It is no secret that Covid-19 has changed the entire world forever. Like any other health care profession, physical therapists are no exceptions. Throughout the phase of coronavirus, physical therapists have played a major role in minimizing strain on the health care sector by keeping their patients out of the emergency rooms. The health care sector has been changed forever because of coronavirus. The societal breakdown has forced the pace of change in this sector. Physical therapists are now asked to make changes in their practice to see less patients which is not at all negative as it has given an opportunity to improve the performance of health care and physical therapy services for many patients.
According to the United States Department of Labor, the employment of physical therapists is more likely to increase, as compared to other occupations by 2026. As reported by the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) “Demand from physical therapy will come from the aging baby boomers who are not staying active in life but are more susceptible to health conditions that may require physical therapy.” In accordance with the recent trends in the physical therapist personnel, the scarcity of physical therapists could potentially extend over 26,000 in the United States by 2025. This estimated number is more than any other elementary care disciplines identified by the National Health Service Corps (NHSC).
BLS points out that many physical therapists reside in metropolitan localities causing uneven distribution of physical therapists all over the nation. The inclusion of physical therapists in the NHSC Loan Repayment Program will assure that non-pharmacological services and rehabilitation programs are provided to less-favored areas.
It has become essential to find localities that have suffered the most by the national scarcity of physical therapists. Different platforms should be provided, where people can share their concerns regarding the difficulties in finding physical therapy services in the poorly served areas of the country. Such platforms play a great role in helping communities.
Role of PT in Covid 19 pandemic
Physical therapists operate in different ways and go through various obstacles while dealing with such plagues. All of these ways help in minimizing the workload in emergency departments. This minimization is beneficial since emergency departments have direct contact with patients who are infected. This places all working in the emergency department vulnerable to the transmissions of this contagious illness.
These medical personnel are mostly first contact practitioners, which indicates that they are responsible to take charge for the timely identification of this contagious illness and that can handle workload through different settings. However, the fact should be considered that these physical therapists play a vital role in the health care sectors and there are a lot of people whose health can be greatly affected by disturbances related to care.
The patients who are healing from this infectious disease after intensive care unit (ICU) will encounter at least one of the problems related to post-intensive care syndrome, which is often known as PICS. As stated in a fact sheet provided by the American Thoracic Society, this syndrome can manifest as difficulties with mental health, physical health and cognition problems. According to Dr. Patricia Ohtake, who is a physician therapist and an associate professor in the Department of Rehabilitation Science at the University at Buffalo’s School of Public Health and Health Professions, “Post-intensive care syndrome is comparatively unidentified problem, despite knowing that it adversely affects to maximum people who are under treatment in an ICU.” Through extensive research, she found that physical therapy can play a major role in helping the recovery process of patients with Covid-19 during the recovery process.
Post-acute Covid-19 Recovery
There are mild to severe symptoms related to Covid-19, in which nearly 80% of the cases affect the upper respiratory system. Following recovery in a hospital, survivors of Covid-19are asked to leave the hospital. These patients are still healing at home and may have a compromised lifestyle and may face other long-term effects, such as experiencing weakness and exhaustion, low blood oxygen and mild pain in the body. Moreover, research implies that these patients still have a major risk in near future for illnesses, such as kidney problems or heart stroke.
Patients, who are hospitalized, are provided with insufficient therapy services due to the main objective being to discharge as soon as possible. Even after getting discharged, survivors of Covid-19 need various skilled services related to exhaustion and decrease in stamina, loss of muscle mass, pain and depression. These patients can receive necessary treatment through subacute care, home health services or a skilled nursing facility. While a patient is undergoing treatment post-acute, different healing programs and exercises are arranged based on the needs of each patient. In addition to this, these patients are provided with the necessary professionals to help return to work and social activities. Telemedicine services can be provided to help people in maintaining social distance and avoid further risk.
A lot of people are of the opinion that doctors and nurses are the first health professionals, when it comes to the treatment of Covid-19. Dr. Ohtake, along with her joint authors, have emphasized the significant role a therapist can play in treatments. Physiotherapists are responsible for sharing knowledge on avoiding transmission of Covid-19. This can be done in hospitals or through digital mediums. Physiotherapists should be proactive in offering services related to nutrition and mental health.
Considering the frequency of the physical disabilities during and after the virus, many patients can benefit from the guidance of a physical therapist. Inadequate information about the role of physical therapist can cause insufficient rehabilitation services during the recovery process.
Physical therapist shortages due to the continuous development of supply versus demand must be fixed. It is essential to provide physical therapy services to society by increasing awareness among the legislative bodies about the significance of physical therapy and the problems to access it in the poorly served areas. The role of physical therapists in fighting this pandemic won’t conclude with just helping patients recover. Now, physical therapists all over the world are treating patients, who have recovered from this plague, and are involved in their rehabilitation.