When the Recovering Worker is Unable to Return to the Job of Injury with the Employer

Even with the finest medical case management, on occasion a recovering worker’s post injury functional capabilities will prevent a return to their job of injury with the employer. When a return to work at the pre-injury level is not an achievable goal, a nationally certified Vocational Expert can work with the recovering worker towards the goal of returning the individual to employment consistent with their functional capabilities and skills.

Five Best Practices to Look for When Considering a Vocational Case Management Vendor

  1. Does the Vocational Consultant perform an initial assessment? Look for a comprehensive:
    • Vocational work history
    • Education history
    • Hobbies and interests
    • Medical status and RTW capabilities
    • Psychosocial – motivation for RTW, family history and support
    • Assessment of barriers to RTW
  2. Make sure your staff providing Vocational Rehabilitation services are credentialed, possess a graduate degree and are licensed in some type of clinical profession, such as counseling. A certified and licensed rehabilitation professional has the experience and education to effectively intervene and address concerns voiced by the recovering worker as we work towards a transitional SAW/RTW. A rehabilitation professional has the experience to ensure the transitional job is appropriate to the functional requirements.

If the appropriateness of the vocational assessment, positions found or findings are contested or litigated by the injured worker and their representative, you want an expert in the field of rehabilitation able to testify as to the appropriateness. A rehabilitation professional also has the expertise to document objectively regarding any barriers or observed sabotage on the part of the recovering worker. Some of the recommended credentials include:

    • Master’s degree in Rehabilitation, Education or Psych
    • Certification as a Rehabilitation Counselor
    • Certified Ergonomic Assessment Specialist
    • Some type of clinical licensure
  1. Use a company who advocates for weekly contact with the recovering worker, ensures the recovering worker knows they are accountable for their own results, and assists the recovering worker to take ownership of their own vocational rehabilitation process. Does your vendor provide Job Seeking Skills Training for the recovering worker? Ask if during their weekly meetings with the recovering worker, are they open and discuss their opinion of the recovering worker’s status and provide encouragement, suggestions, etc. to facilitate success whenever possible?
  2. Communication Skills are essential. Does your vendor provide training for their internal staff in topics such as Motivational Interviewing, Cultural Diversity, and Ethical Decision Making? Ask to see their training records. Do they provide financial support for ongoing training for their staff, to facilitate earning the CEUs required to retain certification?

This type of ongoing training provides the skills the vocational staff need when meeting with the recovering worker to develop a collaborative written rehab plan, to explore any objections, and work effectively with all parties. It is essential they seek and obtain agreement from the recovering worker and their legal representative, if they have one, regarding this plan.

  1. Discuss with your vendor their process for obtaining and providing documentation and follow up – with employers, the recovering worker and their legal representative. Do they verify data provided by the recovering worker during the job search phase? How often do they follow up? What does the documentation look like? Will it be helpful if litigation ultimately ensues? What is their process for working with the recovering worker when noting issues? What type of reporting do they provide? Will they modify their standard reporting to meet your specific requirements?

In conclusion, the success of your vocational services program depends on a variety of factors including the education level of the staff providing the services, the support from their company to continue participation in continuing education, their understanding of the need for collaboration with the recovering worker and the type and frequency of documentation during the process.

Also see:
Top Tips in Workers’ Compensation
FAQ about Workers’ Compensation