Nancy Beiswenger works with Joe Shirley, a local HVAC worker, to simulate actions he will perform in the execution of his job duties. Shirley lifted weighted boxes and moved them to different heights on the shelf, actions commonly performed in Beiswenger's functional capacity evalutations.
Business Spotlight: The Right Way to Work
In an economy marred by near double-digit unemployment, it may seem a company focused on marrying the physical abilities of employees to the demands of their jobs is a bit of a luxury. While Nancy Beiswenger says her company is not recession-proof, its revenue has held steady the last three years due in part to a broad approach in services.
Beiswenger’s company, Work Evaluations and Ergonomics Assessments Inc. & Rehab Services, is located in the National Park Plaza at 4350 S. National Ave., Ste. B-116, a quarter-mile south of Republic Road. Beiswenger first opened for business in the Kickapoo Plaza in October 1998. With 31 years of experience as an occupational therapist, Beiswenger says she was asked by peers to resume therapy after focusing on work evaluations in WEEA’s first years. When the company moved in June 2004, she added rehab services.
Beiswenger says she was one of the lucky ones that knew what she wanted to do from a young age.
“When I was 13 years old, I decided I wanted to be an OT, and I have never changed my mind,” Beiswenger says. “The main thing is that I wanted to help people, and help people be more functional.”
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, there were 1.1 million nonfatal work-related injuries in private industry that required days away from work in 2008, the most recent annual data available. This figure was down 7 percent from 2007. Safety programs, as well as overall job losses, are thought to have contributed to the recent decreases in fatal and nonfatal work injuries, according to the BLS.
Ergonomics is defined as the scientific study of people at work, and Beiswenger says her company’s ergonomic efforts examine an individual’s work environment to make sure that it is safe and efficient.
WEEA’s evaluations, also known as functional capacity evaluations, are designed for individuals who have been injured but are medically stable. The FCEs are used to determine if those individuals are physically able to perform their jobs or to find the cause of what may be preventing them from completing job duties.
In the office, Beiswenger and her physical therapist, Cecelia Harris, use everything from tools to measure the swelling in fingers, to weighted boxes for lifting practice, to massage tables and data-heavy formulas in order to achieve positive outcomes for their patients.
Beiswenger says she has treated workers with severe injuries – back problems are most common. She says people working manufacturing or service jobs are frequent clients, as well as truck drivers and warehouse workers who often pull products off shelves.
In a September evaluation of her own business, Beiswenger says she randomly selected 23 patient files and found that the average number of visits among those patients was 15. She says those who had not had surgery recorded an average of seven visits. The evaluation found that 78 percent of people had returned to work, 80 percent of patients saw themselves getting better, and 91 percent reported a decrease in pain.
John Rutherford, a local historian at the Springfield-Greene County Library Center, injured his arm and neck in July 2002 while carrying a stack of framed photos to be used in a display. A doctor recommended surgery to replace bone in Rutherford’s neck. Once he recovered from surgery, Rutherford visited WEEA on his doctor’s referral.
Rutherford says Beiswenger was quick to recognize the weakness in his right arm, and her company’s work resulted in a near full recovery of his arm’s strength.
At WEEA, Rutherford lifted objects off of shelves and moved items from higher to lower shelves and back again in an effort to recreate his work environment.
Rutherford also says he was instructed to practice sitting at a computer chair where he adjusted its height and learned how to put it in a proper position so that he wouldn’t hurt his neck.
“There were all sorts of things that they were doing to see to it that not only did I re-strengthen my arm, but that I also would learn ways to not re-injure it,” Rutherford says, noting that the correct way to lift heavy objects was to kneel in front with one knee down instead of squatting.
Beiswenger says most patients have insurance to help cover the cost of services, which are customized to meet client needs. She declined to disclose any specific prices or a range of prices.
WEEA employs five, including an office manager, receptionist and a marketing manager.
Beiswenger says her goal is to someday add another therapist. She would not disclose revenues but says the business had grown steadily in its first nine years before leveling off the last three.[[In-content Ad]]