When setting up a patient's schedule after doing an evaluation, there is typically a preference from both the therapist and patients for continuity. But in a modern physical therapy clinic, it is difficult and rare to meet this demand. Many patients either want to come in before or after work, leading to a backlog of patient requests for those time slots. With working in a clinic with multiple therapists, patients often end up having several treatment sessions with other therapists. This can be frustrating for several reasons. When evaluating a patient, we set up a plan of care on paper and in our minds for how to manage that patient's condition. Maybe we have particular manual therapy techniques or exercises we want performed in particular sessions. It's possible, and likely, that other therapists may not know what you are looking for with specific exercises or even how to perform certain manual techniques. When treating someone else's patient, we become hesitant to adjust any treatments the patient might receive out of fear of altering the main therapist's plan of care, having the patient lose faith in the main therapist, or at worst possibly regress a patient!
That being said, there are definitely benefits to having multiple therapists treat a patient occasionally. As thorough as we like to think we are with our evaluations, it is not impossible for there to be something that we missed. Whether we just weren't thorough enough with our assessment or we lack the experience and skill to pick up an essential impairment, a second set of eyes can be extremely beneficial. That ties right in to the benefit of various backgrounds for treatment. Perhaps you are aware of a treatment method that would be extremely useful for a patient, but you don't actually know how to do it. With all the continuing education courses available and various schools for physical therapy, it is possible that other clinicians in your setting may have those skills. I am fortunate to work in a clinic with 3 other therapists, all with different backgrounds. I have already been utilizing their unique skill-set in my 2 months of working there.
So which is better? As in most cases, a little bit of both can be preferable. Personally, I think a consistent relationship between one physical therapist and one patient is the better option and cannot be underestimated. The trust developed between the PT and the patient may alone enhance the patient's experience. It is also far easier to maintain the original plan of care that was set in place. However, when we do notice lack of progress in our patients and run out of answers, it is definitely beneficial having another physical therapist work on and assess the patient. In the end, patient outcomes are what is most important, and we likely will not always have the answer. That second set of eyes may be just what is necessary to reach the remaining goals.
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