7 Things to Avoid as a School-Based Physical Therapist

During physical therapy school, you learned a lot. You know all about anatomy, human development, and therapeutic modalities. You probably also learned the importance of motivating your students, working well with teachers, and juggling the responsibilities of the job.

You know what you need to do, but have you also thought about what to avoid? There are certain things you should never do as a school-based physical therapist including the following:

Don’t rush through your assessment.

Your initial assessment of a student is crucial to develop their treatment plan. At the start of a new school year, there is a lot to do, but don’t cut corners. Always spend the time you need to perform a thorough assessment and understand the student’s needs.

Never share medical information unless justified.

Students’ medical records are protected by federal law. Just as you would not share information about a patient in the hospital, do not share medical information about a student. There are times you need to share some information with other providers, such as occupational therapists, teachers, and aides, but only share what is relevant for care.

Don’t stray from evidence practices.

In a school setting, you often have a lot of independence when you provide therapy. School therapists also often work with students over many months and may develop a “gut instinct” about what would work with a student. Remember, evidence-based practices are critical for your decision making and providing therapy that is effective.

Never forget the importance of communication with parents.

Parents of the students you are treating need to be kept in the loop. A partnership with parents is beneficial. In some cases, parents can play an important role in reinforcing therapy at home. Communicate often with parents to update them on their child’s progress. Parents who feel part of the process are often more satisfied with the care their child is receiving.

Don’t forget that services are driven by the IEP.

If you have worked in a clinical setting, such as a hospital, you know therapy is driven by a patient’s diagnosis. In a school setting, your therapy is driven by the goals in the IEP. Keep that in mind when providing care.

Don’t forget the need for teamwork.

While you may be the only PT at the school, you are part of a team. Along with other therapists, you need to work closely with teachers and aides. Your decisions are often team driven.

Never give up on a student.

Some students present many challenges. There may be instances where you think you are not making any progress or a student is difficult to work with for several reasons. Regardless of the situation, don’t give up. It may take longer to reach some students, but it’s worth the extra time and effort to help a student reach their academic potential.

Remember, sometimes it’s not only what you do, but what you avoid doing that makes you an effective school-based therapist.

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