The Case for PT in the ER

Why Physical Therapists in the ER?

Evidence suggests that physical therapists are effective members of the health care team in the emergency room (ER), especially for musculoskeletal conditions. They have the expertise in determining a diagnosis relating to musculoskeletal injuries, and physical therapy care in the ER is cost-effective. Here are some points to consider:

  1. Early introduction of physical therapy in the ER reduces pain and improves patient satisfaction in patients with low back pain.
  2. Physical therapists also effectively treat conditions such as some types of vertigo right there in the ER.
  3. Wait times in overcrowded ERs that use physical therapist services have been shown to be reduced because patients with less urgent injuries can be directly referred for physical therapy, freeing ER physicians to manage patients with more serious and urgent medical issues.
  4. Finally, patient satisfaction in the ER has been shown to be the highest when patients with low back pain, hip pain, shoulder pain, falls resulting in injuries including fractures, and blood pressure issues are treated by physical therapists rather than nurses and physicians. (This is because physical therapists provide a thorough assessment of the patient's functional mobility, home environment, coping skills and social supports and is able to provide detailed instructions, hands-on interventions, and patient education regarding the current condition, information describing what they might expect in the future, and referral to other services.)

Create Your Own Healthcare Team


Physical therapists want to be proactive in preventing falls wherever possible and one potential place for this is in Florida’s emergency rooms. In her article “Create Your Own Fall Prevention Team”, Mary Blackinton describes how to set up your own team of healthcare workers to help reduce the possibility of a fall. If you find yourself in the emergency room due to a fall-related episode, be sure to ask for a physical therapist as part of your Fall Prevention Team!

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