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PT on the Run

The Gold Medal of PT Settings

Published February 20, 2014 3:22 PM by Michael Kelley

(Editor's Note: Throughout the month of February, ADVANCE bloggers Michael Kelley and Lisa Mueller will post "Dueling Blogs," in which they argue opposing sides of the same issue. Topic #3 -- "Does the Inpatient or Outpatient Setting Allow Greater PT Practice?")

Over the past couple of years, I've started to see a clear dichotomy of physical therapists. In the most simple of terms, there are those therapists (often in an outpatient setting) who work on strengthening, flexibility and overall conditioning. Then there are those (often in an acute or rehab setting) who work on functional training and task-oriented objectives.

Now, is real life this black and white? Of course not. I'm well aware of the fact that strengthening and flexibility are important for being able to perform functional tasks, and that repetition in functional training can be a great way to help improve strength and conditioning. But for me, the bread and butter of PT practice actually happens in a setting that I've never worked in: acute rehab.

To me, acute rehab is where physical therapists are really the center of attention. Everything PTs do in acute rehab is focused on returning patients to as close to their prior level of function and independence as possible. While strengthening and flexibility are important aspects of this, the acute rehab PT has a unique ability to help train patients to return to "real life."

For many patients who are in acute rehab, so many aspects of their lives have been turned upside down from either a trauma, CVA, or other acute ailment. Because of the time requirements of acute rehab, therapists have the ability to develop not just a rapport, but an actual relationship with their patients that may not be possible in other settings.

By developing this relationship, I think therapists can get through to patients in a much more meaningful way than in other settings where we may only see patients once or twice a week. Education, encouragement, reinforcement -- these are all things acute rehab patients would need, and things PTs are exceptionally equipped to provide.

Is there a "right" answer to this question of what the "best" PT setting is? I don't think so, but this is essentially my vote. What's yours?

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Also, if you'll permit me, I thought I'd share a recent Huffington Post article that relates to a previous blog post of mine about sick time.

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2 comments

I left the acute care setting for the second time a few years ago. Where I worked it, it seemed like it was the "Git and Go" market. Quality of care as per PT was not a focus. I love pediatrics! I think this is the field that captured this PT's heart in the 90's. With only a brief break (because of a long distance move 10 years ago), I had to return to peds.. The only way I would work in acute care again is if there was no other job in PT out there.

Jeanne March 3, 2014 3:56 PM

That's fine. But I don't want to lift anybody.

Paul February 20, 2014 4:40 PM

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