Patty Scheets knew something was wrong. Her physical therapist patient was experiencing pain similar to what they’ve seen before, but the pain characteristic was slightly different. To make this situation even more concerning, efforts that typically alleviated the pain were not working this time.
Scheets called the patient’s doctor to discuss the unique situation. The patient’s vital signs were normal, so the doctor instructed the patient to visit the next day.
But Scheets felt differently.
“Sometimes there’s something about a situation that seems just not right,” said Infinity Rehab Director of Quality and Clinical Outcomes and practicing physical therapist Patty Scheets. “That’s the way it was with this situation. There were very subtle differences in the way my patient responded to position changes and things that had worked before to make me think that this time, something was wrong.”
After sending her patient to the ER, doctors discovered the patient was having a heart attack and immediately flew the individual across town to receive a stint. Through Scheets’ keen observation and the doctors’ quick efforts, they saved the patient’s life.
Physical therapy isn’t just physical
As part of the Avamere Family of Companies, Infinity Rehab and Signature Healthcare at Home physical therapists help patients overcome activity limitations.
While not all interactions between a physical therapist and patient are life and death as they were with Scheets’ patient, physical therapists have a major impact in their patient’s lives.
“Physical therapists give patients back activities that are important to them,” Scheets said. “We don’t ‘fix’ them. We figure out what is meaningful to them, and we try to give that back.”
Physical therapists are relational people, according to Derek Fenwick, Director of Professional Development of Infinity Rehab. They aim to understand a patient’s activity limitations and goals, so they can develop a plan tailored to what’s important to them.
Behind the scenes
Physical therapy is more complex than people think, according to Scheets. It takes foundational knowledge to develop and implement a care strategy. Physical therapists consider the patient’s psychological, physical and overall health, analyze movement, and research everything that’s happening underneath the surface to determine the best way to care for the patient.
This involves both observation and research. Research is a major piece of physical therapy, according to Tony Braga, Therapy Clinical Manager and physical therapist with Signature Healthcare at Home.
“You have to hit the books if something stumps you,” Braga said. “Knowing how to navigate research is what makes a good clinician.”
In addition to daily research, Signature Healthcare at Home physical therapists combine their efforts to help their patients. Braga and his fellow therapists hold daily conference calls to collaborate regarding their patients. They also gather together in person once a week for Interdisciplinary Team Approach where they discuss what is working, what isn’t, and provide feedback. It’s a team effort to help their patients overcome whatever obstacles they’re facing.
While research and collaboration are vital for a physical therapist to do their job effectively, so is a physical therapist assistant. Scheets calls them an extension of a physical therapist.
“Physical therapist assistants have specialized expertise of physical therapy and are critical to the overall success of the patient’s care plan,” she said.
A physical therapist wouldn’t be able to make such an impact in their patients’ lives if it weren’t for physical therapist assistants. Together they work to create and execute care plans for patients.
More than a job
To many physical therapists, what they do isn’t just a job. It’s part of who they are. It’s their path in life.
As part of Signature Healthcare at Home, Braga helps patients thrive safely in their home. It’s a slow transition, he said, but he can tell when they notice progress and full motivation kicks in.
“To be a part of that and facilitate someone with that degree of function – to help them thrive in their own domain – that’s truly powerful,” Braga said.
Working closely with patients in the home allows therapists to build trust with the patient’s family. You impact the community when you’re welcomed into that circle of trust, Braga said.
“We can contribute to the community in ways other professions can’t, and that’s a blessing,” he said.
Thank you to all our physical therapists and physical therapist assistants with Infinity Rehab and Signature Healthcare at Home, as well as those all around the world. We at Avamere Family of Companies appreciate all you have done and all you continue to do for patients and their families!