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Raising the Bar in Rehab

PT in the ED

Published September 2, 2010 5:24 PM by

My latest research focus has been on the role of PT in the ED. While I was organizing the clinical experiences I needed during college, I interviewed for a position in the ER at a hospital in Phoenix. I had to describe my experience in differential diagnoses and discharge planning in order to be considered for the ED rotation. I was accepted into the position, but it was later cut due to budget concerns and I was instead placed into an outpatient neuro clinical experience.

There have been two articles published recently - one in the PT Journal and the second in JOSPT - both outlining the numerous benefits of staffing an emergency department with a physical therapist. With the economy sinking (or double-dipping, depending on what you read), it is becoming more standard practice for patients to utilize emergency rooms as their primary source of health care (versus clinic visits with a primary care physician). Much of this is driven by changes in insurance coverage.

Regardless of the causes, the fact remains that emergency rooms continue to see patients seeking intervention regarding musculoskeletal and acute-pain injuries. As we know, physical therapists have great education, experience and a wealth of knowledge in these two areas. Furthermore, patients in the emergency room often present with safety concerns regarding discharge placement. Again, an area perfect for PTs.

The articles I've read (along with other findings on the Internet) basically state that hospitals who staff their EDs consistently with PTs document the following benefits:

● Increases in patient and practitioner satisfaction;

● Reduced wait times throughout the department;

● Greater ease for patients in receiving follow-up treatments;

● Lower length-of-stays for patients who are admitted into the hospital; and

● Increased patient understanding of their diagnoses as PTs were better able to provide education.

So, I'm wondering if any therapists out there have experiences working in an ED. I'm not talking about a few patients here or there, but a consistent setting within the ED. What hours did you work? (The ER clinical had hours established from 10 a.m. until 10 p.m., in hand with the highest volume of patients). Were the PT services interfering with other emergency triaging?


The Physical Therapist as a Musculoskeletal Specialist in the Emergency Department; Journal of Orthopaedic and Sports Physical Therapy, March 2009

Physical Therapy in the Emergency Department: Development of a Novel Practice Venue; Physical Therapy, March 2010.


I am currently piloting a program of PT in ED. current hours are 1-5pm. have been doing approx. 6wks. good feedback so far and will be implementing to our second hospital first of year. feel free to contact me for further info

allison bush, PT - DPT, acute care October 14, 2016 3:00 PM
evansville IN

At my outpatient rotation at the local county hospital, the ED was staffed by a member of the outpatient PT staff M-F, roughly 8-5 on a rotating basis (so I got to experience it one day a week).  We did everything from basic crutch training after a CAM boot was issued to differential dx for LBP and shoulder injuries.  PT services didn't interfere as a) each patient has a designated bed on the ED, and b) services were ordered by the MD's or PA's, with us occasionally reminding them we were there if we were slow and seeing if there was anything we could do.

D Gillette, physical therapy - PT, SNF/ outpatient September 27, 2010 10:11 PM
Seattle WA

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September 2, 2010 9:57 PM

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