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Worksafe Victoria's return-to-work campaign

7 March 2017

With increasing evidence that work is generally good for health and wellbeing, physiotherapists play an integral role in supporting a patient’s return-to-work as part of their recovery. This compelling evidence is at the heart of WorkSafe Victoria’s return to work campaign, and recent initiatives developed in consultation with clinicians and the APA, to guide physiotherapists in treating patients who have been injured at work.

WorkSafe launched the new flipbook, My patient has been injured at work. Now what?, at the VIC Branch’s end-of-year breakfast. The flipbook is available as both an electronic and desk resource to help physiotherapists navigate the workers compensation scheme and support their patients to safely stay at or return to work. It outlines key timeframes and why early return to work is so important for a patient’s recovery, as well as how to use the Certificate of Capacity and the Clinical Framework in physiotherapy treatment sessions and key supports for physiotherapists.

The upcoming webinar, ‘Physiotherapist role in certification and Return to Work’, aims to equip physiotherapists with the practical skills to confidently treat patients who have been injured at work. Associate Professor Venerina Johnston, APA Occupational Health Physiotherapist, from the University of Queensland, and Harry Papagoras, APA Occupational Health Physiotherapist, Clinical Advisor at WorkSafe Victoria, will explain the evidence underpinning the health benefits of work, explore the physiotherapist’s role in this, and share national and international examples of return-to-work initiatives. Harry and Venerina will also discuss practical solutions to address the challenges physiotherapists face when supporting patients and making sure the treating team are‘work ready’.

Return-to-work training presentations
The flipbook and webinar complement WorkSafe’s series of training presentations available on the APA website. Topics include completing the Certificate of Capacity, identifying and managing return-to-work barriers and the clinical framework.

Helping patients return to good work sooner is better for their health and wellbeing

WorkSafe’s Getting Back campaign recognises the pivotal role health professionals play in return to work. It also reinforces WorkSafe and the APA’s signatory commitment to the 2011 Australian and New Zealand Consensus Statement on the Health Benefits of Work. The consensus statement identifies that long-term work absence can have a negative impact on a patient’s physical, social and mental health. Unfortunately, work absence tends to perpetuate itself. The longer someone is off work, irrespective of the severity of the original injury, the less likely they are to ever return, subsequently having a negative influence on their health and wellbeing. The consensus statement also recognises the important role and responsibility of medical and allied health professionals in encouraging patients to stay at or return to work. Good outcomes are more likely when individuals understand the health benefits of work and are empowered to take responsibility for their own situation.

Victorian physiotherapists have demonstrated they are incorporating these messages into their patient consultations. Tom Hindhaugh, APAM, uses a simple and effective strategy with patients: ‘I discuss with my patients the importance of their role in recovery.’ In February 2016, the Transport Accident Commission and WorkSafe surveyed 200 Victorian physiotherapists about their role in return to work. The results revealed that 88 per cent of physiotherapists discuss return to work during their patient’s first visit.

Dr Kevin Sleigh, an occupational physician, reiterated the fact that patients don’t need to be 100 per cent recovered to return to or stay at work, and encourages health professionals to collaborate. ‘Returning to work is part of the process of recovery, and helping people get back to work is an important part of rehabilitation,’ he said. ‘Working collaboratively with the treating physiotherapist really assists my patients achieve better and earlier health outcomes.’

Harry Papagoras agrees: ‘I see return to work as part of my treatment—not as my goal of treatment. There are a lot of physical, psychological and social benefits in being at work. I also encourage active intervention in treatment, including gym-based exercises and functional tasks, such as lifting and carrying boxes. These type of tasks can then help determine functional capacity and guide appropriate certification.’

Download the flipbook

View WorkSafe’s return-to-work training presentations at


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