What is an FCE?

Functional Capacity Evaluation

A functional capacity evaluation (FCE) is ordered when a doctor is looking for a snapshot of what a person can do functionally at that point and time. How much can the injured worker lift? Can he or she climb a ladder? Can the individual pull, push, squat, walk, stand or sit for certain periods of time?

The employer asks the doctor to assign work restrictions when a worker is injured, and the doctor can either do a general statement such as “most people with this injury can do …” or the doctor can order an FCE to determine what the worker can or can’t perform. Then, the restrictions given to the employer will be based on objective data for that individual and not a generalization.

When is an FCE performed?

Traditionally, the FCE is done at the end of a workers’ compensation claim. When the injured worker reaches maximum medical improvement (MMI), he or she has received all the treatments the doctor has prescribed, healed from surgery if applicable, and is medically stable. At that point, the doctor wants to discharge them from care and determine any final work restrictions. Ideally, the FCE would be done before this point to determine current restrictions during the course of treatment to allow the worker’s return to work in a modified position. The FCE could also be repeated after a course of treatment to determine if that treatment was effective.

What is a FCE Used For?

The FCE report lists the demonstrated abilities of the individual. If this individual is left with functional deficits after a significant injury, the doctor may assign permanent restrictions to give the worker a clear idea of what employment options he or she may have with the identified deficits.
Several professionals in the workers’ compensation field believe that an FCE is not supposed to offer recommendations within the report due to the evaluation’s traditional placement near the end of the claim. The FCE report includes recommendations because the therapist is in a unique position to objectively examine the treatment so far, the job demands, the abilities of the worker, and the demonstrated deficits. Recommendations are offered to suggest possibilities that may not have been explored for the individual or to facilitate early claim closure if the worker may be less than honest.

Employer’s Rights

The employer has the right to direct the care in a workers’ compensation claim in North Carolina. They can request the doctor order an FCE at any point in the claim. However, the FCE report itself should be evaluated by a doctor or by a medical professional because the reports are very long and can contain complex medical jargon. If an employer requests an FCE from Job Ready, the therapist will typically call the employer before sending them the report and explain the findings. Additionally, an FCE with Job Ready Services provides an objective and legally defensible determination of validity of the participant’s effort.

If an employer wants to know if a particular worker can come back to work, WorkSTEPS testing is the best indicator. The WorkSTEPS testing evaluates the job position as well as the person’s abilities to say definitely whether a worker can return or not. It is quicker and cheaper than an FCE – the FCE typically takes 4 hours to perform, and the report can take several days to complete.

To learn more about the FCE or WorkSTEPS testing, please call us at 919-256-1400 or visit our website at www.jobreadyservices.com .