A functional capacity evaluation (FCE) evaluates an individual’s capacity to perform work activities related to his or her participation in employment (Soer et al., 2008). The FCE process compares the individual’s health status, and body functions and structures to the demands of the job and the work environment. In essence, an FCE’s primary purpose is to evaluate a person’s ability to participate in work, although other instrumental activities of daily living that support work performance may also be evaluated. A well-designed FCE should consist of a battery of standardized assessments that offers results in performance-based measures and demonstrates predictive value about the individual’s return to work (Kuijer et al., 2011; Soer, et al., 2008).
Who can benefit from an FCE?
- Someone who has been injured on the job to determine his or her ability to return to the job or alternate work
- Someone applying for Disability benefits
- Someone seeking to return to work or volunteer activities after an injury or illness
- Someone injured in a catastrophic accident (i.e., automobile accident) for whom an FCE can determine performance skills and abilities related to resuming former employment or a new job
- Someone seeking vocational rehabilitation services
- Students receiving transitional services from school to the work setting to determine their skills and the extent of support required to perform in a job
What are the components of the FCE?
The components of the FCE will vary based on the purpose of the assessment. The FCE typically begins with a client interview, medical record review, and musculoskeletal screening. Functional testing may include dynamic strength activities such as lifting, carrying, pushing, and pulling; and positional tolerance activities such as sitting, standing, walking, balancing, reaching, stooping, kneeling, crouching, crawling, object handling/manipulation, fingering, hand grasping, and hand manipulation. Pain monitoring is frequently performed during the FCE to document client-reported levels of pain during various activities as well as to manage pain. The FCE report includes an overall physical demand level (U.S. Department of Labor, n.d.), a summary of job-specific physical abilities, a summary of performance consistency and overall voluntary effort, job match information, adaptations to enhance performance, and treatment recommendations. Some FCEs are designed to also report on the worker’s ability to meet the cognitive demands of the job in question.
FCEs are done on a one-on-one basis and may range in length from 4 to 6 hours. The FCE may take place over 2 consecutive days.