How to Get Your Employees to Stick with Their PT Plan

By Anna Kleiner | 08/23/2016

Successful physical therapy requires teamwork between the treating physician, physical therapist, and patient. Most importantly, however, it requires that the patient commit to and have an expectation of recovery.  A patient who is committed to getting better—and who takes an active role in their recovery—will typically see better outcomes than those who are not. When it comes to work injuries, the challenge is often not in whether or not the employee can return to function. The challenge is getting them to stick with treatment and understand how completing therapy benefits them—not just their employer. There are a few ways you can help your employees stick with PT and return to function. 

Make sure employees know how returning to work benefits them. 

Injuries in the workplace are stressful and sometimes frightening. When employees are injured performing their daily tasks, they may become afraid they will get injured again if they return to work. Others may be reluctant to go back to work because they believe that working will increase the pain of injury. Because of this, employees may stop going to therapy or draw out their time off work in order to avoid returning to the situation that caused the injury. They may believe that not getting better is the best thing for them.

These employees are often unaware of why returning to function—and work—benefits them. Staying active and returning to work creates a positive impact on self-image, relationships with family and friends, and can even speed up recovery.  Returning to work and normal function can have a significant impact on their physical health, as well.  A 2006 study found that a long-term absence from normal routines, including work, can severely impact your health, equivalent to smoking 10 packs of cigarettes a day and a 20% increased risk of death. 

Make it easy for employees to see their physical therapist.

The more inconvenient a task or errand is, the more likely we are to find reasons not to do it. When it comes to patient treatment and recovery, convenience plays a large part in determining whether or not patients complete their treatment plans. This is especially true for employees, who may have to leave during working hours to get the care they need. 

Your employees are busy, and getting injured only adds to the stress of everyday life. The more inconvenient it is to go to physical therapy, the less likely they are to complete their treatment plans. Even employees who understand the benefits of return-to-work may miss an appointment or two if it’s just too hard—or takes too long—to get there. Because of this, it’s important to make it as easy as possible for your employees to complete their treatment plans. Make sure the treating physical therapist is close to your office or their home address.

Make time for employees to get treatment.

Employees who are still working while going to physical therapy for a work-related injury may need to leave during a shift to attend an appointment in order to complete their treatment plans.  To make sure they’re able to complete their treatment plans, you should make time for them to get treatment—and give them the resources they need to complete it. This can mean speaking with the injured employee’s direct supervisor to ensure that they encourage the employee to attend their therapy appointment. If the employee is a shift worker, it may mean temporarily rescheduling shifts to provide coverage in their absence. 

Sometimes, it may just mean speaking with the employee directly to reaffirm the value of therapy with them. Employees who are especially focused at work may forget or feel reluctant to leave during the day to complete their appointments because they may feel that they “don’t have time” or “don’t want to let others down.” It’s especially important to encourage these employees to attend therapy and complete their treatment plans. 

There’s no “one size fits all” for recovery. Depending on the injury, the employee, and your workplace, you may need to spend more time educating than the employee on the benefits of return-to-work than encouraging them to complete their treatment. Or maybe you just need to make it easy for them to see their therapist, and give them the time they need to do it. Whatever you choose, what’s important is that you do what’s best for your employee—and do what works to get them to stick with their treatment plan.