In meetings recently I heard perspective from a colleague about the “job we get to do” as rehab professionals who are entrusted with caring for our patients — who are not just patients.

They are family members, parents, grandparents, aunts and uncles, essential in their communities, therefore how fortunate are we in the job we get to do in providing hands-on skilled therapy services to them daily. 

Each morning, physical, occupational and speech therapists across the world step into skilled nursing facilities with a unified purpose: to assist, uplift and rehabilitate. They not only touch the lives of their patients, but also impact the countless families and loved ones connected to them. In these facilities, therapists often say, “It’s not just a job. It’s a privilege.”

Physical therapy: More than just movement

To many, physical therapy may appear as a mere means of regaining physical movement. However, to a PT professional, it is about rebuilding lost hope, and being the pillar of support when a patient feels challenged. 

As therapists guide their patients through exercises, they’re doing more than just helping them regain mobility — they’re restoring independence. When a grandmother can stand up on her own to hug her grandchild, or a father can walk his daughter down the aisle, it’s a victory for both the patient and the PT.

Occupational therapy: Reconnecting with life’s simple pleasures

Occupational therapists also have a unique role. Their goal is to help patients perform day-to-day tasks and enjoy life’s simple pleasures, whether it’s buttoning a shirt, cooking a meal or crafting. Through occupational therapy, residents are reminded of the beauty in ordinary moments. 

Each mastered skill is not just a physical achievement but a reconnection to cherished roles — be it as a spouse, parent or friend. It’s about making sure individuals can continue to contribute to their families and communities in meaningful ways.

Speech therapy: Beyond words

Speech therapy often transcends the spoken word. It’s not just about helping someone speak again, but enabling them to express their feelings, needs and stories. Communication is a fundamental human need and speech therapists ensure that residents can continue to connect with their loved ones, share their histories and advocate for their own care. 

Each time a grandparent shares a story from their youth or a mother sings a lullaby, the importance of this therapy becomes palpable.

Bridging the gap between patients and families

Skilled nursing therapists don’t just work with patients in isolation. They play an instrumental role in bridging the gap between patients and their families. Therapists often become a primary source of information, hope and reassurance for loved ones. They’re there to answer questions, offer encouragement, and provide guidance on how families can support their relatives’ rehab journey.

Beyond the technicalities of rehabilitation, these therapists offer something equally vital – genuine human connection. In moments of vulnerability, a therapist’s encouraging word, a reassuring smile, or even a shared laugh can be transformative.

At the heart of it all, the work in skilled nursing facilities is about recognizing the inherent value of every individual, regardless of age or disability. It’s about witnessing and fostering the human spirit’s incredible resilience.

In essence, it’s not just a job therapists do. It’s a calling they get to answer every day, serving as a testament to the indomitable human spirit and the difference one person can make in the life of another. 

The ripple effect of their dedication touches not just the patients, but resonates deeply with the families who entrust their loved ones into their care.

Renee Kinder, MS, CCC-SLP, RAC-CT, is Executive Vice President of Clinical Services for Broad River Rehab. Additionally, she serves as a member of American Speech Language Hearing Association’s (ASHA) Healthcare and Economics Committee; is a member of the University of Kentucky College of Medicine community faculty; is a member of the American Medical Association’s (AMA) Digital Medicine Payment Advisory Group (DMPAG); and is an advisor to the American Medical Association’s Current Procedural Terminology CPT® Editorial Panel. She can be reached at [email protected] 

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