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10 Tips for Home Health Physical Therapists

by Meredith Victor Castin


Home health physical therapy is as rewarding as it is challenging. Treating patients in their own homes allows PTs to provide extremely functional treatments geared toward maximum independence. At the same time, all that driving around requires organization and preparation in order to provide effective treatments. NGPT asked the therapists at Pearlz Concierge Therapy in Dallas, TX for their top tips for home health physical therapists.

1. Leverage your Mileage.

When scheduling your treatments for each day, try to stay extremely organized.  Either start in your neighborhood and work outward or start outward and work your way back home. Obviously, you can build a gym visit and errands in to your day, as well. Several apps can help you plan your day ahead of time. Road Warrior Route Planner can help you minimize your driving time.

2. Arrive prepared.

Buy a backpack and fill it with the PT supplies you'll need for the day. Most home health therapists carry, at minimum, a blood pressure cuff, pulse oximiter, several elastic bands and a folder with ther-ex handouts.
Don't forget to keep a log of which patients need additional documentation, such as progress notes or plan of care updates. The Home Health Manager app can help therapists stay on top of such things!

3. Take care of yourself.

Home health PT can be more tiring than a typical job, since you spend a lot of time behind the wheel, dealing with traffic and other unforeseen distractions. Try not to overbook yourself with treatments, because you have to document at the end of the day. Don't accept treatments that make you uncomfortable. Some neighborhoods, homes or family members may make you feel unsafe. If that is the case, do NOT feel obligated to treat those patients. Your safety comes first.

4. Get in a routine

For your own sanity, and the sanity of your patients, try to get in a routine and keep things consistent when possible. You're more likely to be punctual and the patients (especially the older ones) are more likely to remember appointments when they're scheduled around the same time/days. 

5. Be prepared to accommodate your patients.

Keep in mind that some patients do not like to start treatments early in the day, nor late, so be prepared to schedule around this. This may mean that you cannot fit as many treatments in the day as you'd like. At the same time, you can plan your documentation time accordingly. Also, be mindful of different cultures. Your patients/patients' family members may have different beliefs and ways of doing things than you are used to. Just be aware of it and respect it and you will be fine. Make absolutely sure to call the MD and/or home health RN with any suspicious changes.

6.  Bring extra pair of clothes/scrubs just in case.

When you have to be in multiple places in a single day, the last thing you want to do be caught without a clean outfit. The worst feeling as a home health physical therapist is to hit 10 am and realize you've spilled your coffee all over your pants (in a most inopportune spot, no less) and have to spend the day dragging your brown-bottomed self to all your patients' homes, explaining that it's not another patient's poo on your slacks.

7. Pack a lunch.

Dining out is pricey!  Save your money and pack a cooler to keep your lunch fresh during summer months. A nice lunch box with PB&J and a thermos filled with soup can keep you satisfied in cooler months. Almonds and granola bars are satisfying snacks, but if you rely on them as lunch staples, you'll find yourself cruising into expensive eateries before too long. Invest in good lunch setup from the get-go.

8. Sign up for gas rewards at a popular gas station.

You'll be amazed how quickly you'll rack up the miles on your car as a home health PT. You'll similarly be astounded at how often you're visiting the gas station, watching those dollar signs add up as you fill your tank. With the price of gas what it is, make sure you get credit for the extra gas station visits. Doctor of Healthy Credit compiled a pretty awesome comprehensive list of gas station credit programs.

9. Get friendly with McDonald's. 

Free water, bathrooms and free wi-fi (at many locations) make McDonald's a popular spot with the Pearlz team! Don't forget to thank them with some purchases, though! The value menu has a bad reputation in healthy eating circles, but you can snag yourself a fruit'n'yogurt parfait or coffee without breaking the bank. Hydration is essential, so if you're not a fan of fast food establishments, make sure to pack ample water for your day.

10. Enjoy yourself!

Hang in there, new grads. Home health can be challenging for the first few weeks, but you will get the hang of it and start to love what you do! Be prepared to get to know your patients very well and become close to them. Something about sitting in your patients home and helping them get better seems to help people relax and enjoy your time together. Know that you are truly helping these people achieve their goals and you are bringing amazing services right to their door. If you show them that you are enjoying the process as much as they are, you will be rewarded with plenty of appreciation from the patients and family. You will likely get offered lots of food, but be warned: most will not take no for an answer! Come to home health with an appetite!


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