A Collaboration of Health Care Professionals
Earlier this semester, a week or so after our PT pledge ceremony, our class attended an Interprofessional Health Forum. After attending, I reflected on the oath we took as we entered the physical therapy profession, and how we can most effectively collaborate with other health professionals to provide optimal patient care. As an athletic trainer myself, I see many similarities between the two professions, and also many differences. However, the differences are not a bad thing. I believe that if we acknowledge these differences and focus on collaborative treatment for the patient, the value of a professional relationship between AT’s and PT’s is priceless.
First, let’s take a step back and look at what the AT’s role in healthcare is. There are five domains of athletic training:
- Injury/Illness Prevention and Wellness Protection
- Clinical Evaluation and Diagnosis
- Immediate and Emergency Care
- Treatment and Rehabilitation
- Organizational and Professional Health and Well-being
Regardless of the setting or level of competition in which an athletic trainer works, they must take on many roles, many of them similar to ours as future physical therapists. Coupled with the rigors of an athletics schedule, hordes of athletes needing care, and almost no days off, the athletic trainer must efficiently manage their time and resources. Though athletic trainers are effective rehab clinicians, time may be limited to ensure every athlete completes their rehab, which is where a good relationship with a physical therapist may be beneficial. PT’s can devote their full attention to rehabilitation and prevention of future injury.
In physical therapy, we too face issues of time management and prioritizing care. It may be difficult to treat all the necessary body systems and impairments in a one hour session, especially if the sessions must be spread out over a longer period of time. The ability to emphasize functional and sport-specific training may be limited by the number of visits a patient’s insurance will cover. Talk to your patient about their athletic trainer. Reach out to the AT to find ways in which they can supplement your PT sessions, and ensure that the patient is completing their exercises with appropriate frequency and technique. In addition, many athletic trainers have access to better equipment and space than what is available in some PT gyms, thus allowing them to focus on functional and sport-specific training to ensure appropriate return to sport. AT’s see their athletes almost daily, and are able to closely monitor their physical and mental well-being. This advantage can be extended to the physical therapist who forms a good relationship with athletic trainers. In short, both professions have strengths and weaknesses; by forming a collaborative effort, the weaknesses become significantly diminished. The athlete’s safe return to sport can be greatly expedited while ensuring the best outcomes.
-Joseph Dietrich, SPT, ATC