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Raising the Bar in Rehab

It's Getting Personal

Published August 5, 2010 2:41 PM by

I have the type of job that requires me to get close with my patients. Let me clarify... it is a physical closeness. I think we can all agree that regardless of our PT setting, our profession involves a lot of physical interaction with our patients. I've often seen many therapists using their own shoulders against the leg of their patient to stretch out an ACL. We often use our hands on patients' hips with gait training to emphasize the correct movement. Compared to more traditional office jobs, it is undeniable we have a physical connection with our patients.

Despite this, I have always been able to keep a professional distance, an emotional space between myself and my patients. I typically do not get very personal during my therapy sessions and I try to keep my conversations lighthearted. Because I work in an acute-care setting where the outcomes and longevity of my patients often are not very optimistic, I usually keep my knowledge of a patient's background to the most very basic.

So, when I have a patient who brings out my human side and reminds me of the very reasons why I am a therapist... I am a little caught off guard. I had a patient recently who made more progress in one session than I had ever imagined and it brought me to tears! While I was surprised by my patient's steps forward (literally), I was even more surprised by my emotion.

I'd love to hear your stories - your growth as a therapist, your connections with your patients. Please leave your comments below!



My personal interactions with patients enriched my life.  There is a line you don't want to cross, but don't be afraid to step right up to it.  You and your patients will both benefit from the exchange.  Especially in those difficult diagnoses, when the patient is still cognitively intact, the opportunity you provide for them to share their lives with you may give joy to their time in the facility.  Many elderly feel useless and unwanted.  Allowing them to share their stories can make them feel like they still have something to give.  What they share with you may give you a different perspective into their lives that allows you to give them motivation to work in rehab.

You will have some who appreciate the emotional distance you are cultivating, but others will appreciate a warmer vibe.  It's important to guage your interactions to the individuals.  

Bottom line, for those patients embrace the more personal connection, enjoy them and allow them to enjoy you.

Janey Goude August 6, 2010 5:37 PM

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