As rehabilitation therapists, we’re used to treating people with a whole variety of medical conditions, but what happens when the affecting condition is a natural disaster? WebPT, a rehab industry software company, in collaboration with the American Physical Therapy Association (APTA), take the initiative to show us how we can still help people when they’re far beyond the reach of our own local clinics. Disaster relief efforts headed up by these organizations look like they will meet the approaching February deadline of their campaign: “Rehab Therapists Give Back.”
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Rehab Therapy and Emotional Trauma
With the hard-hit people took from hurricanes Harvey, Irma, and Maria and the Pacific Northwest wildfires, recovering and rebuilding a life suddenly changed and devastated, has been a tremendous effort, to say the least. The mental, emotional, and personal trauma this kind of tragic experience can bring to a person may not typically be what we as rehab therapists think of addressing directly when treating our patients; we may find handling psychological well-being to be outside our scope of practice. In essence, this is true but it certainly doesn’t preclude us from simply being aware of the humanness in our patients and their experiences and offering a listening ear or words of encouragement and support.
In actuality, lending our understanding to our patients, being empathetic and compassionate, is not at all new to our work. Taking a whole-person-centered approach to treatment is what we do (and this couldn’t ring any truer for occupational therapists whose entire treatment approach stems from holistic intervention), so that even when treating a patient’s physical illness or injury, we know there’s much more to their story.
With every patient we meet, we’re cognizant of how a loss of function, especially a permanent one, is deeply emotionally impacting, and we naturally support that. After many years in this profession, I learned from day one and am constantly reminded that as rehab therapists it’s always the case that, in clear and sometimes less obvious ways, we’re helping our patients cope with feelings of trauma. It can be a difficult and challenging position to be in, but I believe it’s not only one of the most rewarding qualities of our work, it also brings out the better part of our patients and ourselves.
A Community of Care and a $1 Million Goal
In light of this year’s string of recent natural disasters and the life impact they continue to have for hundreds of people, it’s unsurprising that the rehab community is reaching out for ways to help others through this time. In connection with the Global Giving Foundation, WebPT has organized a fundraising project to aid relief efforts for people whose lives are directly affected by recent wildfires along the U.S. west coast and hurricanes in the U.S. and the Caribbean.
The Rehab Therapists Give Back project set its fundraising goal at $1 million to be raised by the end of February 2018, an ambitious target that’s already seen over 85 percent of this goal met since the project’s September start. That the fundraiser has quickly made such headway attests to the rehab community’s innate desire to help others and makes a clear statement about who we are as therapists and, more pointedly, who we aim to be as people.
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That said, WebPT’s taking initiative to bring us together as a community of rehab professionals deserves recognition as an exemplary act of giving back by moving us towards embodying the very core values of caring and giving we strive to uphold. As a show of support and a step in this direction, I urge all of us in the rehab community to read more about the project and join in this effort to give.