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Toni Talks about PT Today

She Just Loves Her Physical Therapy Nurse

Published March 29, 2011 3:34 PM by Toni Patt

A friend told me this story last week. She and her husband were having dinner with another couple. At some point the wife mentioned her mother had broken her hip and was in the hospital. According to the woman, her mother loves her physical therapy nurse. She comes to see her mother twice a day to help her walk and do exercises. After her mother leaves the hospital, she'll need to see another physical therapy nurse so she can get stronger. That story is wrong in so many ways, I can't count them all.

I think we can make a few assumptions here. The physical therapy nurse introduced herself as a physical therapist. She explained the purpose of physical therapy and the goals of treatment. She probably also taught the woman's mother weight-bearing precautions, how to use a walker and how to transfer. She explained what outpatient therapy was and why it would be necessary. I don't think the word nurse would have come out of that PT's mouth.

Despite that, the patient seems to have only heard physical therapy. Or maybe the patient heard everything clearly and it is the daughter who made the mistake. Either way, one or both of them didn't catch the part about physical therapy being a separate discipline from nursing. I wonder if she also had an occupational therapy nurse.

Nursing has had to take on a larger role in patient care over the years but I've yet to hear one mention of being a physical therapist. I've heard many encourage patients to work with therapy or remind patients they have therapy. I have been called a nurse when I first enter a room before I've been able to introduce myself. I chalk that up to patients expecting nurses to come into their rooms. They know what a nurse is. They might not know what a physical therapist is.

Having said that, I think the comment is fascinating. It shows there is still a population out there unaware that physical therapy is separate and unique in itself. The patient and her daughter knew what physical therapy was but apparently assumed it was performed by nursing. Or to them, nurse is a generic term meaning someone who provides some form of health care, so anyone working in health care is automatically a nurse. In that case it is nursing and not physical therapy that has lost its identity.

The good new is people are beginning to recognize what physical therapy is. I don't particularly want to be called a physical therapy nurse but that's an improvement from the nurse who came and got her up to walk.


Cute story! I'm more concened about gyms offerring PT sessions.... when it's personal training being sold! I contacted the head of my state APTA about this who didn't seem too concerned. But now they don't understand why I don't think I'll rejoin the APTA @ almost $500/year.... for what? 2020 vision is very short-sighted :(

Jeanne May 4, 2011 5:22 PM

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