As a doctor who has cared for countless critically ill patients, I cannot stress enough how important therapists are for patient recovery. Whether it’s occupational, physical, or speech therapists, these health care professionals play an integral role in helping patients regain their abilities and quality of life after an illness or injury.
In my experience, occupational therapists are especially crucial for patients who have experienced loss of motor function from a stroke, for example. These therapists help patients relearn essential everyday tasks like bathing, dressing, and eating. They also work with patients to develop cognitive and problem-solving skills to help them live independently.
Physical therapists are equally important for patients who have experienced a traumatic injury or surgery. These therapists help patients regain their strength, balance, and flexibility. They also help patients learn to walk again or use assistive devices like wheelchairs, crutches, or prosthetics.
Speech therapists are essential for patients who have experienced vocal cord damage or other communication disorders. These therapists work with patients to regain their speech and language abilities. They also assist with swallowing issues and help patients learn new ways to communicate.
Overall, therapists’ roles are multidimensional and require deep expertise and collaboration with medical teams. So many patients have been able to progress towards their next steps in rehabilitation or to discharge from the hospital with these rehabilitative needs. It is essential to recognize that therapists are not merely a cog in the health care system but an integral part of the recovery process. They provide hope and care for patients who are struggling with physical, cognitive, or communication issues.
But, in my experience, therapists are often underappreciated for their tireless work for patients. Patients and medical professionals alike should recognize the tremendous effort therapy requires on top of the medical diagnosis and treatments. Therapists must develop personalized treatment plans and practice patience and empathy with each patient, ultimately providing a more positive outcome for patients.
Therapists don’t just work within the hospital setting, either — they assist with outpatient care for long-term recovery. For instance, a patient came into the hospital after a minor stroke with significant right-hand weakness. After a series of occupational therapy sessions, the patient was discharged with an at-home therapy regimen that ultimately allowed her to regain much of her right-hand movement. Thanks to the occupational therapist’s constant attention and targeted therapy plan, the patient could progress in such a positive direction.
Additionally, therapists frequently communicate with their patients’ families, providing them with updates about their loved ones’ recovery process. I have seen, time and time again, how therapists become empathetic advocates for their patients and their families, building strong relationships and achieving positive outcomes.
In today’s health care system, patients benefit from integrated medical care and rehabilitation for optimal outcomes. Occupational, physical, and speech therapists are essential components of U.S. hospitals and undeniably positively impact patients’ healing journeys. It’s time to show appreciation and give credit to the therapists who do so much behind the scenes to help patients recover and thrive.
Ton La, Jr. is a physician and can be reached on LinkedIn.