By Brock Blasdell
That weekend warrior injury that leaves you in excruciating pain and lands you in the emergency department is not only the concern of physicians and nurses—these days, it’s also drawing the attention of physical therapists.
Chandler Regional Medical Center began offering physical therapy services in its emergency department several months ago as an effort to increase the quality of care patients received.
Local physicians now report the new post- emergency services are a success and provide faster care to patients experiencing common post-trauma symptoms.
“It’s kind of a growing trend in the physical therapy world to start having emergency physical therapy,” Jennifer Eagles, physical therapist for Chandler Regional, said.
“We can provide quicker treatments to patients who have chronic pain, acute pain, dizziness and vestibular issues. Tons of research has found that quicker treatments lead to quicker outcomes and faster healing.”
Since the new physical therapy program began it has served more than 700 patients.
Starting with limited availability and staff, its continued success has since forced the medical center to hire full time physical therapists to provide care seven days a week. The speed patients receive treatment seems to be the primary benefit of these in-house services.
“At an outpatient clinic you may only get like 45 minutes with a therapist, and a lot of that time is evaluation and questioning and answering,” Eagles said.
“Whereas, when you’re coming into the emergency room, the physicians have already done a lot of our questioning for us.”
Along with skipping the wait for an appointment and evaluation, in-house physical therapy services also offer an advantage for any patients requiring special imaging before treatment.
“We get on demand imaging, which is still something that therapists can’t do in an outpatient clinic. So if I need an MRI, or if I need some specific imaging, the physicians have usually already ordered it. The ball is already rolling. We can already provide initial treatment,” Eagles said.
Eagles said the decision to start the program came after recent research indicated patients often failed to keep their first post-emergency room physical therapy appointments.
This was a huge problem for patients seeking long term recovery and short term pain relief.
Chandler Regional’s new in-house physical therapy services aren’t designed to replace out- patient facilities, but they are designed to provide care in the crucial gap between emergency services and the patient’s first physical therapy appointment.
“It’s beneficial. It’s two-fold. One, for providing for our patients. It’s the right care at the right time. It’s helping us to collaborate with physicians and determine what’s best,” Staci Telles, the clinical supervisor of rehabilitation services at Chandler Regional, said. “And then, two, for our profession in general by proving the value of what kind of physician we are.”
Medical professionals at Chandler Regional are glad the program is now being offered because they feel it highlights the positives of physical therapy as both a medical progression and a national trend.
“We are providers. We are doctors of physical therapy. This is helping us really show our skills and make a difference for people,” Telles said.
“This is positive nationwide.”