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Quest Program from MRC offers on-site workplace evaluations

Flowood — The mission of Methodist Rehabilitation Center’s outpatient rehabilitation department is to return people to whatever they do in life. It’s called the Quest Program, and the focus is to assist patients so they can go back to work, school and all regular community, social and leisure activities. This program is located in Methodist Rehabilitation’s Lakeland Drive facility.

The rehabilitation center made the transition from industrial rehabilitation to the Quest Program a few years ago. It is a brain injury day treatment program for stroke, brain, spinal cord, neck and low back injuries.

“The Quest Program is really nice. The majority of what we do is help people get back to whatever they do,” says Julie Walker, therapy manager of the program. “It’s very rewarding, and we get a lot of satisfaction from it.”

She said they see people who will do whatever it takes to get back to their jobs and other daily activities. The goal is to help clients return to personal independence, productivity and safety. Assistance includes actually going on the job site and staying with someone to make sure they’re successful at whatever they do.

Walker gave the example of a 45-year-old female with a neck injury. Therapists did an evaluation to determine her capabilities. They also got her job description and did an on-site job analysis.

“Maybe she can’t look down all the time, but she works on a computer at a desk,” she said. “We work with the client on angles of her work station and make suggestions so she doesn’t have to look down all the time.”

Clients can also have occupational or physical therapy. They may need to learn how to do lifting and carrying in a safe way. It may be best to begin working two hours a day at repetitive tasks and increase the time gradually.

Walker recalls a woman who stopped breathing on the operating table during gastric bypass surgery. The patient was an executive vice president at a bank and had a memory deficit following the surgery. A therapist worked closely with the employer to ease the woman back into work. Using extensive e-mail to keep track of details was one of the methods used to aid her memory.

Joe Jacobson, director of outpatient rehabilitation for the Methodist Rehabilitation Center, stresses the importance of analyzing work sites whether someone is injured on the job or not. “We go out to the place of employment and look at what the injured person does,” he said. “We make recommendations to the worker and employer. Even if they are injured at home, we’ll still look at the job site so they don’t aggravate the injury when they go back to work.”

A common part of that analysis is looking at how desks and computers are set up, the proper chair and armrest height and better positions for working more efficiently but without injury. “We write up a report. It’s all gotten scientific,” he said, “and the employer gets good value in that analysis.”

The two injuries they see the most are low back and carpal tunnel. There are also injuries that are industry specific. For instance in the poultry industry, there are injuries caused by the repetitive motions with the arms, hands and wrists.

“A functional capacity evaluation of the injured person is job specific as much as possible and includes whole body strength, whole body flexibility and whole body endurance,” Jacobson said, “so they can go back to the demands the job requires. We try to reproduce motions of tasks and promote overall safety on the job.”

The Quest Program uses a team approach consisting of occupational, physical and speech therapists, neuropsychologists and vocational counselors working together to establish goals for each client. Jacobson said a behavioral psychologist meets with clients several times a week,too.

Areas addressed include independent living skills, return to work support services, educational reentry services, money management, strength, flexibility, memory, social skills, physical reconditioning, planning, goal setting, community outings, counseling, vocational services and job coaching.

Industrial rehabilitation is the smallest piece of what the outpatient rehabilitation department does, said Jacobson. Job site evaluations are a large part of what it does to help ensure a healthy workforce, performing 200 to 250 of the time-consuming functional evaluations each year. The department has two speech therapists, eight occupational therapists, three physical therapy assistants and 14 physical therapists.

In 2000, the Methodist Rehabilitation Center became the first hospital in Mississippi to be named one of America’s best hospitals by U.S. News & World Report. The Jackson 124-bed, state-of-the-art hospital is the only freestanding physical rehabilitation center in the state and one of only 17 hospitals in the country designated a traumatic brain injury model system by the National Institute on Disability and Rehabilitation Research.

Contact MBJ contributing Lynn Lofton at mbj@msbusiness.com.

About Lynn Lofton

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