Physical Therapy With An SMA Patient During The COVID-19 Pandemic

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by Emily Jones |

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With the pandemic occurring around us, there have been many changes for everyone in everyday life. Physical Therapy is an essential medical practice and has stayed open during this pandemic, but there have been changes made to protect us and our patients. We have patients, such as Michael, our patient with SMA, that have compromised immune systems, that still need to maintain their physical therapy appointments.

While Michael is in our clinic, we make sure that he is either the only patient there or that there are only one or two other people in the clinic, and that they are on the other side of the gym, ensuring well over six feet between him and any other patient. While it may be impossible to keep six feet between us, as his therapist, and him, we make sure there is no other contact while he is in our clinic. Even with patients that do not have compromised immune systems, we still maintain six feet between them and any other patients. We wear masks over our mouth and nose to maintain a barrier of protection, even when we cannot be six feet apart. We have maintained our hand washing practice, which is washing and/or using hand sanitizer before and after contact with each patient and/or equipment.

Even though we have always cleaned very deeply in our clinic, we have spread out our patients appointments so that we can ensure that we clean any surface that is touched by any person before anyone else makes contact with that surface, such as all gym equipment, door handles, light switches, and patient storage areas. We have also ensured that in our waiting area, the chairs are spread out at least six feet apart, and that the waiting room is for patients only, to decrease exposure to us and our patients.

Another action we have taken is to have each patient fill out a screening paper asking specific questions from the CDC website prior to each visit, to ensure they do not have any symptoms, haven’t been anywhere in the past two weeks that has been classified as a disaster zone or around anyone who has shown any symptoms. We also have each patient wash their hands for at least twenty seconds before and after treatment, and we also have hand sanitizer set up throughout the clinic.

For patients who do have suppressed immune systems or simply do not want to come into the clinic, we are now set up for telehealth visits. These are done through the computer with audio and visual to ensure we can hear and see the patient. This works for most patients who have access to a computer and internet, and can perform their therapy without any hands on therapy, but this isn’t possible for each patient, such as Michael, secondary to his treatment requiring full hands on.

It is important during this time of isolation to be there for our patients in any way we can. By keeping Michael’s appointments at a regular time on the same day each week, it not only helps to maintain a regular schedule for his stretching and exercises, it also helps to maintain mental stability, knowing that he will be able to come into therapy and get out of his house every week.

We are doing everything we can to ensure we are maintaining a safe environment for us and our patients during this time, while we maintain a good quality of care for everyone. We will continue to keep our doors open and comply with CDC guidelines throughout this time, and do all we can to ensure the safety of our patients.

========================  Patient Perspective  ========================

The COVID-19 (coronavirus) pandemic has caused those of us living in the US, along with everyone else in the world, to rethink not only what’s important in our life, it’s forced us to think about others, along with their safety and well-being. Since my physical therapy is considered essential medical, I had to make the choice as to whether or not I felt safe enough to continue with my physical therapy in an outpatient clinical setting.

Over the course of the past 3 years, I’ve grown to trust Emily and Laura with my life. Having physical therapists work with me to help me achieve my goals, meant that I had to allow myself to trust others in a way that I would’ve never imagined. This level of trust was not necessarily me trusting them, as much as it was for me trusting myself to allow others to help me do things that I would not be able to do for myself. These past 3 years have taught me that I can trust Emily and Laura to not only keep me safe from a physical therapy standpoint, but they can also keep me safe from a health standpoint. While I isolate myself as much as possible to stay away from others who could be potential carriers of the coronavirus, I think the risk is worth continuing with my physical therapy, and the safety measures that Emily and Laura have put into place in their outpatient clinic, makes me feel that the risk is definitely worth the reward.

I go to physical therapy for not only my workouts, I go to see smiling faces. With all of them wearing surgical masks, it just didn’t seem the same, so even though it felt somewhat odd not to be able to see them smile, I knew that they were still safe and healthy.

I want to personally thank Emily and Laura, along with all of the other physical therapists, doctors, nurses, first responders and medical personnel, for doing what they do best during the COVID-19 pandemic. Your dedication and commitment to your jobs, help those of us who would otherwise not be able to help ourselves.