A 20-year-old woman falls headfirst into a tree while snowboarding, waking up in a hospital to discover she can’t move her arms or legs, control her bowel or bladder, or breathe on her own without a ventilator.
She’ll be on a long road to recovery and will have many medical needs that require attention from a large team of experts — which is exactly the kind of multidisciplinary care that UW Medicine’s inpatient rehabilitation unit provides.
As a rehabilitation physician, Jamie Ott, DO, acting assistant professor of rehabilitation medicine at the UW School of Medicine, helps ensure patients remain medically stable so they can participate in therapy. This could mean managing health conditions like diabetes or heart failure, caring for injury complications like infection or helping to manage a person’s pain. But there are many other roles and expertise needed on a rehabilitation care team, she says.
In the snowboarder’s case, for example, a speech therapist might evaluate her swallowing, thinking and cognition. A respiratory therapist would help wean her from the ventilator and then downsize her tracheostomy tube. An occupational therapist would help her relearn activities for daily living, like going to the bathroom, getting dressed and eating without assistance. A physical therapist would help her with mobility and balance tasks, like using a wheelchair or transferring herself from the bed to a chair. And the entire medical team, nurses and doctors, would help ensure all her bodily systems are running smoothly, says Ott.
“It’s not always apparent to people the diverse expertise that a large team brings to a patient’s care,” says Deborah Crane, MD, MPH, associate professor of rehabilitation medicine at UW School of Medicine, medical director of inpatient rehabilitation and chief of service for rehabilitation medicine at Harborview Medical Center.