COVID-19 and Physical Therapy
Posted on 10/7/2020
Up until a few months ago, my life as a physical therapist was pretty normal. I went to work, did my job, helped my patients and team to the best of my ability and went back home. At the time I was working in a critical illness recovery hospital with some of the sickest patients in my geographic area, people recovering from major trauma and significant illnesses. I was part of a great team, but it was heavy work. I felt myself becoming burnt out and struggling to do my best work. I have done hospital-based and outpatient work throughout my career, so I began to think that a transfer to Select Medical’s Outpatient Division might be my next move.
Fast forward a few months and interviews later and I accepted a site supervisor position at an outpatient center. About a month into my new role, COVID-19 wreaks havoc on the world. It was a daily pivot in terms of center operations and managing a team during a global crisis. I was also in a really unique position because I had spent almost 10 years working in critical illness, learning about cardiopulmonary physical therapy, infectious diseases and protective equipment. I felt confident I could lead my team effectively with the best information I had. As we started to move through the pandemic, our greater area was looking for someone to help lead a developing COVID-19 recovery program and I felt uniquely qualified.
Select Medical’s clinical team had put together a top-notch Recovery and Reconditioning Program for those compromised by a variety of acute and chronic conditions, such as after-effects of the flu and cardiovascular disease. Developed in partnership with leading physicians, including physiatrists and infectious disease specialists, the program focuses on identifying key areas of deconditioning and weakness in patients. Select Medical’s licensed physical and occupational therapist are specially trained in the program, with each clinician having access to the most up-to-date COVID-19 information, best practices and safety precautions.
Physical, occupational and speech therapy is critical in helping COVID-19 survivors get back to their lives and jobs. This virus can be extremely debilitating on its own, and even worse when combined with the effects of limited mobility during hospitalizations, prolonged mechanical ventilation or additional medical complications. As physical rehabilitation professionals, we are uniquely qualified to work with these patients to:
- Increase mobility, balance and stability
- Decrease pain, soreness and general fatigue
- Improve range of motion and breathing capability
- Address cognitive impairments, dizziness and weakness
- Ensure a safe recovery to activities of daily living
Our clinical team believes firmly in safety first and have put out guidelines for monitoring patients to ensure we are exercising them hard enough to make progress, but not overstress their systems. We are also educating these survivors on how to monitor themselves during home exercises or simple household activities like cleaning and chores.
While this global pandemic has had a lot of challenges and negative aspects, when I really step back and look at the whole picture I am impressed with how we positioned ourselves. Every day, we are committed to putting patients first, keeping patients and clinicians safe and assisting those who have survived COVID-19 back to their highest quality of life. That’s something to be proud of, and we look forward to helping more and more heal through our Recovery and Reconditioning Program.
By: Erica R. Noel, P.T., MSPT. Erica is a physical therapist with Banner Physical Therapy in Phoenix, AZ. Banner and NovaCare are part of the Select Medical Outpatient Division family of brands.