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Raising the Bar in Rehab

Environment of Healing

Published February 7, 2013 4:48 PM by Lisa Mueller

I'm right in the middle of reading The Tipping Point by Malcolm Gladwell. It's a pretty interesting book about how very small changes can result in big outcomes. He writes about small changes impacting huge reductions in crime rates, fashion trends and even political race results. This is the second book I've read by Gladwell, and I enjoy his writing style and content tremendously.

The chapter I just finished addresses the concept of how our external environment, or context of a situation, influences our internal decision-making. The book is loaded with studies, experiments and other evidence supporting Gladwell's writing. For example, he writes about how a person is more likely to commit crimes in a subway car vandalized with graffiti than a clean subway car (based on crime studies in New York City in the 1990s). He also describes a study where children were more likely to cheat on homework and exams in some situations, but not all. The basic morale of the chapter is that the environment (vandalized subway car or homework setting) is more influential in our actions than our internal character (being a criminal or a cheater).

While I don't want to make this blog a psychological microanalysis, I do want to consider how this concept impacts our work environment. Our primary role as physical therapists is to promote healing and reduce pain. How does our environment facilitate that? Are you able to adjust the environment around you so your patient is comfortable?

Factors such as space design, paint color and even the space available within your treatment room are difficult to change. But what about music or the noise within the space? What do your patients hear while they're working with you? Do they hear bed alarms or a beeping IV? Do they hear other staff talking about their weekend plans? What is the temperature of your space? Too hot or too cold?

What do you think? Does the environment of a physical therapy facility play a role in our patients' recovery? What do you think is the best environment for rehabilitation?


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