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Raising the Bar in Rehab

Continuous Improvement

Published June 6, 2014 2:00 PM by Lisa Mueller

Over the past several months, my role as rehab supervisor (overseeing a department of 25 people) has offered me a multitude of opportunities to become involved with other areas of our organization's business. I've been able to participate in our accreditation efforts as well as our quality committees and providing support to new clinic implementations. I love the diversity of my job and being able to see how each part connects to provide the most value to our patients. These recent experiences led to me applying, interviewing and accepting a new position -- continuous improvement leader!

There are often bursts of time where my fellow ADVANCE bloggers will write about their contemplation of careers outside the realm of traditional physical therapy, and my own journey is a great example of how skills as physical therapists can easily be applied to other roles. The purpose of continuous improvement (often referred to as "lean" or "six sigma") is to solve problems and remove barriers to provide the most value to all customers, both internal and external. In the healthcare industry, Wisconsin-based ThedaCare is a leader in establishing sustainable management systems built to drive quality and reduce waste. This type of work involves utilizing and teaching others the scientific method of root-cause methodology to identify the basis of problems, implement a solution, reassess and adjust.

Compare each of those points to the role of a physical therapist. Do we solve problems? Yes, every day. Do we remove barriers to provide the best value to our patients, colleagues, and payers? Absolutely. Do we drive quality and reduce waste? Yes! This is one area of physical therapy I'm most proud of -- our dedication to outcome measures and efficient lengths of stay. Do we use a scientific method for root cause analysis? Of course, in every evaluation we identify the etiology of our patient's deficits.

Every talent I've practiced in my career as a physical therapist -- assessing a patient's problems, educating patients, adjusting plans of care etc. are now being carried over into the same mindset on a larger scale. Continuous improvement means making all areas of the business work better and daily assessment of areas needing attention.

This career decision didn't come easily. I had to consider a lot of factors, the most important one being my time away from patient care. In my new role I'll have opportunities to work as a physical therapist, but not on a regular basis. I also thought a lot about this blog -- which I will continue to write but with a new spin on some of my topics. All in all, I'm very excited for this opportunity, and challenge you too to start thinking about the skills you have as a physical therapist and consider other careers to which those skills apply.

What do you think? Have you ever thought about a job outside of physical therapy? What stops you from making a change?

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