Work injury recovery center helps patients and employers

Richard SwensonIn March 2014, Richard Swenson sprung into action at his workplace, using his bare arm to prevent a spinning crane from hitting two new employees. Though he saved them from serious injury, Swenson’s efforts resulted in a torn rotator cuff in his right shoulder.

Rather than being sent to an emergency department, Swenson’s employer referred him to the University of Iowa Work Injury Recovery Center (WIRC).

Located within the UI Department of Orthopedics and Rehabilitation, the WIRC provides specialized care for foot, ankle, knee, hip, spine, hand, elbow, and shoulder injuries that happen on the job.

“If the clinician knows your area of injury backwards and forwards, they can quickly assess what’s going on and decide whether you can get back in the game or not,” says UI orthopedic surgeon and WIRC physician James Nepola, MD.

In addition to providing comprehensive orthopedic services, the WIRC also distributes diagnosis, treatment, and progress communications to the patient, employer, insurance company, and claims adjusters involved.

“They directly communicated everything right away,” says Swenson. “It was a relief knowing everybody was on the same page.”

“The employers need to know what their staffing situation is going to be,” adds Nepola. “Employers are counting on (employees). They’re not just replaceable parts.”

The UI WIRC has also recently expanded its efforts to provide expert care in the Des Moines area by opening a new center in Clive, Iowa.

“We’re ramping up our services as rapidly as we can to parallel the type of service that we provide here,” says Nepola.

Over several months, Swenson worked with WIRC specialists to improve his shoulder. After trying physical therapy and medication, he underwent shoulder surgery.

“I can’t thank the UI enough for what they did,” says Swenson. “I wouldn’t be where I’m at if it hadn’t been for them.”

—Spring/Summer 2015