Learn about functional capacity evaluations

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,” says Mike Balandiat, OTR/L, CHT, MMT, an occupational therapist at UPMC Rehabilitation Institute.  This can help the referral source make determinations related to a person’s ability to return to work or their employability.

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

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.

Never Miss a Beat!

Get Healthy Tips Sent to Your Phone!

Message and data rates may apply. Text the word STOP to opt out and HELP for help. Click here to view the privacy and terms.

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,” Balandiat says. “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 Rehabilitation Institute.

Editor's Note: This article was originally published on , and was last reviewed on .

About UPMC Rehabilitation Institute

The UPMC Rehabilitation Institute offers inpatient, outpatient, and transitional rehabilitation, as well as outpatient physician services so that care is available to meet the needs of our patients at each phase of the recovery process. Renowned physiatrists from the University of Pittsburgh Department of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation, as well as highly trained physical, occupational, and speech therapists, provide individualized care in 12 inpatient units within acute care hospitals and over 80 outpatient locations close to home and work.