Exercise techs: Use them or lose them

Working at a physical therapy clinic, there are several people that have to come together to make the business work. Front desk admins, billing department, marketing department, clinic managers, physical therapists; they all play a key role in creating an efficient product every day. There is one other group off of that list, however; and those are the exercise techs.

As a physical therapist, you have the fortunate ability to change a person’s physical well-being almost every day. Unfortunately, those times are usually limited to a 30-45 minute window, or however your clinic dictates scheduling blocks. As much as we all would love to have unlimited time with each patient at every session, it is simply not the reality of the situation. Herein enters the exercise techs. They are the ever-so-vital bridge of continuing care (under your discretion and supervision, of course.) Therefore, because of that important transition, a healthy and confident relationship needs to be established, and it needs to be established as early as possible.

Exercise techs’ duties vary widely from clinic to clinic, but ultimately it comes down to one thing: helping a patient to facilitate the gains they just made from the hands of the treating therapist. In order to do this appropriately, the education needs to be emphasized in such a way that the tech feels comfortable in what they are teaching. Nothing is worse than trying to teach something to someone else when you do not have a grasp of it yourself. Therefore, it would be beneficial to all parties if you take a small amount of time out of the day and review with the tech(s) just what you are looking to accomplish that day. One simple practice is to gather the flow-sheet of exercises for the upcoming patients of the day, and mark off 2-3 exercises that you know the patient would benefit from prior to the start of therapy. As it happens, running into the next time slot with your current patient can occur, as you are always trying to get the most out of that treatment. In order to manage that patient transition and not have the upcoming patient feel like they are getting shammed on their treatment time, having the tech instantly starting them on exercises is a great way to give you that 5 minute cushion you may need to transition. Then, once you are ready to tag the tech out and get going with the new patient, the tech knows exactly what he needs to do with the patient you had just been working on, since those exercises were already marked off earlier in the day.

Another important component to this relationship is the ability to be comfortable with the tech, and vice versa, to have a completely open communication line regarding the patient and the exercises. If the tech begins to observe something that the patient is doing incorrectly with an exercise, such as an unnecessary compensatory movement, it should be noted and communicated to the treating therapist. On the contrary, if you as a therapist are observing from across the room something that you wish to be changed, having that relationship with the tech can make it happen that much faster. Whether it be a subtle communication tactic, or simply calling the tech over to you, it needs to be quick and efficient.

Ultimately, the onus is on the treating therapist to ensure the patient is adequately supported in their exercises both in the clinic as well as with their HEP. Utilizing a very strong relationship with your tech(s), however, only helps to make this happen much faster. By creating this relationship early on when you first begin to meet the tech, taking the proper steps daily before the work day starts, and creating an open line of communication, you will be well on your way to utilizing the techs at your clinic to the fullest.

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