Technical Communication in Home Therapy



Erin Easterling: Home Therapist

Erin Easterling is a certified physical therapist from West Monroe, Louisiana. She now works for Amedysis Home Health organization in Gonzales, Louisiana. As a home health therapist, she travels to patients’ houses to perform therapy so they are better equipped to carry out every-day life skills. She works mostly with disabled and elderly people who cannot physically leave their home.

The Path to Physical Therapy

When Erin was pursuing her bachelor’s degree in science, she was unsure of what career she wanted to pursue but was very interested in the medical field. Erin began volunteering in a hospital and decided that physical therapy was her calling. As a volunteer in this hospital, Erin learned one of the most important skills in the medical field- communication.

The Art of Communication

Erin says that communication is the hardest part of her job. There are many different methods Erin uses to communicate with doctors, other physical therapists and coworkers, and patients. If communication is not effective on all sides of the treatment for patients, insurance companies may not pay for the service. This makes the need for effective communication skills absolutely imperative as a therapist.

Oral Communication

Oral communication skills are vital in physical therapists’ relationship with their patients. A therapist has to translate medical terms from doctors into tangible ideas for patients. Erin sometimes finds it easier to talk to doctors than to her patients because it is so difficult to “dumb down” her usual speech.

In order to connect with her patients, Erin uses many different methods. She draws pictures for her patients to show anatomy and sometimes finds pictures from internet sources to explain how to do certain exercises.

Cross-Cultural Communication

Some of Erin’s patients do not speak English well, so she has resorted to a translating app. This allows the patient and Erin to communicate by texting back and forth on a device.

Technical Communication

While oral communication works well for therapist-patient interaction, it is not always convenient and effective for communication between doctors, therapists, and insurance companies. Therefore, Erin results to emails and texts when circumstances are not as professional, but sometimes official paperwork must be done.

According to Erin, home health has more paperwork than any other job she has ever had. Regulations in home health are so strict that paperwork becomes a task in itself. The therapists have to fill out detailed patient reports, look at insurance reports, and receive official documented orders from doctors.

Technical Communication Development

While we still call this “paperwork,” the documents are not on paper at all. Instead, they are on an iPad that Erin is allowed to carry with her. When she was in the hospital environment only ten years ago, everything was written on paper and stored in physical files. Now, technology has made it convenient to store all information on patients in a digital file.

Erin feels like this is more convenient because she can type faster than she can write, and technology has a convenience factor to it, but there is one downfall. Sometimes, computers and iPads do not work, and Erin is handicapped from her own work.

Not everyone in her field is as satisfied with using technology in the workplace as Erin. Some older therapists only liked the “old-fashioned” way, and some elderly patients do not appreciate their therapists seeming like they are constantly playing games and typing on a device.

Personal Technical Communication Development

When asked if she feels like an effective technical communicator, Erin said that she is still learning, and she always will be. She is figuring out how different software works and where she can take shortcuts to make things easier on herself.

One of Erin’s final comments on technical communication is an idea that we may all need to hear:

“We have to keep developing our technical communication skills as technology keeps developing, or else we’ll get behind and never catch up.”

Sarah Minter, Guest Blogger


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