Research Article| Volume 35, ISSUE 2, P226-232, April 2022

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Hand therapy role in return to work for patients with hand and upper limb conditions

Published:April 28, 2022DOI:


      Study Design

      Electronic Web-based survey


      Evidence supports the use of health-focused interventions combined with service coordination and work modification components to reduce the individual, community, and societal burden associated with acute and chronic musculoskeletal conditions. The levels of engagement, skill, and confidence of Australian hand therapists in assisting their patients to return to work (RTW) are currently unknown.

      Purpose of the Study

      To identify current practices, skill, and the need for additional training in management of the RTW process from a sample of Australian hand therapists.


      An electronic survey was sent to current members of the Australian Hand Therapy Association. Data collected included training and/or professional experience, caseload and/or workplace, scope of and barriers to vocational practice, and satisfaction with own contribution to the RTW process for patients.


      A total of 99 individual responses (12.4% of total membership) were included, with most indicating a limited role in the RTW process. Only 52.7% said they regularly monitored and adjusted their patients’ RTW program. Most plans were informed by formal tests of underlying body structure and function components rather than the patient's ability to perform of a specific work role or task. Median satisfaction with the quality of RTW service they provided was 6 of 10, with 42% scoring ≤ 5 of 10, indicating considerable scope for improvement.


      Practice patterns are described for planning and monitoring RTW, and these did not always align with the evidence-base. Further exploration of clinician barriers to implementing RTW interventions is warranted, as is upskilling for those indicating a lack of confidence in this field.


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      JHT Read for Credit

      Quiz: # 857

      Record your answers on the Return Answer Form found on the tear-out coupon at the back of this issue or to complete online and use a credit card, go to There is only one best answer for each question.
      • # 1.
        The majority of outcome measures focused on
        • a.
          functional activities
        • b.
          scores on structural factors (e.g. ROM, strength)
        • c.
          patients’ perceptions of recovery from injury
        • d.
          reports to satisfy insurance criteria
      • # 2.
        What percentage of respondents stated they regularly contacted the workplace regarding RTW?
        • a.
          almost 100
        • b.
          more than 50
        • c.
          less than 10
        • d.
          less than 50
      • # 3.
        Responses represented approximately ________ of the total membership
        • a.
        • b.
        • c.
        • d.
      • # 4.
        How many therapists measured a patient's ability to perform specific tasks of their work?
        • a.
        • b.
        • c.
        • d.
      • # 5.
        As a general statement, it can be said that the majority of the Australian hand therapy community does not feel they effectively participate in the RTW process for their patients
        • a.
        • b.
      When submitting to the HTCC for re-certification, please batch your JHT RFC certificates in groups of 3 or more to get full credit.