October is National Physical Therapy Month. This year’s theme, ChoosePT, is a redux of last year’s and highlights the importance of physical activity and the role that physical therapists (PTs), physical therapist assistants, and physical therapy students play in helping people get moving.

Dr. Amanda Sharp

Assistant Professor Amanda N. Sharp (pictured at left), PT, DPT, is the Associate Director of the Division of Physical Therapy for the Rehabilitation Medicine Department and has been with the division for more than six years. In part, her role is to help with the PT program’s daily operations. “If there is a problem – if something is going on with faculty members or students, they often come to me for a solution,” she said.

Sharp is also Director of Clinical Education and helps ensure that PT students have sufficient, dynamic clinical experiences. When things come up with students in the clinic or classroom, she helps them navigate any challenges along with the clinical education team.

National presentation
There is a lot happening in the Physical Therapy Division. Led by division colleague Jacque Ruen, PT, DPT, OCS, Sharp, along with Sara North, PT, DPT, MEd, presented during a recent national conference in Atlanta about the division’s innovative use of technology in teaching its students.

“One of the innovations we shared was about the robot you see pictured above. We bought it when it became apparent that COVID-19 restrictions might put our physical therapy students at risk of not graduating on time because they couldn’t be in clinic,” said Sharp. The robot is a motorized stand with an iPad on top. The student’s face is displayed on the iPad, and they can guide the robot wherever they need it to go to get the best view of the patient care being delivered. “It allows them to be present without being present,” said Sharp. “And the instructor doesn’t have to stop what they’re doing to show the student something.”

Virtual clinic/training
The division also set up a virtual clinic in response to the COVID-19 restrictions. “We quickly developed policies and practices to make sure patients were safe and the students knew what to do in case of an emergency,” said Sharp. “We also worked with our clinical partners to develop an entire online curriculum. We couldn’t have done it without them.”

As a result of all this work, none of the division’s students in the Class of 2020 graduated late, Sharp proudly noted.

Interprofessional collaboration
Another of the more forward-looking practices that the division is introducing is related to interprofessional collaboration. North, who is co-director of the U’s Center for Interprofessional Health, alerts everyone when students from other medical disciplines will be in clinical settings at the same time. “The students work with each other and often debrief their experiences afterward,” said Sharp. “They’re learning how to collaborate in real time.”

Sharp is seeing a few trends in the PT profession. “There is a shift in which more physical therapy is being delivered in the home setting,” she said. “The reality is that hospital and rehab stays are getting shorter. It doesn’t mean less therapy is needed, but it’s more likely being delivered in the patient’s home.”

More involved in primary prevention
Physical therapists are also getting more involved in primary prevention and overall health, according to Sharp. “If we know, for instance, that a leading cause of knee or hip replacement is osteoarthritis, having someone work with a physical therapist to build their strength helps maintain their mobility even before it breaks down.”

Sharp would like to see everyone have an annual physical therapy appointment in addition to their yearly physical. “That facet of physical therapy care will continue to expand because it improves patient outcomes and helps reduce healthcare costs,” she said.

Working with older adults
As the population in this country continues to age, “There will be an ongoing need for physical therapists who specialize in working with older adults,” said Sharp. “We’re very well positioned at the U because we have a geriatric residency as part of our physical therapy program.” The residency, directed by Becky Olson-Kellogg, PT, DPT, GCS, CEEAA, is currently in its 11th year.

Sharp is a passionate advocate for the physical therapy profession. “The possibilities are endless,” she said. “Physical therapists can work across patients’ lifespans and in all settings. When our students graduate, the world is quite literally theirs.”

Learn more about Physical Therapy.

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