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Raising the Bar in Rehab

Back to Physical Therapy Basics

Published October 28, 2010 1:19 PM by

When I was a student, it was sometimes fairly obvious by reading our professors' presentation styles to determine if the material would be on a given exam. Some professors would fast-forward through a few paragraphs of information, nearly signaling to students that "this information is not as pertinent to your career." On the other hand, some material would sit in the middle of the room for hours on end and I would think to myself, "I better know this stuff inside and out before the exam comes." There are just some things that every physical therapist should know.

Now, as I have been practicing PT for more than a year, I've come to learn that some areas of "basic information" have been forgotten. It's almost embarrassing, because I think to myself, "I should know this!"

So, I will ask - do you remember all your PT basics?

1. Can you list each cranial nerve and how to test them?

2. Do you know the four muscles of the rotator cuff, or as my anatomy professor would ask... Do you know the 17 muscles that attach to the scapula?

3. Can you tell me the basic pediatric reflexes and when they are present?

4. What are the differences between right and left heart failure?

5. Can you describe any deviations from a normal gait pattern?

6. Show me how to perform a ligament laxity test?

What about you? Have you noticed that previously simple ideas are harder to recall as you have specialized during the course of your career? Are there things you wish you still remembered? How do you keep your skills up-to-date, even if you don't use them?



I'd say we should be knowledgeable PTs or even "experts" if you will, (with time, experience and dedication) in the area weve decided to practice.

I dont think its necessary to know how to do a "laxity test" if your primary setting is acute rehabilitation. But you should know which lab values are important when evaluating patients in this setting. I agree we cant know everything, but we should remain active in our learning, and strive to become experts in the field, As such we should be able to answer basis questions and only having to look up the answer when encountering  complex ones. I would be embarrassed to not know basic ortho assesments (ortho my primary setting) after 5 years out of school.

Our patients deserve this knowledge from us and so do "we", as a PT profession.

carlos estevez November 2, 2010 1:28 PM

You remember what you use.  The most successful therapist does not remember everything, but is skilled in knowing where to find the answers.  The best therapist knows it is impossible to remember everything, and that knowledge allows him/her to know when to seek out answers.

Janey Goude October 31, 2010 9:27 AM

Lisa - of course you will forget most of what you knew. When I was teaching PT at UAB, I would tell my students that PT School doesn't teach everything - it teaches you where to go to find out everything. You arm yourself with basic skills that you will need for 90% of your patient population. With a good structural house foundation, you can build a new room anywhere on that foundation. Same with PT. In Ortho, MOST problems can be attributed to stiff (scar tissue), weak (muscles), or inflammed. Get good at treating those symptoms and you can treat ANY joint or muscle. And no, I don't remember all the cranial nerves, but, after 40 years, I do remember "On old Olympus towering tops, a Finn and German viewed some hops". I know, it's pitiful.

Al DiMicco, Ortho - Director of PT, OSA October 28, 2010 5:55 PM
Bessemer AL

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