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Work Reconditioning and Vocational Rehabilitation

Occupational therapists play a vital role in helping people to gain the functional skills they need to return to work or to obtain employment. Work performance can suffer if there are problems in any of the following areas:

1. Physical body
2. Sensation
3. Cognition
4. Perception
5. Mental health
6. Social interactions
7. Development

The following charts will review the various aspects of occupational therapy intervention in the areas of work reconditioning and vocational rehabilitation.

The Occupational Therapy Practitioner’s Role in Enabling Clients to Work
There are many aspects that therapists must consider when providing services to clients who want to return to work or who want to start working in the first place. Both OT’s and OTA’s are involved in this process.

Role of the OT:

1. Identify and analyze the problem.
a. Why is this client unable to complete their work task?
b. What are the demands of the client’s particular job?
c. What are the client’s required work tasks?
d. What are the work routines?
e. What equipment does the client normally use?
f. Are there any ergonomic problems and how accessible is the client’s workstation?

2. Choose how to evaluate the problem (are there any assessments you can use?)
3. Come up with interventions to the address the problem
4. Supervise the OTA who may be assisting with interventions

Role of the OTA:

1. Implement the intervention plan
2. Document how the client is responding to treatment, including his or her ability to participate and if he or she has made progress

The following factors should be considered when designing work related interventions for clients:
– Age
– Interests
– Values
– Cultural background
– Skills and abilities
– Motivation
– Mental health
– Social ability
– Role at work
– Demands of the client’s particular job
– Work environment
– Resources available to the client

Treatment for work related conditions may be provided in acute care settings, inpatient or outpatient rehabilitation units, inpatient or outpatient mental health units, at a job site, in a sheltered workshop, or at a supported employment site. Besides clients, therapists collaborate with employers, case managers, and state or local agencies to help return clients to work or transition them from school or home to employment.

Occupational therapists provide the following work related services to both individuals or groups:

1. Consultative services – education about the following topics:
o Injury prevention in the work place
o Stress management
o Safety
o Body mechanics and posture
o Pain management
o Joint protection techniques
o Health monitoring

2. Direct services
o Help to return clients to work or establish employment if clients have never worked.
o Help promote and facilitate productive work abilities
 Increase physical ability to do work
 Help to develop more efficient ways to complete work tasks
o Help to prevent work-related injuries or other problems
 Adapt work stations or work tasks
 Facilitate communication with co-workers
o Help clients to restore skills that have been lost
o Train clients how to compensate
 Identify alternative ways to complete work duties
 Explore other possible work roles

Work Reconditioning

Work reconditioning occurs when a person has sustained an illness or injury that has limited his or her ability to work in a physically demanding position for a prolonged period of time. To reduce the risk of further injury, the person undergoes work conditioning and/or work hardening prior to returning to a physically demanding job.

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