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Functional Capacity Evaluations

Susan Rand Celico, PT

Some injured workers are referred to the Donley Center for a special test called a Functional Capacity Evaluation or FCE for short.

What is an FCE and why do we do this type of testing? FCE's are a very common form of specialized physical testing performed to help a doctor determine a patient's physical capabilities, the best course of treatment and most importantly, the ability to return to work (RTW).

Who performs the FCE? An FCE is performed by a registered Physical or Occupational Therapist with special training and expertise.

The FCE evaluation is several hours long and consists of 4 parts.

Part I is an interview. The injured worker will first meet with a Registered Nurse to determine if there are any medical reasons not to perform the test, such as high blood pressure or lung problems. Next, the patient is assigned to one of our staff Physical Therapists (PT). The therapist will want to get a full understanding of the patient's own perception of the injury, his or her recovery and ability to Return to Work (RTW). Often, the employer has provided a job description and we can use this to construct the testing. As with all of our services, the Donley Center provides professional interpreters for non-English-speaking clients.


Part II is clinical evaluation. This is when the Physical Therapist measures the patient's strength, flexibility and sensation. He or she will also try to define and qualify pain behavior and exact physical difficulties or limitations.

Part III is the actual functional evaluation when the patient will be asked to perform a variety of physical movements and tasks such as walking, bending, and carrying loads. The test activities vary for each patient and are based upon individual diagnosis and information from the physician and the employer. The Therapist takes care to introduce all of the activities very gradually while monitoring the patient closely for any signs of complications.

Blood Pressure Check

Part IV is the most important part. The Therapist will review the findings of the test with the patient and discuss recommendations for the future. What happens to the test results? A full report is sent to the referring doctor describing the test components and results. Patients are asked to perform to the best of their ability. Every patient has the right to refuse to continue any test procedure at any time. However, if appropriate and safe, the Therapist may ask the patient to continue despite minor pain. It is only during this period that we can accurately assess the degree of functional ability or disability. It is important that a patient commit to performing to their maximum capability in order for the test to be considered valid. The Physical Therapist uses a number of signs, such as heart rate, and posture response to determine if the patient has put forth their best effort.

Functional Capacity Evaluation testing is a valuable tool to assess a patient's recovery, determine treatment goals and assist in returning injured workers back to gainful employment.

If you have any questions about the FCE, call the Donley Center at (401) 243-1200.

RI Department of Labor and Training
Dr. John E. Donley Rehabilitation Center
249 Blackstone Boulevard, Providence, RI 02906

Phone: (401) 243-1200
Fax (401) 222-3887
TTY via RI Relay: 711
5/16/17 MDF
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