition to helping an injured or sick worker return to functioning at his or her best possible physical and mental levels, occupational rehabilitation can help increase workers' muscle strength and cardiovascular endurance. It may reduce the risk of other long-term injuries and keep employees healthy. In helping workers to stay fit and safe, employers can reduce medical costs and the number of lost work days.