The Monday Memo
October 31, 2016 PITT DPT STUDENTS
Physical Therapists as First Contact Practitioners
One idea continuously stressed to our class is the importance of becoming a proficient first-contact practitioner. The transition to programs offering only a DPT degree provides us with the ability and responsibility to carry out this vision. I was aware of our profession’s fight for this status before beginning my SHRS studies, but the push by the faculty and their collective belief in this idea has fundamentally changed my view. Primarily, I saw myself as a future outpatient therapist and assumed I would know exactly what was wrong with my patients before they walked in the door leading me to take a fairly direct treatment approach.
Myself and the rest of my fellow first years are currently at the halfway point of our first clinical rotation. I’m working in a tertiary acute care hospital shadowing a senior acute care therapist and it became increasingly clear why my professors have been so adamant about taking our first-contact practitioner status seriously. The acute care therapist makes critical decisions relating to the future care of their patients. We are called upon to provide a recommendation on the patient’s continued plan of care. Are they appropriate for PT, OT, or Cardiopulmonary Rehab? Where should they go once they’re stable enough to leave the hospital? Our expertise in musculoskeletal and nervous system function provides us the unique ability to identify where a patient is functionally and direct their plan of care accordingly.
Does this also hold true for the outpatient setting? My roommate is currently in an outpatient clinic. He had an eval for a “low back pain” patient, a fairly common outpatient profile. During his examination, he uncovered a few “red flags” that the doctors had overlooked. He recommended the patient return to his MD for follow-up, where it was discovered that the patient was exhibiting early symptoms of multiple sclerosis.
It’s stories like this one that really highlight the importance of our profession and the diagnostic abilities that the University of Pittsburgh is providing us. It’s no longer the sole responsibility of the physicians to identify signs and symptoms of serious pathological disorders. Our profession is gaining more and more responsibility and it’s up to us, the next generation of physical therapists, to show that we can handle it!
-Charlie Badawy, Class of 2019
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