By Christine Whitmarsh, RN, BSN
Burns are one of the most traumatic injuries the human body can endure. Multiple body systems are simultaneously involved and, depending on the severity, burns can appear deceivingly non-threatening while doing most of their dirty work beneath the damaged skin. Damaged blood vessels dilate causing inflammation and edema are typically listed among many other life threatening problems. Once the patient is stabilized and undergoes graft surgery, the rehabilitation work begins.
Following surgery, the possibility of webbing between fingers and toes along with the presence of scar tissue and its potential to prevent debilitating contractures, especially in joints, requires the skilled touch of a physical therapist. Patients with the most severe (third and fourth degree) burns are the ones who most often require intensive physical therapy (often called “physiotherapy” for those traveling physical therapist considering assignments in English speaking countries overseas). If not prevented through rehabilitation, skin, joint, muscle, tendon and ligament contractures can have a devastating effect on a burn patient’s life. Rigid, contracted limbs can easily become the end of mobility and independence for patients.
Speech therapists and speech language pathologists are also an integral part of the burn patient’s treatment team in the case of smoke inhalation injuries. Occupational therapists have a vital role in helping burn patients relearn activities of daily living.
Traveling physical therapists, travel occupational therapists and travel speech therapists all have the opportunity to have a positive and permanent effect on the lives of burn patients around the world. With the average rehabilitation time for serious burns being 18 months to two years, there are undoubtedly many opportunities for assignments in this area of patient care.
Christine Whitmarsh is a Registered Nurse with a BSN from the University of Rhode Island. She is a freelance health journalist and medical writer and a contributor to Travel Nurse Source and Allied Travel Careers.