- Let’s “voc” (pronounced VOKE) him! – a Vocational Rehabilitation referral is frequently used as the last ditch effort to settle a case if nothing else has worked. Vocational Rehabilitation is not a verb – it is a profession. Before introducing VR, it would be helpful to answer some questions:
- What efforts have been made to facilitate a RTW with the same employer?
- Was a job analysis provided to identify job demands?
- Was a functional assessment used to determine the IW’s (injured worker) true physical capabilities?
- Was transitional duty available or offered?
- Once the need for permanent restrictions was anticipated, what services were used to facilitate RTW (e.g., assisting the IW to obtain a high school diploma)?
By using "Vocational Rehabilitation" as a negative service to facilitate something other than assistance for the IW to find appropriate work within their capabilities, this practice is counterproductive at the least.
(And while we're on the subject of vocational rehabilitation):
- "I don't care if you get her a job flipping hamburgers!" – Again, using VR should be based on the premise that every person deserves the opportunity to work and to be a productive member of society. Assisting disabled individuals to enter or re-enter the workforce by analyzing their transferable skills, the job market, interviewing and resume development, aptitudes, interests, intellectual ability as well as physical ability, takes quite a bit more skill, education and training than assisting someone to "flip hamburgers." Then again, “flipping hamburgers” is a perfectly honorable job and if that is what someone wants to do, who are we to squash that dream?
- Workman’s Comp – As a friend pointed out to me recently, didn’t this term go out with “Women’s Lib”? It’s workers’ compensation.
- Malingerer – this term is used rather loosely, which means that it is used incorrectly most of the time. The correct definition of a malinger is: to pretend illness, especially in order to shirk one's duty, avoid work, etc. A very small percentage of injured workers are true malingerers, but others may exaggerate their pain when they feel no one is listening to them or have a fear of re-injury. A true malingerer is someone who feigns disability while objective measures show they are inconsistent in their patterns of behaviors without objective evidence of a consistent impairment. The key term here is objective evidence – just because we don’t trust someone or we don’t feel they are being honest, does not make them a malingerer.
- “Bad Actor/actress” – This term is often used by physicians and/or healthcare providers when they feel the IW’s pain exceeds their medical diagnosis. Everyone expresses pain in a different way – some are more stoic than others and some are very vocal. Just because their actions are not what we expect, does not necessarily mean they are “acting.” Everyone deserves the benefit of the doubt until they demonstrate or prove otherwise. Now, Paris Hilton – THAT’S a bad actress!
- Make Work – this is the phrase that many attorneys use to describe a job that an employer “makes up” for an IW to return to that would not be available to outsiders as a legitimate job title/position. Employers are able to pull tasks from several different jobs to create a job that can be used as temporary transitional duty for an IW. This should not be considered “make work”. A transitional duty job should be rehabilitative in nature, within the IW’s restrictions, and be re-evaluated at regular intervals to determine whether progression is taking place and a return to the regular job is possible.
- “Needs to be 100% before he/she can RTW” – So, what is 100%? Most employers will say 100% means no restrictions. But everyone has restrictions! The more correct way to determine “100%” is to know the true physical demands required of the job and the true physical capabilities of the worker. A physician’s note of “no restrictions” is a medical release to return to work but in no way addresses the IW’s safe functional return to work unless a functional assessment was performed and the IW’s abilities match the job demands as noted with an accurate job description.
- "FCE is Invalid, so the FCE is worthless" – Why is the FCE result “invalid"? How reliable is the result? Was the sincerity of effort of the worker measured? What recommendations were made to assist the worker in returning to work safely? Was work conditioning attempted before the FCE? Just because the result is invalid, does not mean the FCE was worthless – the values represent the LEAST that the IW can do which is a starting point. Consider offering opportunities such as repeat testing with expectation of improved effort or work conditioning which provides better results than releasing the IW to return to work "within the restrictions of the FCE"!
I am sure there are other terms out there that should be “retired” that I have missed here. Feel free to share those with us sometime. In the meantime, call Job Ready if you need help with employment testing, FCEs, work conditioning, job analysis or ergonomic assessments – none of these terms should be retired!
Have an Injured Worker?
Want to get your injured workers back to work quicker as well as safer? We have immediate openings in work conditioning! Call us for more information.