How to Get Your Employees to Stick with Their PT Plan

Anna Kleiner

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 his or her recovery—will typically see better outcomes than those who are not. When it comes to work injuries, the challenge is often not in if the employee can return to function. The challenge is getting the employee to stick with treatment and understand how completing therapy benefits him or her—not just the 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 an employee is injured performing his or her daily tasks, he or she may become afraid he or she will get injured again after returning 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. Employees may also 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 an employee's 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 a 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 an employee is to complete his or her treatment plan. 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 the employee's 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  treatment plans. To make sure employees are able to complete their treatment plans, you should make time for your employees 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 he or she encourages the employee to attend the therapy appointment. If the employee is a shift worker, it may mean temporarily rescheduling shifts to provide coverage in the employee's absence. 

Sometimes, it may just mean speaking with the employee directly to reaffirm the value of therapy. An employee who is especially focused at work may forget or feel reluctant to leave during the day to complete his or her appointment because he or she may feel that there isn't time or that leaving lets 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 the employee on the benefits of return-to-work than encouraging them to complete treatment. Or maybe you just need to make it easy for the employee to see his or her therapist, and give him or her the time needed 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 him or her to stick with the treatment plan.