As Therapists, We Must Be Our Own Advocates

As therapists, sometimes we would all like to believe that everyone (potential patients and all physicians) knows the value of seeking our services and when to get orders for therapy. But if we’re honest with ourselves, we recognize this simply isn’t true.

I experienced this firsthand when a family member (ok, my dear ol’ dad) had back surgery recently. Prior to the surgery (anterior lumbar interbody fusion), he received a few Physical Therapy treatments at my urging. His neurosurgeon was skeptical, but said “it wouldn’t hurt anything” and gave him the PT order upon request. PT provided him with some temporary pain relief, and Dad was able to put off surgery for a few months when he was more “mentally ready” to go through with the procedure.

I met with the neurosurgeon immediately following the surgery, and he beamed while he explained that the surgery was “text book” and went very well. My dad made excellent progress while in the hospital for two days, so good that he was discharged to home a day earlier than the neurosurgeon’s protocol. The next two weeks at home was rocky (that’s a whole other blog!), but by the time of his 2-week follow-up appointment he was off the pain meds, ambulating household distances without an assistive device, and slowly returning to his prior functional level. At the follow-up appointment, the neurosurgeon again expressed his pleasure in the success of my dad’s procedure and stated that the only therapy he needed was to walk, gradually increasing his distance over time. He briefly mentioned PT, but he emphasized that his patients generally only receive outpatient PT services after this procedure if they require discipline or structure. Otherwise… just walk.

Since I anticipated this from the doctor, I (conveniently) was along with Dad at this appointment. I simply told the neurosurgeon “he’ll need a script.” And PT was ordered.

Dad started outpatient PT services at a RehabVisions’ location in his hometown (outpatient services in the community’s skilled nursing facility). The evaluating PT discovered a leg length discrepancy, a positive trendelenburg sign, and a few deficits that needed to be addressed before Dad could “just walk” his way to recovery.

The therapy services amazed him! Dad worked with the PT/PTA for a couple of weeks before being discharged on a home exercise program that helped him get started on his walking rehab. He couldn’t believe that he was able to walk nearly a mile—a much greater distance than he could pre-surgery and more than he could have ever achieved without outpatient PT.

I wonder how he’d be getting along if I had not been there to advocate for him? What happens to other patients who don’t know to ask for a therapy order from their doctors who don’t know the value of therapy? What are we (as therapists and RehabVisions’ employees) doing each day to educate the public AND the medical community to what services we provide? How many potential patients are missing out on an opportunity to receive therapy services because they “just didn’t know.”

Let’s make sure that everyone knows what therapy can do!

  • Tell doctors patient success stories
  • Send doctors thank you notes for their referrals AND tell them about your specialty training, continuing education and clinical experiences
  • Educate your community by presenting at Kiwanis/Lions Club/Chamber of Commerce
  • Talk to high school athletes/coaches/trainers about therapy services
  • If you’re in a rural hospital, send letters to surgeons and other referring physicians in metro areas so they know the caliber of therapy services provided at your location

Get out there and advocate!

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