Orthopedic Danger Zone
What's worse than breaking a bone? Having an orthopedist who refuses to consider rehabilitation options to give you the safest and quickest return to independent function. Sitting in an orthopedic waiting room, I observed an elderly woman with a left shoulder sling and a left long leg immobilizer. She was not clearing her left foot during the swing phase of gait, creating a significant fall risk. I also watched her elderly husband struggle as he helped her into the front passenger side of their van.
While I was being seen by the PA, I delicately broached the subject of home health physical therapy to evaluate a possible assistive device, car transfers and home safety for his elderly patient. The PA pointed out that in addition to a left long leg immobilizer, the patient also had a broken left shoulder, so an assistive device would not be an option. I humbly informed the PA that an assistive device would be used in the opposite arm from the affected leg, making his patient an ideal candidate. After thanking me for my concern, he abruptly ended our conversation with, "We don't do that sort of thing here."
Since that interaction, I have been scratching my head trying to think of a logical reason that an educated medical professional would not utilize every available resource for his patient's recovery. How could someone who takes an oath to do no harm knowingly allow his patient to remain at high risk for falls? I'm still scratching.
I'll return in a month to see the PA and plan on diplomatically readdressing the topic. If you had the chance to speak with him, which questions would you want answered? If you were his patient, what would you say to him?