April 16 was Destiny McDonald’s favorite day of the year – NIU Cares Day. McDonald…
Students in NIU’s Doctor of Physical Therapy program are getting ready to stretch out into the community.
As physical therapy transitions to direct access – as it has in several states – people will be able to seek physical therapy without a doctor’s referral. With direct access, physical therapists will be able to evaluate patients and take an increased role in primary care, health promotion and wellness, explains Prisca Collins, assistant professor of physical therapy at NIU.
“Physical therapists are working to establish ourselves as experts in movement,” said Collins.
Since community outreach is a component of wellness, physical therapists need to know how to implement education programs. NIU’s first year PT students are doing this already.
In order to prepare NIU’s physical therapy students to implement outreach programs, students are conducting needs assessments in the community, then designing and delivering programs around those needs.
During the spring semester student groups of five or six have conducted projects including teaching fall prevention at a nursing home; proper posture and core exercises at a high school gym class; hip injury prevention to a pom pon team; dancing for youth with cognitive challenges; and safe lifting and driving to delivery truck drivers.
“The goal for programs like these is to promote community service and wellness,” said M.J. Blaschak, DPT program coordinator and associate professor. Through outreach programs, along with NIU’s Wellness Center, students are able to get great experience providing services to the community, Blaschak added.
Blaschak was on hand recently to evaluate a project first year DPT students Olivia Caron, Katie Dixon, Samantha Kasper, Wallace Luyten and Jolissa Ohrt presented to first responders at the Shabbona Fire Department.
“Shabonna Fire Department was selected because it presented the opportunity to talk about back injuries, body mechanics and lifting,” said Kasper.
First responders face extra challenges when it comes to injury prevention, she explained.
“Timing is a factor. You don’t think about yourself when you are in a rescue situation. We are here to help (responders) realize they have to help themselves first to help others,” Kasper said.
It’s about longevity on the job as well, explained Luyten. The team’s research prior to developing the program revealed one in four emergency management system workers have to leave their job due to a back injury for four weeks or more. This is due to factors such as excessive force, and repetitive and improper lifting.
“We wanted to show the positive effects of physical therapy and injury prevention,” Luyten said.
Students gave first responders tips on proper standing, lifting and carrying. They used a CPR doll demonstrate techniques for moving patients in an emergency situation. The first responders also conducted a scenario, recreating a response for an 80-year-old, conscious male who had fallen but couldn’t get up. The students observed as the responders stabilized the patient and transported him to the ambulance. Throughout the scenario, they gave advice and reminders on proper lifting.
Before developing their program, the students asked the Shabonna first responders a series of questions. The answers revealed the majority of first responders didn’t perform daily stretching. Students demonstrated a series of simple stretches that don’t require a lot of time but can help prevent injuries.
Shabonna Assistant Chief Jon Ritter said the program was helpful.
“I was a great reminder of how to properly lift. And the stretching exercises were particularly useful, as I, and most of the team, don’t stretch each day,” Ritter said.