According to Samuel Merritt University faculty in the Master of Occupational Therapy (MOT) and Doctor of Physical Therapy (DPT) programs, collaboration between occupational and physical therapists in both the educational and clinical settings ensures high quality and comprehensive care, and contributes to program planning. Collaboration between the various disciplines is important and can make an effective co-treatment team.
"Occupational therapists and physical therapists function in slightly differing roles depending upon whether services are performed in a clinical or educational setting," explains Samuel Merritt University adjunct instructor Robin Wu, OTR/L. "Other than having an extra set of hands, co-treats cut down on overall treatment time and offer patients a more all-inclusive approach to therapy."
Benefits of co-treatment are not just limited to the patients. Jamie Sparrer, DPT student, believes that by working together, PTs and OTs gain a broader perspective on treatment and a better understanding and appreciation of each other's role. "The primary focus for a PT is on mobility, transitional movements, posture, and positioning. For the OT, the main focus is on fine and visual motor, functional communication, positioning, pre-vocational tasks, socialization, play and leisure skills."
Both programs focus on "hands on" therapy that works well for stroke patient Sam Yosiff. He has been coming to the student-run Physical Therapy Neurologic Clinic, located on the SMU campus, for the past three years. "Each student focuses on different parts of my body to help with my recovery rehabilitation," said Yosiff. "I am happy for their time, support, and expertise."
While Deepa Mathew, MOT student, works on Yosiff's right side upper extremities, such as his arm, Sparrer and her DPT partner William Vance focuses on his lower extremity such as his walking, gait, and transfers. And at times there is an overlap, but that is what makes the two disciplines work so well together.
"It was great because activities are never just upper body and lower body, so when you're going to PT and focusing on just the lower body, you're not engaging the upper body; likewise, in OT treatment if you are only working on the upper body, you're not incorporating both," explains Mathew. "That's not to say they don't or we don't, but a more collaborative approach means the total treatment is more integrated and holistic. It's also better for the patient because it is more functional."
"I think co-treats are really beneficial for the patient because not only are you getting the different types of practice, but you're getting two care providers with feedback and input," said Sparrer. "You can bounce ideas off each other."
All three students presented their OT-PT Combined Case Presentation at this year's DPT Case Presentations event held on April 11. The students agreed that while co-treatments are not always needed, OTs and PTs do work together when patients' impairments cross over several disciplines.
"It was a great experience because the focus of OT are activities of daily living, incorporating what we learn about weight shifting and balance into the treatments we provide," said Vance to a room full of DPT students. "In a real-world scenario, you're not going to have a lot of time to focus on everything so you can spread it out among team members when it's necessary come together. It's like a tag team."