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Physical Therapy Alumna Transitions Care to Telehealth During COVID-19 Pandemic
During the COVID-19 pandemic, healthcare workers around the world are on the front lines tasked with protecting the health and safety of their communities. Alumna Brie Ligotski, DPT’18, is among them. Currently working as a physical therapist at Kaiser Permanente outpatient medical center in Stockton, CA, she is pursuing her specialty board certification in neurological physical therapy, and typically treats 10 to 12 neurologic patients five days per week.
When COVID-19 appeared in her community, Dr. Ligotski’s work transitioned to telehealth. The adjustment allowed little time for preparation, but she had to determine how to continue caring for her patients, many of whom benefit greatly from in-person sessions. By carefully evaluating her schedule, she was able to determine which of her patients were able to transition to telehealth, and which would need to continue in-person treatments.
For telehealth treatments, Dr. Ligotski uses phone calls and videos to connect with her patients, and is relying on patients’ caregivers for help. “I’ve had to problem-solve a lot with my patients and their caregivers on ways to mimic as best they can at home things that we would do in the clinic together” she said.
In addition to her existing patients, Dr. Ligotski has had to adapt to new referrals she’s getting. While all non-emergency and elective surgeries have been postponed, there are medical emergencies, such as a stroke, that cannot be controlled. For these patients, she has had to adapt her in-person evaluation process to work over the phone. She credits her hospital system’s use of telehealth prior to the COVID-19 crisis for making the new normal a little bit more seamless.
While the outpatient medical center does not do coronavirus testing, the facility is screening everyone that enters the building. Dr. Ligotski and many others on the Kaiser team have been stationed outside to do these screenings. The screening includes asking why a patient is coming to Kaiser, evaluating if they have experienced any COVID symptoms, and directing them to another area for further screening if needed. While most people have been cooperative with the screening process, Dr. Ligotski shares that there are some people who are intimidated by the process of being greeted by employees wearing gloves and masks in the parking lot.
Dr. Ligotski stresses that communication is key in adapting to these new situations. Namely, communication with patients to ensure that they understand what and why things are happening, and communication within the team to make sure they are all being safe and effective in their roles. She also shares that this is a unique experience for healthcare workers to utilize their clinical skills and provide a good care experience for patients right from the start by beginning the care process before they even enter the building.
“We are in the middle of history right now in more ways than one, and although it may be hard for some because things are changing quickly and scary because there are a lot of unknowns, I am thankful to get to be a part of it.” Dr. Ligotski shares. “It will be interesting to see all the permanent telehealth changes that come out of this pandemic.”
Categories: News, Samson College of Health Sciences, Department of Physical Therapy, Physical Therapy, Alumni, Coronavirus, Proven Everywhere