Nurse, Physical Therapist to Share Success Stories of ED Collaboration

From left, nurse Joanne Navarroli and physical therapist Jennifer Eagles explain how to incorporate a dedicated physical therapist into an emergency department.
Nurse Joanne Navarroli (left) and physical therapist Jennifer Eagles explain how to incorporate a dedicated physical therapist into an emergency department.

Physical therapists have been practicing in U.S. emergency departments for the last decade.

About 90 collaborative consultation programs exist between physical therapists and their community EDs to manage musculoskeletal, mobility and vestibular issues.

A mid-morning session today at Emergency Nursing 2021 will explain how this model, which uses physician and nurse referrals to a dedicated ED physical therapist, works and outline practical steps for implementing such a program. Nurse Joanne Navarroli and physical therapist Jennifer Eagles will share case studies and success stories from the ED where they practice in Chandler, Arizona.

What? A Physical Therapist Is Treating Me? Benefits of Adding a Physical Therapist to the Emergency Department Team will begin at 11 a.m. Central time.

About 130 million patients visit EDs each year across the United States, and about 35 million of those cases are injury-related. A further breakdown of these numbers underscores the need for physical therapists in the ED, Navarroli contends. Complaints of back pain and generalized pain account for almost 8 million ED visits, while sprains and strains account for about 5 million, simple fractures account for about 6 million, and vertigo and dizziness account for more than 2 million visits, she said.

Wherever a patient is hurting, physical therapists have knowledge to help, Eagles added.

“In an acute setting, we are typically thought of as the people movers. We get people up, we get them walking, we get them in and out of bed, and then we tell them where they should go — should they go home, should they go to rehab, that kind of thing,” she said. “But our expertise expands well past that.”

Chandler Regional Medical Center first added a physical therapist to its ED in 2019. As of July, two full-time physical therapists provide ED coverage Sunday through Friday and every other Saturday, managing multiple conditions through assessment of patient needs, assessment of function, discharge planning and patient education.

“The role of the nurse doesn’t really change,” Navarroli said. “We help identify appropriate patients for the physical therapist, and we collaborate with them. We have really gotten good at going for the physical therapy once we understood what their role was and how we could collaborate with them to give the most appropriate care to the patients.”

An interactive poll throughout the session will enable viewers to anonymously respond to questions about the use of physical therapy in the ED and see how their answers compare to those of other meeting attendees.

EN21 session recordings will be available for on-demand viewing on the EN21 meeting platform through Jan. 31.