Part One: Getting Started in Telerehab
Like many Physical Therapists, I never imagined that I would be treating patients remotely via video conferencing technology. While I have utilized telehealth services in the past as a traveler, I just did not envision it crossing my professional career path. As a traveler, telehealth for things that have come up on assignment has been great. You are in a new area and do not have a primary care physician established. Why not logon from the comfort of your phone or tablet to have a basic medical assessment? Obviously, it’s not appropriate for everything, but can be great in some instances. Not only did it save me precious time when I had an ear infection and sinus infection, but it also saved me money. The same be true of telerehab!
I had briefly heard of telerehab back in September of 2019. While I gave it some thought as a potential side gig, that was only for about a second. I was busy working 40+ hours in my travel contracts. I did not want to overextend myself. So, the brief thought went to the back of mind. Fast forward six months to March 2020 and BOOM! Like many peoples’, my life was flipped upside down. Never did I imagine the country just shutting down! Suddenly, the clinic I had been on travel assignment with was shutting down. Everything was abruptly uncertain. My brain was racing. Quarantine? Not allowed to do anything. What am I going to do? I’m going to go crazy?!
Once I was safely back to my home base, I realized this likely was not going to just be a few weeks. The thought of telehealth surfaced once more, and I reached back out to the recruiter who had contacted me just six months prior. When I first reconnected with her, there were no current needs. I began really thinking about telehealth a lot and how it could be utilized in our field to safely serve patients during this time. Just a few weeks later, the recruiter contacted me about a telehealth client looking for a NJ licensed PT. An interview was set up for a few days later.
The interview for the telehealth contract went well, but I felt like I was a new grad again in some ways. I have never done telehealth before. Sure, I’m an experienced Physical Therapist, but it’s simply different. I think it’s fair to say that I had some self-doubts. Would I be able to effectively evaluate and treat patients? I’ve always considered myself creative, but am I creative enough?
Soon after the interview, I received an offer. It was only a four-week contract with a ten-hour guarantee, but it would be a good opportunity for me to get my feet wet in this unique clinical setting.
As with all other travel contracts, I had to complete the credentialing process. This was the sixth travel company I have onboarded with so far, so it was old hat. However, I still was not able to start for a few weeks because the background check was delayed due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Finally, everything was processed, and I was able to start my training for telehealth. The preparation was completely different from any other contract I’ve taken. Of course, there would be a new documentation system to learn, patient scheduling, and a new HEP system, but that was normal for any new contract. I had to set up an office space that would be appropriate for telehealth, gather equipment that would be useful for demonstration purposes, and set up a cheat sheet binder and bulletin board.
After about 7 hours of training and orientation, it was time for my first telehealth patient. Would it go well? There was no turning back now.
Find out what happens in the next edition of my reflections as a telerehab therapist.