Coordinating Modified Duty and Return to Work

Even workers with serious injuries can be returned to work as long as precautions are taken to ensure that the environment is conducive to the mental and physical healing of the patient. For a physician who sees many injured employees from a particular agricultural work environment, such as a packing shed or processing plant, there is an advantage to going to the workplace

Table 11.1. Reasons and goals for a workplace visit.

To obtain a working understanding of the work the employee is doing so the physician can understand what the employee is talking about when he or she comes into the office To coordinate a modified duty and early return to work program To assist in creating a first-aid or rescue program for injured workers To observe workplace hazards and how the employees are being protected from them To evaluate the veracity of a worker's claim for injury or disability and determining in advance which jobs employees with limitations can perform. The job placements and modifications may be short term or permanent, but the goal is to return the worker to a productive capacity and, at the same time, to cut down on the long-term costs of rehabilitation and temporary disability (6).

The mental well-being of the patient may be more important than the physical injuries, and a rapid return to work restores to the injured employee a sense that he or she is once again a breadwinner and is useful to society.

Because low back pain is the most common injury in agriculture, multidis-ciplinary teams have been developed to expedite the patient's recovery and return to work. A work site visit by a physician or another trained health professional has been found to be an effective component of such a team approach (7).

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