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Interested in starting a PT program in your ED?
Take these initial steps to improve your chances of success
Analyze the types of patients who typically come through your doors. Most EDs see a significant percentage of patients with musculoskeletal issues, which is an area of expertise for PTs, but check what the patterns are in your department, and determine what hours of the day are optimal for PT coverage.
Currently, there are no formal training programs to prepare PTs to work in an emergency setting, so determine how you intend to equip PTs with the knowledge and experience to contribute to emergency care and enhance the patient experience.
Arm yourself with knowledge about the unique skill sets that PTs can bring to an ED, and use this knowledge to educate administrators and physicians about the potential benefits that PTs can offer. Constant outreach is essential to making a PT program useful and effective.
Once you establish a PT program in the ED, make sure the coverage is consistent and reliable. Otherwise, clinicians are unlikely to make a habit out of calling PTs in on cases in which they can contribute to care.
When considering candidates to serve as PTs in the ED, look for flexibility and an ability to make quick decisions in a fast-paced setting. Most PTs are accustomed to predictable schedules, but that is not how it works in the ED, where they may see as many as 20 patients one day and as few as three the next.
Michael Lebec, PT, PhD, Assistant Professor of Physical Therapy at Northern Arizona University in Flagstaff. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org.