By Christine Whitmarsh, RN, BSN
As the population ages and requires more complex rehabilitation therapy, the services offered by long term care facilities are moving forward with the times. For example, the roles of physical therapists, occupational therapists, speech language pathologists and their travel therapy counterparts are expanding in nursing homes and other extended care facilities. Rehab therapists in these facilities no longer only care for the long term needs of permanent residents. Skilled nursing facilities also offer transitional therapies for residents that often reside there for thirty days or less. Many patients recovering from stroke, head trauma or other serious conditions are now recovering in long term care facilities. This creates another dimension of patient care for the physical therapists, occupational therapists and speech therapists who work in these facilities.
Rehab therapists working in skilled nursing facilities are also seeing their job descriptions expand. In addition to putting their patients through the paces of conventional therapy programs, all areas of therapy are discovering positive therapeutic outcomes in many new areas of treatment. Some of these areas include alternative medicine (or what was once considered “alternative”) such as pilates, yoga, and tai chi (popular especially in the elderly population). Other treatment areas fall under the category of technology like Nintendo Wii, virtual reality that mimics a patient’s home and computer cognitive training programs.
In addition to adding value to the way they treat patients, therapists and their colleagues at these facilities are also taking advantage of advances in technology to make their own jobs more efficient. Electronic documentation, web based case management software and robotic machines that assist with patient transfers, ensuring the health and safety of staff, are also results of technological advancements. As the advancement of trends in long term care facilities mirrors the demand for new traveling therapists, the need for travel physical therapists, traveling occupational therapists and travel speech therapists is expected to continue rising.
* April 2009, McKnight’s Long Term Care News
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.