If you’ve ever been in a serious accident or traumatic event leaving you with one or multiple injuries, you’ve probably met the rehab doctors a few times. Physical medicine and rehabilitation (PM&R, also called physiatry) is a branch of medicine geared towards helping people heal and adapt to new circumstances after their diagnosis using medications and rehab.
Here, I want to share three ways a physiatrist can be your advocate after an injury.
1. A physiatrist’s number one goal is to maximize a person’s quality of life through health, function, and well-being. A physiatrist works with a patient and their therapists to understand what their level of function was before the injury, and what can be done now and in the future to help the patient achieve their personal goals whether that is becoming more independent with everyday tasks, getting stronger, returning to work, or coming back home to friends and family. The primary team consults physiatry for injuries such as strokes, trauma to the head causing brain injury, injury to the spine or extremities, and many other conditions. If you’ve suffered from an injury, ask your doctor if being seen by PM&R will help you.
2. In a hospital setting, a physiatrist will help you to the next step after discharge. The options? One is inpatient rehabilitation at a different facility where you stay for around two weeks to participate in rehab (PT, OT, and/or speech) for ~3 hours a day before returning home. Another is a skilled nursing facility (SNF) where you will receive post-acute care along with therapy every day as tolerated; sometimes, going to a SNF is a bridge to get better medically before being able to handle the rigors of inpatient rehab. For some, going home is an option. Ultimately, if going to inpatient rehab or a SNF is indicated, the physiatrist will search high and low with the help of the case manager and social work for funding because funding is often the main barrier to access to care.
3. Well after being discharged from the hospital, you often will see a physiatrist on an outpatient basis for a variety of reasons: pain control management, checking out your equipment (walker, wheelchair, orthotic, prosthetic, etc.) and if there needs to be a tune-up, switch out for something better, or recommendation to not use it anymore because you’ve made a ton of improvement, or most often just seeing how you are doing months to even years post-injury and if your physiatrist can prescribe outpatient therapy if it would be beneficial to you. Physiatry is one of those fields where there’s a focus on the days and weeks after an injury and the months and years after.
Overall, your physiatrist is your advocate from day 1 and can help you navigate the murky waters that often follow a severe injury.
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