The road to recovery isn’t travelled alone. There’s a team of specialized health care and treatment providers, in addition to treating physicians, all with an important role to play. As a physiotherapist, Kari Lambden considers herself the “quarterback” of an injured worker’s physical rehabilitation team.
“We are literally hands-on with our patients,” says Kari, “and it’s our job to make sure everyone else on the team sees what we see. A case manager at WCB may not always understand how a particular injury looks and feels, and it’s up to us to communicate that to them and to the employer if they need help coordinating modified duties that match the capabilities of our patient.”
Kari has been a physio for 25 years, which is when she opened her clinic in Calgary. Over the years, she has seen firsthand the relationship between community physiotherapists and WCB evolve and become more collaborative, with both parties recognizing the importance of forming a true partnership to maximize the success of an injured worker’s treatment and recovery. Employers can rely on great care for their employees and on help getting them back on the job safely.
This partnership is helping to drive better conversations and processes that benefit everyone involved and translate into a better experience for injured workers and their employers. Physios are the subject matter experts. They know the needs of their injured workers. Understanding that, WCB has given physios more flexibility to customize a plan that fits the needs of each individual person. After all, getting the best treatment optimizes the chances for a successful return to work.
“That flexibility allows us to support our patients in their return to work,” says Kari. “We can follow them and make sure they’re going to be successful.”
Kari also sits on WCB’s physiotherapy advisory committee, which meets to discuss issues and concerns from physios in the community, and to share best practices for treatment.
“Having a seat at the table and being able to communicate openly has been very positive,” says Kari. “I think WCB has gotten a better understanding of our challenges.”
A construction worker sees a doctor in the emergency room after falling from his scaffold.
A mechanic works with a physiotherapist to regain his strength while healing from a shoulder tear.
A home care nurse talks to a psychologist to help work through her feelings of anxiety and depression after being attacked by a patient.
Workplace injuries take many forms, but what they all have in common is that they require the right expertise and care to recover.
When we’re sick or hurt, many of us are fortunate enough to have a trusted doctor we choose to visit—someone we’ve established a relationship with and who we trust with our care. When a worker is injured at work, they can see the health care provider of their choice. This may be someone new, or someone they have a longstanding relationship with. The doctor-patient relationship is important, and is why we’ve committed ourselves to strengthening our relationships with community physicians. Most people injured at work have never had a WCB claim before. They are new to our system, and they are hurt. A daunting recovery may seem less so with their family doctor, a familiar face on board.
Health care providers have their patients’ best interests at heart. When treating patients with a workplace injury, they take the time to carefully and safely assess their injury, their recovery and their fitness for work as part of their care. They share information with their patient’s case manager to ensure everyone is on the same page. Whether it’s offering access to expedited services such as CT scans and MRIs or referrals for surgical consultations and procedures, we support them in doing this work.
With thousands of providers in Alberta, a well-understood and shared purpose is both the foundation for this partnership and also where we have the greatest opportunity to improve and grow. Health care providers are the drivers of recovery from injury and illness and are an invaluable part of the workers’ compensation system. Knowing this, we will focus on building a culture of trust, respect and meaningful engagement.
From the acute treatment required at the time of the accident to specialized care and rehabilitation that returns workers to a full and healthy life, we want to consult with providers and come to a shared understanding on best practices for treatment and identify opportunities for resolution. We want to work together to ensure reporting supports timely care and benefits for workers. We want to do whatever we can to help support the direct care of their patients, our clients.