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Health Watch/Sue Gherna, physical therapist’s assistant

Physical therapist’s assistant:?A member of the home care team

July 12, 2012
The Daily Mining Gazette

Mary asks, "What's next?" Mary is a client receiving home health care services through our agency following a total hip replacement.

As part of Mary's therapy session, I am going to take her outdoors today and instruct her on the safe and proper way to get up and down her porch steps. Soon Mary has a follow-up appointment with her surgeon and today will be the first time Mary has been outdoors in four weeks.

Mary also needs to be able to get in and out of the car safely in order to get to her appointment. Therefore, once we get down five steps to exit her home, I will instruct and demonstrate to her the correct way to get in and out of the car. Included in this part of the therapy session will be Mary's husband as he will be the one to assist Mary to her appointment. So this means, as part of my job, he will need to know how to assist Mary and also to make sure she follows certain precautions as set by her surgeon. It is important that this training happens at least a few days prior to the appointment in case there are problems that we must solve prior to the day of the appointment.

So exactly what is my job as the physical therapist's assistant? I carry out duties as delegated to me by my supervising physical therapist. What does this mean? It means that the physical therapist goes into the client's home and evaluates his or her needs in an effort to restore them to their previous level of ability prior to their illness or surgery. After the therapist evaluates the client, he or she sets "goals" for the client. These goals are a means to measure progress in the client's recovery process. The PT may modify these goals as needed. As the PTA, it is my job to work with the client to achieve these goals. I work under the direction of the physical therapist; he or she guides the client's course of treatment.

Does the client ever see the physical therapist again? Of course they do. The physical therapist not only monitors the client's progress through reviewing my visit notes, but also gets information through our timely communication. The therapist then returns to the client's home at scheduled intervals or at any time that I feel that the physical therapist needs to re-assess or address an issue. The client may have exceeded their goals or possibly are not going to meet the current goals that have been set. This warrants a return visit by the PT.

I must stress that the care of our clients is a team effort. Another big part of my job, as the physical therapist's assistant, is regular communication with my supervising therapist as well as other team members. This may include the nurse, occupational therapist, home care aide or the social worker. Clear, consistent communication is vital to our clients' recovery.

Editor's note: Sue Gherna is a physical therapist's assistant with Aspirus Keweenaw Home Health and Hospice.



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