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When to request a Functional Capacity Evaluation (FCE) and what to expect

Updated: Jul 18, 2019

If you’ve suffered an injury or illness that has affected your ability to perform your job or everyday tasks, requires physical rehabilitation, or entitles you to compensation, then it’s important to understand what Functional Capacity Evaluations (FCEs) are and when you might need one.


FCEs are an excellent tool for doctors, health insurance providers, employers, and lawyers when assisting patients, clients, and workers. In a nutshell, FCEs are used to form an objective opinion regarding the extent of a person’s injuries and their functional abilities. This objective viewpoint is helpful in a variety of ways; it helps the client understand what they may need for rehabilitation services to get better, and it presents an unbiased opinion as to what you can and cannot do.


What are Functional Capacity Evaluations, and how do they work?

Functional Capacity Evaluations are performed by certified professionals and consist of physical tests, simulations, questionnaires, and observations that are used to determine someone’s physical and/or cognitive ability to perform certain tasks.

Let’s break this down a little further.

Who performs Functional Capacity Evaluations? Those who perform FCEs must first complete specialized training, such as Matheson’s Functional Capacity Evaluation Program. Often, those who seek out FCE certification already have experience in a relevant field, such as occupational therapy or physical therapy. Due to their backgrounds in assessing and helping people complete tasks, occupational therapists tend to be especially well-suited for FCE training.


Thankfully, there are many coverage options for occupational therapy services in BC.


What tests are involved in Functional Capacity Evaluations? FCEs should be customized to each patient, their injuries, and the tasks that they need to perform at work or in everyday life. Usually a series of standardized functional assessments will take place over several hours, sometimes across multiple days. These assessments can be used to evaluate range of motion, flexibility, strength, stamina, cognitive functions, and so on.


For example, depending on the situation, FCEs may be used to determine someone’s ability to sit at a desk for extended periods of time, lift heavy objects, or perform day-to-day tasks independently.


Why is it important that Functional Capacity Evaluations are performed by an objective third party? This is important as FCEs are often used in cases involving workers compensation, insurance, disability, or an employee’s ability to return to work. We dive deeper into this later in the article.


What are Functional Capacity Evaluations used for?

FCEs are used for a variety of reasons. Here are a few of the more popular uses.


Determining an employee’s ability to return to work safely. Functional Capacity Evaluations are often used to assess whether or not an employee can safely perform their typical job duties, when/if they will be able to return to work, and to what capacity. Are any special accommodations required? Would it be best for the employee to take on a less physically demanding role at the company?

In this respect, FCEs are used to protect both workers and employers, resolve disputes, and help ensure the safety of everyone in the workplace.


To determine eligibility for workers compensation, disability, or other benefits. FCEs offer an unbiased assessment of the extent of an employee’s injuries, which can help determine whether or not they are eligible for special benefits or compensation in the event that they are unable to return to work.


Personal injury claims. Motor vehicle accidents, workplace accidents, slip and falls, medical malpractice, assault — these are a few examples of events that can lead to a personal injury claim in court. In these situations, the plaintiff may be asked to complete a Functional Capacity Evaluation to help prove their case.


If you’ve been injured in a motor vehicle accident, it’s also important to know which health services are covered by ICBC, whether or not you are at fault.


To create, modify, or evaluate the effectiveness of rehabilitation programs. Most of the time, FCEs are used to create effective treatment plans for the patient. They can either be used for this reason on its own, or in combination with one or more of the reasons listed above.

There are several therapies and services that can help people recover from injuries, illness or disabilities. FCEs are the best way to determine which treatment options would be most effective, and to evaluate those treatment methods and make adjustments if necessary.


What to expect at an FCE

If you’re scheduled for an FCE, you may be wondering what to expect. Here are some things that you should know before your appointment:


Be prepared and arrive on time. Dress comfortably, drink lots of water and get a good night’s rest before your evaluation.


Give your best effort and be honest. FCEs can be challenging, as they are used to test your capabilities. It’s important to put in your best effort while also being honest about any pain or discomfort that you feel so that the evaluator can fully understand you and your injury.


It’s normal to feel nervous. FCEs can seem a bit intimidating at first, and it’s normal to feel some apprehension. But don’t worry — unlike in school, there is no ‘pass or fail’ for this evaluation, no right or wrong answers, just your honest capabilities. The evaluator is there to help you stay safe both during the evaluation and in the future.


Hopefully this article has offered you some insight as to when an FCE may benefit you, your patients, your employees or your clients. If you’re interested in learning more about Functional Capacity Evaluations in Kamloops or the surrounding area, contact Smart Rehab. Our capable team of therapists would be happy to answer your questions or book you in for an evaluation as soon as possible.

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