At , our dedicated was designed to help patients receive an extra level of support and training following their treatment for a work-related injury, allowing them to return to work safely and with confidence. Liz Bauske, PT, DPT, OCS, ATC, is BOS’s Industrial Rehabilitation Coordinator who spearheads this program, and she is passionate about helping patients achieve their rehabilitation goals.
This month, we asked Liz some questions about the Work Conditioning Program, her role in coordinating the program, and some insights she has from patients and their results:
How did you get started with BOS’s Work Conditioning program?
I started in 2008 as a Physical Therapist with BOS, and have been the Industrial Rehabilitation Coordinator since 2013. I have a Doctoral degree in Physical Therapy and a Bachelor’s degree in Athletic Training; therefore, work conditioning allows me to truly utilize both skill sets.
What does the typical work conditioning plan look like?
A typical work conditioning program focuses on strength, cardiovascular endurance, flexibility, and any remaining impairments the patient still has from their injury.
What types of exercises are used to help patients during Work Conditioning?
Work Conditioning sessions start with a warm-up including cardiovascular exercise (treadmill, upper body ergometer/arm bike, and/or elliptical), and stretches for the upper and lower extremities, and the entire body. The functional lifting portion of a Work Conditioning session is when the patient lifts or carries boxes to gradually progress to the weight required for full duty return to work.
Work Conditioning also consists of general exercises to work on core, upper and lower body strength, and muscular endurance. Injury-specific exercises are also incorporated into the program to address impairments. Job-specific exercises are used to simulate job-required motions and tasks to prepare the patient for return to work. Finally, the patient ends their session with a cool down, consisting of more flexibility and cardiovascular endurance.
What do you see as the difference in a patient who has completed work conditioning vs one who has not?
Patients who complete Work Conditioning typically have more confidence returning to their full duty work. If a patient has to lift 50 to 70-pound packages repeatedly throughout their workday, Work Conditioning progresses the patient to lift the 70-pound items. Therefore, the patient can return to work with greater confidence in their ability to complete job-required tasks.
How successful has the Work Conditioning Program at BOS been in helping patients meet their goals?
Since 2013, [more than] 90% of patients at Barrington Orthopedic Specialists have been released to work full duty after completing the Work Conditioning program.
What are some of the most challenging aspects of work conditioning?
The functional lifting progression is typically the most challenging portion of a Work Conditioning session. If a patient has to lift an 80-pound item to return to work full duty, and they were able to lift it pre-injury, our goal is to get back to lifting 80 pounds.
What is the most rewarding thing about helping patients return to work?
Once patients are about one week into their Work Conditioning program, their body has acclimated to the increased activity level, and they typically report feeling significantly stronger. Additionally, by the time a patient starts Work Conditioning, many patients have been off of work for 6 to 9 months or more. Quite a few patients have gained weight and have lost strength all over their body over this time. Many patients have reported losing weight during work conditioning and feeling healthier overall. Several years ago, a patient returned to visit the clinic 6 months after completing work conditioning to tell me they were inspired to continue exercising after completing Work Conditioning and had lost [more than] 60 pounds!
What is the most common thing patients have to say about their experience with the Work Conditioning Program?
Most patients come into Work Conditioning with a false expectation that work conditioning only consists of lifting boxes for several hours. They are typically surprised by the variety of exercises and the amount of flexibility built into the program. Generally, patients report they feel significantly stronger and ready to return to work by the end of their program.
Liz has been treating and rehabilitating work-related injuries for more than ten years. With her knowledge base, experience, and communication skills, she can effectively work with case managers, adjusters, and patients to ensure that all medical care proceeds smoothly following a work injury. If you’d like to learn more about our at the Schaumburg location, watch Liz’s informational video (opens in a new tab), or reach out to us at (847) 885-0078.