Learn about functional capacity evaluations

Functional Capacity Evaluations: Ensuring a Safe Return to Work

Functional Capacity Evaluations, often called FCEs, determine a person’s ability to perform work activities for their job.

“An FCE can provide an accurate measure of a person’s ability to perform critical work tasks.  This can help the referral source make determinations related to a person’s ability to return to work or their employability,” said Mike Balandiat, OTR/L, CHT, MMT, an occupational therapist at UPMC Centers for Rehab Services.

“A well-designed FCE consists of a variety of tests that offer results in performance-based measures,” he said.

Individuals who may benefit from an FCE include those who are:

  • Applying for Social Security disability benefits
  • Seeking vocational rehabilitation services
  • Trying to determine what their work capabilities are following a catastrophic accident
  • Trying to return to work or other alternative employment following injury or illness

The components of an FCE vary based on the reasoning for the assessment but typically consist of:

  • A patient interview
  • A medical record review
  • A muscular and skeletal screening
  • Functional testing
  • Pain monitoring

An FCE is performed on a one-on-one basis and can last up to four hours. A written report is provided following the FCE, which provides determinations of the person’s capacities and abilities, based on their performance.

Generally, the physician treating the patient refers for an FCE. Physician assistants and nurse practitioners can also refer for FCEs. Additionally, FCEs may be requested by the following:

  • Attorneys
  • Case managers
  • Human Resources/employers
  • Insurance representatives
  • Risk managers

“Functional Capacity Evaluations are a great tool to help workers make sure they are fully capable of coming back to work,” said Mike Balandiat, OTR/L, CHT, MMT.

“Following the evaluation, employees and their employers can then ensure the tasks at hand can be accomplished in a safe and healthy manner, leading to a better work experience for all.”

For more information about occupational therapy services, visit UPMC Centers for Rehab Services.