It took three people to help the 50-year-old stroke patient with Pusher Syndrome sit up in his bed at St. Mary Mercy Livonia Hospital in Michigan. But it wasn’t the physical strength of the three practitioners that came into play—each brought a unique skillset to bear.
“I was with a physical therapist and an occupational therapist during the internship, and they brought their own ideas and logic and help. We wouldn’t have been able to do it if we weren’t working together,” says Hannah Haro, a Doctor of Physical Therapy (DPT) student. “The patient would never have had as much improvement if we didn’t take a team approach.”
Haro helped the patient with balance and alignment, seating him in front of a mirror so he could gauge the location of his midline, and focused on his lower extremities and trunk. The two occupational therapists on the team used games, like throwing bags at a target, to strengthen the patient’s arm and improve his upper body strength.
This experience, during Haro’s first internship, taught her something that more and more health care professionals are recognizing as critical to good care: Teamwork gets the job done better, and collaboration really helps a patient progress.
“Collaborative care honors the diversity that is reflected in the individual expertise each profession brings to care delivery,” emphasized a recent report sponsored by the Interprofessional Education Collaborative. “Cooperation would improve care.”
That was certainly the case for Haro, not only during the Michigan internship, but also while on a trip with other university students in Central America. They traveled to provide physical and occupational therapy to people who live on the outskirts of the Guatemala City Dump, which at 40-acres is one of the largest and most toxic in the region.
The students were split between several clinics, with at least one occupational and a few physical therapists in each. Haro remembers seeing a patient who had suffered a stroke and had a lot of laxity in one shoulder. While Haro took the patient through mobility exercises, an occupational therapist put together slings and showed the patient how to use them.
“That allowed the patient to have better posture and feel less pull on that arm,” she explains. “Our exercises help, but the occupational therapist looks at it from a different angle,” which can improve the overall long-term health of the patient.
“Teamwork is crucial,” she says. “It allows us to give patients the complete circle of care.”