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I dreaded inpatient clinical rotation as I was never a fan of general inpatient rehabilitation due to the repetitive nature of the job and because it gives society a false sense of what physical therapists do. I have spoken to many people who say “You walk people in a hospital right?” This is the most degrading question as a physical therapist because we do so much more than just walk patients. With this in mind, I was placed in a new skilled nursing facility (SNF) in the Riverside area. I had earlier heard bad stories about skilled nursing facilities and was a bit worried about the experience that I would have at this facility.
Have you ever thought that something was going to be terrible, and it ended up being the total opposite? That is what I experienced at skilled nursing facility. I believe that my experience started off on a good note because of my impression on entering the facility. The building was a large sized rehab area and inside of it reminded me of a hotel. It had a rehab staff of about 40 individuals, this included PT, PTA, OT, COTA and SLP. It was one of the nicest nursing facilities that I have ever encountered and the majority of the patients were there for temporary rehab instead of long term. The patients within the facility are all generally the same, they are there because they cannot function at home by themselves in a safe manner. The main goal of a SNF PT is to get the patient safe and functional in ambulation, transfers and activities of daily living. This is similar to a general inpatient hospital where you walk with the patient, strengthening exercises and practice transfers. Once a patient is able to do these activities at a safe level and is able to go home, he/she will be discharged from care. This was not the most exciting setting and did not require as much thought process as an outpatient orthopedic setting. There were also patients that would occasional have an accident and make the circumstances a little more difficult, but it can be expected.
So why would you want to work at a facility like this? From my experience, the first reason is that your initial impression of a facility you are yet to encounter does not indicate whether or not you will enjoy working in that environment. But, this skilled nursing facility provided me with communication skills and practice of basic skills like documentation.
The second reason is that if you like working with older people then this may be the place for you. Many of the patients have great stories and can tell you a lot about historical events because they were there when it all happened. For example, one of my patients was a boxer in his younger days and actually defeated a famous boxer twice. You never know who you may meet in a SNF setting. Another reason to work at a SNF is the pay is great and the hours are flexible. If your goal with PT is to make money and have a relaxing job this may be the way to go. When I use the word relaxing, I mean it is relaxing to the brain, not physically challenging. There are some very difficult patients that you may encounter. For example, a patient who is non weight bearing on 3/4 of her extremities or a patient who has dementia and is very combative. It is not always the easiest job, but it does have its perks.
To summarize, keep an open mind when going to a new rotation or job because you never know what you may learn. If you have the correct mindset, you will always gain experience and have a good time regardless of patient population and clinical setting. I would also recommend a SNF for one of your rotations as you may realize that you actually enjoy that setting and want to enter into that field. If you have any questions about different settings, feel free to send me an email at email@example.com.