The Role of Communication in Physical Therapy

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Brittney Wheeler, Physical Therapist at Danni Jones Physical Therapy

I took the pleasure of sitting down with Brittney Wheeler, a certified DPT (Doctor of Physical Therapy), and learn more about her and communication within her profession. Physical therapists are health care professionals who specialize in the prevention and treatment of injuries. Physical therapy is a hands-on profession that is centered on effective communication. Brittney graduated from LSUHSC Physical Therapy School in Shreveport, LA in 2014, and she currently works at Danni Jones Physical Therapy & Wellness Clinic in Ruston, LA.

Importance of Communication in The Workplace

Brittney  believes the traits most beneficial  to obtain as a physical therapist are “good communication skills, compassion, the ability to work well with others, and being knowledgeable about skills.”

She says that communication plays a role in every aspect of her job. It is vital to communicate effectively with patients and educate them on their injury. This allows patients to understand what is expected of them throughout therapy. A strong connection with the patient is “one of the most important things,” Brittney stresses, because this bond helps build a stable patient-therapist relationship.

Forms of Communication

Brittney expresses how every form of communication plays a significant role in her career; however, listening to patients and providing verbal feedback is most important to her.

She doesn’t actually do any type of written communication; all of her documentation and paperwork is done online with the use of her laptop. Most of her communication with patients is one-on-one and tangible, but communication with doctors is mainly through phone calls and faxes.

Adaptable Communication

According to Brittney, how formal the technical communication she participates in on a daily basis depends on who she is correlating with. If she is collaborating with her patient she tries to simplify her terms, and put it in a way he or she can easily understand. This is so, because Brittney’s goal as a physical therapist is for her patients to understand the extent of their injury to help them recover as soon as possible.

Whenever she is discussing a patient with another physical therapist, she tends to use “therapy lingo.” Consulting with doctors about their patient’s care is when Brittney tends to be most formal. The doctor must sign off on every patient’s treatment plan; therefore, Brittney takes this type of communication very seriously. Overall, it is a laid-back profession that requires adaptability and good rapport.

Consequences of Ineffective Communication

Brittney explains the consequences of poor communication with patients, stating that it could give patients unrealistic goals, and possibly “make the patient feel as if they are not important.” Brittney reveals that the most difficult part of her job is whenever the patient does not take therapy seriously or refuses to communicate about how they feel with her, because she is unable to heal them. Whenever the patient is understanding and can relate to their injury they are more likely to achieve the benefits of therapy, but without good communication, no one benefits.

A Day in The Life

Brittney describes that she chose this profession because she has always had a desire to help others, and loves associating herself around exercise and health behaviors. Brittney holistically believes that communication is the key to therapy, and is constantly incorporating it in her everyday life.

The different types of communication she does on a daily basis include: initial evaluations, daily notes on patient, progress notes every 10 visits, and discharge summaries. She spends usually 5-8 hours a week working on documentation. According to Brittney, “This job is so much more than writing and documentation. While it is my least favorite part; the enjoyment I receive from my patients over-weighs the time spent documenting.”Her favorite part about her job is building relationships, communicating with a variety of people, and getting the satisfaction of seeing them progress back to their normal lives.

Sydney Guyotte, Guest Blogger

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