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Jul 17, 2024 • 9 min read

Preparing for Your First Functional Assessment

Functional assessments evaluate your capacity for work and form the basis of your Return to Work (RTW) plan. Get practical tips on how to prepare for it.

Written by: Eisabess Chee

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Also known as a Functional Capacity Evaluation (FCE), work capacity assessment, or functional capacity assessment. A functional assessment is essentially an assessment conducted to determine an injured worker’s capacity for work.

Not every injured worker will undergo a functional assessment. If you find yourself being scheduled for one, it’s likely because one of the parties involved in your claim has deemed it relevant to your case. Read on to get a better understanding of what you can expect at your functional assessment appointment as well as how to prepare for it.

When and Why Does a Functional Assessment Take Place?

Typically the injured worker undergoes an initial assessment after lodging their workers comp claim. A functional assessment comes after as it’s a more detailed evaluation of the worker’s condition, particularly from a rehabilitative lens.

As mentioned above, an injured worker will go through a functional assessment when it has been requested. The request can be made by any party involved in the claim but it’s commonly done by the rehab consultant (RC) or insurer. It usually takes place after the injured worker has been issued a Certificate of Capacity (COC) or Certificate of Fitness (COF) by their Nominated Treating Doctor (NTD).

Since the COC or COF represents the doctor’s appraisal of the worker, the functional assessment would:

  • Provide insight into the worker’s condition from the rehab consultant’s perspective
  • Capture an accurate and holistic snapshot of the worker’s condition
  • Ensure alignment amongst all stakeholders

Functional assessments can occur at subsequent stages of the workplace rehab process again if, once again, anyone finds it necessary. These later assessments would mainly be to review the worker’s progress.

Types of Functional Assessment

There are two types of functional assessment:

  • Physical functional assessment
  • Psychological functional assessment

The type of functional assessment an injured worker undergoes depends on the nature of their workplace injury and claim.

Who Conducts the Functional Assessment?

You will be assessed by your rehab consultant, who would most likely be a/an:

  • Exercise Physiologist (EP)
  • Occupational Therapist (OT)
  • Physiotherapist (physio)
  • Psychologist

A physical functional assessment will be conducted by an EP, OT or physio, whereas a psychological functional assessment will be conducted by a psychologist who is certified to do so.

What Should I Generally Expect?

No matter what kind of functional assessment you’ve been scheduled for, you can expect your rehab consultant to ask about:

  • Your symptoms
  • How the injury occurred
  • Past medical history
  • How the injury is affecting you in different areas, such as at work and at home

Your RC will use highly reliable, evidence-based psychometric tests and physical evaluations to gain an objective and standardised understanding of each client’s current function.

What Should I Expect From a Physical Functional Assessment?

At a physical functional assessment, your rehab consultant examines your ability to move or perform certain tasks, including actions that may be related to your job.

Taking into consideration your medical notes and pre-injury responsibilities, your RC will:

  • Go through basic movements such as sitting, squatting and standing
  • Test for strength tolerance
  • Identify limitations

What Should I Expect From a Psychological Functional Assessment?

At a psychological functional assessment, your RC evaluates your ability to perform cognitive tasks, both within the workplace as well as in your daily life.

Using a combination of evidence-based psychometric testing and interviews, your RC will generally test for:

  • Cognitive function
  • Memory
  • Attention focus
  • Ability to interact with coworkers
  • Ability to fulfil the cognitive requirements of pre-injury duties

What Happens After?

The functional assessment – be it physical or psychological – would’ve allowed your rehab consultant to determine:

  • Your capacity for work at present
  • How it compares to your pre-injury capacity for work
  • What your current limitations are

Your RC will then use these findings to:

  • Recommend any relevant follow-up assessment (e.g. ergonomic assessment)
  • Plan the stages of the injured worker’s RTW plan
  • Find suitable employment within the worker’s capacity
  • Arrange for workplace modifications (e.g. procuring equipment that can help the injured worker in their current role, such as a height-adjustable chair or table.)

The rehab consultant will organise a meeting with the worker’s NTD to provide these recommendations. This ensures that the rehabilitation process is collaborative and coordinated in a way that prioritises the worker’s well-being.

How AusRehab Can Help

At AusRehab, we offer comprehensive functional assessment services that cater to both physical and psychological needs. Whether assessing cognitive abilities, physical capabilities, or symptom severity, we help accurately inform suitability for pre-injury roles, alternate duties, or new vocational paths.

Our team is also equipped to robustly handle every case from start to finish, ensuring a seamless process for our clients.

As your one-stop hub for resources and solutions, AusRehab is committed to delivering professional excellence with the utmost empathy and sensitivity. Choose AusRehab for thorough, compassionate, and expert functional assessments.

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Eisabess Chee

Eisabess Chee is a seasoned content writer with over 8 years of diverse experience in journalism, content creation, and education. At AusRehab, she spearheads research, editing, and writing, crafting insightful resources that tackle and resolve workplace injuries. Beyond her role, Eisabess also curates the AusRehab monthly newsletter, ensuring it’s packed with valuable and well researched content.

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