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All employers play a crucial role in the prevention and management of workplace injuries.
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Information for Psychologists, Occupational Therapists, Nurses, Exercise Physiologists and Doctors.
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Home » Health Professionals » Physical Injuries » Overview of injury management and return to work guidelines

Overview of Injury Management and return to work guidelines

 

 

The goal of all treating specialists and those associated with an injured worker’s care, is to promote functional capacity to as close to full pre-levels as possible. This not only includes capacity to return to work but also the injured worker’s social and recreational functioning.

 

When a worker returns to work then initially the goal is to return that worker back to full pre-injury duties and job. Although this may not be ultimately possible the modification of hours and/or duties whilst the worker is receiving treatment will provide the best opportunity for maximum functioning to be assessed and reached.

 

 

The following rehabilitation objectives (in order of preference) should be what all treating practitioners are aiming to achieve. These include:

 

  • Pre-injury/illness job, with the same employer
  • Modified pre-injury/illness job, with the same employer
  • Different job, with the same employer
  • Pre-injury/illness job, with a different employer
  • Modified pre-injury/illness job, with a different employer
  • Different job with a different employer

According to Dr. Ross Mills, specialist in Occupational Medicine, whilst the objective of treating practitioners is to remove or reduce pain as much as possible, it should not be the primary objective. He suggests that in conditions where there is a likelihood of conditions becoming chronically painful, or developing a permanent impairment, it is important for the treating GP and other health professionals to let the injured worker understand this concept early on. Individual or group pain management programs (CBT) are indicated for many injured workers with injuries that are likely to lead to chronic pain as well as some workers with particular problems that can delay their rehabilitation and readiness to return to work e.g. their belief about pain.

 

Dr Mills emphasizes the importance of treating practitioners, particularly the patient’s GP to identifying non-medical barriers to rehabilitation. “These may consist as factors such as: worker job dissatisfaction, workplace conflict, psycho-social factors or hidden secondary gains.” Occupational medicine’s objective needs to be to recognize barriers to rehabilitation and then once identified, addressed by the appropriate person or professional. It needs to be recognized that the injured worker has a central and critical role to play. They need to be the ones driving their rehabilitation and Return To Work program. Their treating team is there purely to provide the resources the injured worker needs to achieve a good rehabilitation outcome.

 

Ultimately the best outcomes are achieved through early return to work, having a workplace based rehabilitation system and having good communication between the involved parties (worker, doctor, employer and insurer).

 

 

Recommended follow up duration for General Practitioners

 

How frequently a doctor sees their patients is ultimately an individual decision, based on a combination of medical, industrial, psycho-social and administrative factors. As a guide however, Dr Mills suggests that the best follow up durations for GP’s to reassess their patients (based on clinical reasons) is as follows:

 

  • Two to five days if certified "unfit for duties"
  • One week if certified “fit for alternate duties”
  • Two weeks if certified “fit for pre-injury duties”

 

 

Dr Mills suggests some questions to ask GP’s when their patients are not upgrading. These included:

 

  • Have they reached their full potential?

  • Are there significant psycho-social issues which have not been adequately addressed? (An example of this might include depression or workplace conflict)

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