A backup plan for physical therapy during planned leave a necessity

Ensuring a smooth transition is extremely important for continuity of care

Emily Jones avatar

by Emily Jones |

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A group of people surround one man in a wheelchair, all are wearing birthday hats and smiling.

Michael Morales poses on his birthday with the physical therapy team he works with. (Photo courtesy of Michael Morale)

Prior to any planned break, a therapist should have a plan for their patients while they are gone, who will work with them, and coordinate with the new therapist to ensure all of the patient’s information is passed along correctly. This is especially true for a patient like Michael, who has spinal muscular atrophy.

With this neurological condition, everyone presents differently and has different goals. When I was preparing for leave, I met with another therapist several times to discuss Michael and his care.

Thankfully, the therapist who took over Michael’s case had worked with him in the past and had known him for several years. She is a fantastic therapist and was open to listening to Michael and me to ensure she knew where we were with treatment and our current goals. She was able to work with me for a few visits so she could see firsthand how we performed his transfer, stretches, and other activities.

Our talented massage therapist, who works with us every other week, stayed in her same routine of working with him. That has been helpful as she was able to assist in transferring him from his chair to the table so she would have time to practice and learn with me there before the new therapist took over.

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A doctor shakes hands with a patient, who is giving a thumbs up. The two are also talking.

Specific medical concerns can require a referral to specialist

A bonus of Michael switching to a different therapist while I am out is having fresh eyes on him. It is helpful to have a different point of view working with Michael and talking with him to possibly think of different activities to further his independence and comfort. At our clinic, we thrive on leaning on each other and discussing an outside view to advance our patient’s progress.

If we are being honest, when working with the same person for several years, it’s easy to get stuck in a rut of performing the same activities because you know what improves their comfort. It is helpful to listen to outside words and hear what another therapist might try for that patient to further them.

Being out on leave, I can be comfortable and confident Michael is in the best hands and thriving. With the preparation that took place, Michael and I are comfortable with his treatments while I am out. We know he is safe and in great hands. He is comfortable speaking with both the physical therapist and massage therapist about his goals and discomforts to ensure his treatments are personalized for what he is dealing with that week.

Patient perspective

While my physical therapist Emily is taking a leave of absence until August, I’m working with another physical therapist, whose name is also Emily. I’ve known both Emilys for more than seven years, and have worked with each. While original Emily (I have to distinguish them somehow, haha) is out on leave, backup Emily is a great substitute.

One of the great things about having a team of therapists is knowing when one is out for a while, others can step in and take over. This is one of the things I love most about working with this group of therapists. They all know my wants and needs, and all of them are capable of helping me achieve my physical therapy goals. Am I lucky? The answer is YES. Am I blessed? ABSOLUTELY!!