The Importance of Rehab in Recovery

Joe GallagherJoe Gallagher began at VNSNY in 2003 as a physical therapist in Queens, and also served as a rehab instructor before becoming Director of Clinical Operations Support.  In his current position, Joe’s responsibilities include supervising the rehabilitation clinical support managers in VNSNY’s regional offices. Here, he talks about the role rehabilitation therapists play in their patients’ recovery.

How would you describe the different roles of physical therapists and occupational therapists in home rehab?

Physical therapists, or PTs, work on improving a patient’s major motor function—things like walking, stair-climbing, and balance. Occupational therapists, or OTs, address the practical functions involved with activities of daily living. They may help a neurological patient learn to control their arm or leg after a stroke so they can dress themselves, or show a hip replacement patient how to use a long-handled bath brush, or work with a cardiac patient on conserving energy so they can prepare a meal without getting fatigued. They’ll also teach patients how to compensate for cognitive or visual deficits. Our OTs basically help patients learn to survive in their home environment, which is essential to home care rehabilitation and aging in place.

What do you think draws rehabilitation therapists to work in home care?

Providing rehab therapy in a home setting offers a unique chance to work one-on-one and focus your complete attention on a single patient. You’re totally present with the patient and truly able to provide quality care. In home care, you also quickly develop strong bonds with your patients. They understand how focused you are on them, and feel they have a real stake in the therapy. That’s especially true with OT, where you’re so involved with a person’s daily life. Another thing all therapists love about doing therapy in a home setting is that you get to work with a patient’s actual living environment, instead of having to recreate it in a clinic.

What kind of specialized training do VNSNY’s therapists receive?

We pride ourselves on providing our new recruits with the best training in the home care field. They go through a two-week curriculum that covers all the clinical nuances of home-based therapy as well as home care regulations and documentation. We also added a new element a few years ago, in which senior therapists for PT, OT, and speech therapy now participate in the orientation process as mentors. After the classroom component is done, each new therapist shadows a senior therapist for a number of field visits, then they’ll switch off and the senior therapist will shadow them for a time, offering practical guidance and support. It’s been a great addition.

How has home-based rehabilitation therapy evolved in recent years?

The biggest change is that home care, including its rehab therapy component, has become an increasingly important part of the continuum of care. Today, everyone involved in patient care—including hospital staff, physicians, discharge planners, and care coordinators—understands that home care is the essential bridge from the hospital to the community, and that we play a vital role in helping to make the patient’s journey more successful. As a result of this, our partnerships with other care providers are now more close-knit than ever. It also helps that we have a really strong group of clinicians across all the therapeutic disciplines. VNSNY’s home care therapists are the best around, without a doubt—and we’re fortunate to be serving patients in the greatest city there is.