When employees experience an illness or injury, it often impacts their ability to perform their jobs. In cases where an employee is losing time from work, it is in everyone’s best interest to return the employee to work in some capacity as soon as possible.
At the Trust’s Annual Meeting, our nurse case management consultant, RTW, Inc., referenced findings discussed in a 2006 report by ACOEM, “Preventing Needless Work Disability by Helping People Stay Employed.”
This report notes that “only a small fraction of medically excused days off work is medically required…. The remaining days off work result from a variety of non-medical factors such as administrative delays of treatment and specialty referral, lack of transitional work, ineffective communications, lax management, and logistical problems.”
In other words, there is a tangled web of reasons that can prevent an injured worker from returning to work after they are physically able, many of which have little to do with the worker’s injury or medical condition. That’s why PSWCT is placing a strong emphasis on return-to-work programs, and investing in new partnerships to find creative ways to get employees back to work quickly.
We have a two-pronged approach: (1) assist our districts in implementing operational return-to-work programs, and (2) enlist nurse case managers to partner with injured workers to navigate their treatment for an optimal medical outcome that returns them to work as quickly as possible.
Why it Works
The benefits to both the employee and the district make return-to-work programs an important part of a successful workplace. PSWCT supports the implementation of these programs because of the significant benefits for:
- Retaining full earning capacity
- Maintaining a productive mindset
- Staying on a regular work schedule
- Avoiding dependence on a disability system
- Having a sense of security and stability
- Controlling claims costs related to an injury claim
- Reducing financial impact of workplace injuries by reducing direct and indirect costs
- Providing a proactive approach to cost containment
- Improving ability to manage an injury claim and any restrictions
- Getting experienced employees back to work, resulting in less time and money spent on finding subs or replacements
Step 1: Creating a Program that Works
PSWCT recommends all districts implement a best-practice-based return-to-work program. Such programs are most successful when the following elements are included:
- Written policies that clarify procedures and roles
- Defined transitional and alternate duties and job descriptions
- Maintain required documentation
- Focus on communication with injured employee
The outcome of a well-planned return-to-work program is an expedited recovery and return to productivity for injured workers.
Step 2: Partnerships that Work
PSWCT has partnered with an agency that provides early intervention nurse case management, aptly named “RTW, Inc.” in order to intervene at the beginning of the on-the-job injury process. (See above.) The purpose of this early intervention is to focus on time loss claims, and become a focal point for coordinating and following up on treatment. RTW has been working with the Trust for six months, and has drastically reduced the amount of days injured workers are out on time loss claims, and helped save dollars related to medical treatment and time loss payments.
In the past, the main focus of return-to-work programs was to reduce workers’ compensation costs; however, return-to-work programs also greatly benefit the injured employee. The employee gains a sense of self-worth and connectivity to the workplace through meaningful work during recovery. In the long run, this increases productivity and saves time, money, and loss of talent.
PSWCT is committed to promoting this important risk reduction program. Our Loss Control team will be meeting with districts annually to check the progress of return-to-work programs. You can count on us to continually seek creative solutions to improve outcomes for our members and injured workers.