Rehabilitation can best be defined as restoring someone to a state of good health or normal function through therapy and exercise. The need for rehabilitation can arise for many reasons. Some of the most common include:
- Chronic conditions such as arthritis
- Progressive diseases such as Parkinson’s disease and Multiple Sclerosis
- Acute illness such as pneumonia or the flu
- Decline in function due to normal aging
A comprehensive therapy program may include physical, occupational and speech therapy. When available, recreation therapy is often implemented to aid the patient’s return to the activities and hobbies of their previous lifestyle.
In conjunction with the opening of the new clinic at Stevens County Hospital, our physical therapy services are highlighted and explained. Physical therapy encompasses many aspects of movement. Basic strengthening and coordination are the foundation of what physical therapy can offer, but it extends much further to the following functions:
- Gait training
- Transfers: sit-to-stand, stand-to-sit, car and bathtub transfers
- Muscle re-education
- Sports injury rehab/specialized muscle training
- Bladder retraining
- Chronic pain: Headaches, stiff neck, back pain, joint pain
- Amputee/prosthetic training
- Therapy after joint replacement
- Hip fracture rehabilitation
- Reduce physical complications of diabetes
- Strengthening to avoid surgery
A Physical Therapist—PT—is required to have a graduate degree—either a master’s degree or a clinical doctorate—from an accredited physical therapist training program before taking the national licensure examination that allows them to practice. They examine, diagnose and then prevent or treat conditions that limit the body’s ability to move and function in daily life.
Increasingly, physical therapists have a doctorate degree versus a master’s degree. More than 180 of the 210 accredited training programs in the United States that offer physical therapy training programs now offer the doctorate degree. A Doctor of Physical Therapy—DPT— is the “terminal” degree in the field, which means there is no higher degree to be held.
A Physical Therapy Assistant—PTA—works under the direction and supervision of a physical therapist. PTAs must hold an associate degree, pass a national licensure examination and be licensed or certified by the state in which they work. Hawaii is the only state that does not require a state certification or licensure.
The PTA provides components of the therapy program that is set forth by the physical therapist such as therapeutic exercise, functional training and physical modalities such as electrotherapy and ultrasound. The PTA may also provide instruction in exercise, proper body mechanics and other injury prevention and wellness topics.
In the Physical Therapy Clinic at Stevens County Hospital, our Physical Therapist is Megan Sullivan, PT. She has been with our hospital for 7 years, and she received her undergraduate education at Northeastern Oklahoma A&M and Oklahoma State University. She then received her PT training at The University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center.
Our PTA is Jeff Beard. He received his education at Seward County and Fort Hays State University. He has been with our hospital12 years.
We are excited to announce that we will be adding a new physical therapist in May.
The long-term plan for our clinic is to add an occupational therapist and a speech therapist. These therapists would offer expanded rehabilitation services to further benefit our patients.
An occupational therapist (OT) works to strengthen and coordinate the arms and fine motor skills. Occupational therapists are required to have a four-year degree from an accredited program. Certified Occupational Therapy Assistants (COTAs) are assistants to the OT, and are required to have an associate’s degree from an accredited training program. Much like a PTA carries out the plan of care for the PT, the COTAs carry out the therapy program set up by the OT. There are many other functional areas that an OT can address, including:
- Activities of Daily Living (ADLs) including: dressing, grooming, cooking
- Visual-spatial skills
- Hand rehabilitation after injury or surgery
- Modifications to eating utensils, writing instruments and training for use
- Measurement of reflexes and response times for driving tests
A speech therapist/speech-language pathologist (ST/SLP) works to improve communication, cognition and swallowing. SLPs are required to have a master’s degree from an accredited training program. There are Speech Therapy Assistants (STAs), but Medicare does not recognize them as medical professionals, and does not reimburse for their services. They are typically employed in school settings. Specific functional areas that are addressed by the SLP in the medical setting include:
- Oral/motor strength to improve clarity of speech and chewing
- Information processing to improve cognitive functions such as safe administration of medications and money management
- Strategies to improve short and long-term memory recall
- Alternative communication modes for loss of verbal skills
- Swallow deficits resulting from stroke, disease or dementia
- Dementia management with caregiver training/cues and strategies
The overall goal of the rehabilitation team is to restore function to the patient to allow them to return to their former lives as much as possible. When that is not possible, the focus is on compensating for the deficits the patient cannot overcome. Helping the patient learn to cope with loss of one’s abilities is a vital part of the rehabilitation process.
There is an old joke among therapists that goes something like this:
“So the OT says to the PT: ‘Well, you may be able to get your patient to walk to the door, but I can get them to open it.’ Then the ST adds: ‘But I’m the one who helps them say ‘Come in!’”
If you need help walking to the door, come see us. In the future, we plan to be able to help you open it, and say “Come in!”
Be sure to check out our update regarding the completion of our new Physical Therapy Clinic on our Facebook page. We welcome visitors!