PT in the Great Outdoors
I work in a hospital, and like most people who work in hospitals, once you step through those doors in the morning, you generally don't have time to go outside again until you're leaving in the afternoon. I remember in PT school it seemed like any hospital we visited, the PT gym was always in the basement (it's amazing there isn't an epidemic of vitamin D deficiency among PTs)!
I remember as a student visiting a hospital that had an outdoor "healing garden" that patients and families could use at their discretion. Likewise, on one of my clinical rotations as a student, my CI was working with a younger patient who had undergone rotator-cuff surgery and was trying to rehab to be able to play baseball again. I remember they went outside and spent 10 minutes playing catch, focusing on range of motion and proper throwing mechanics to prevent further injury. I've often thought this is such a nice thing, that patients can go outside, breathe in some fresh air and don't have to feel so trapped.
But alas, it seems that in many hospitals, we therapists are trapped inside. Now don't get me wrong, I'm well aware that many patients aren't appropriate to go outside for therapy. But I do think there are patients who need to work on higher-level activities and maybe walk on different surfaces for higher-level balance. Over the past few years at my hospital, I've been asked a few times by patients if they can go outside. I've regrettably had to tell them no.
While I can appreciate that there are safety and liability concerns, I wonder where patient satisfaction comes into play. I've never been a patient in a hospital, but I can only imagine there is a feeling of being trapped in their room. I think one of the primary goals, especially of an inpatient PT, is to maximize our patients' independence. Shouldn't that include giving them a little more freedom to venture out and test their mobility skills in a more challenging and real-world setting? As therapists, shouldn't we be advocating for this?
What do you think? Have you ever worked with patients outside, either as an inpatient or an outpatient? Where do you think a patient's satisfaction and overall mood come into play, especially when weighed against safety?