Professional Deficiencies and Rehabilitation

An Overview For Physicians, Physical Therapists,
Prosthetists, Orthotists and Clients

The definition and the goal of Rehabilitation are the same: to restore to a former capacity; to restore to a state of efficiency; to restore to a state of good health or useful and constructive activity. In order to provide solutions to physical deficiencies necessary to achieve the goals of rehabilitation, clinicians and clients alike must recognize the existence of professional deficiencies.

What is a Professional Deficiency?

In general, it can be anything that hinders, impedes or otherwise interferes with the ultimate goal of rehabilitation. All efforts must be directed towards that goal. Professionals must become part of the solution rather than part of the problem! The first step in avoiding this deterrent to rehabilitation is recognition of the problem. Self-evaluation and education provide the solution.

Examples of professional deficiencies include but are not limited to: misdiagnosis of the underlying problem or pathology; improper assessment of pathomechanics involving joints and musculature; treatment of a symptom rather than the primary problem; failure to assess, plan and predict the outcome of treatment consistent with rehabilitation goals; insufficient or incomplete treatment; the use of inappropriate treatment and/or devices; failure to follow up in order to determine the effectiveness of treatment in terms of long term functional gains; the failure to substantiate and document results or solutions consistent with rehabilitation goals; insufficient education and lack of understanding of new and innovative technology.

The Evolution of Professional Deficiencies and Remedial Action

Professional deficiencies develop as a result of an evolutionary process. It is an inherent part of any Profession. Rehabilitation specialists begin their careers as students having no preconceived notions concerning treatment. The desire to improve the lives of individuals with physical deficiencies stimulates the educational process. Like an inquisitive child, the mind is open to possibilities. There is an innocence and dedication to purpose that makes learning fun.

The educational process can only provide an introduction to a profession and cannot teach the student everything. The most important educational goal is to get the student to think on his or her own! Students must question treatment methods in order to understand them and possibly improve upon them. Questions are often more important than answers. Ultimately, every student enters the work force. The demands and pressures of “earning a living” especially in a managed care environment can divert the quest for knowledge. Treatment becomes routine and a comfort level develops with established and accepted approaches. There is also the fear of change that maintains the status quo. New and innovative ideas are often perceived as a threat. Any significant medical breakthrough in history has been challenged by the established experts of the time.

It is easy to fall into a comfortable routine. When a professional becomes an “expert” and learns all there is to know, it is time to learn something new! The reason for becoming a rehabilitation specialist must be reassessed. Professionals need to be critical of their own treatment and outcomes. Our experience can teach us what not to do as well as what to do. These negative lessons are often the most valuable! It is not what we know as professionals that make us intelligent but rather what we have yet to learn. Prior experience and expertise are merely practice for what we are about to learn.

Learning is a never-ending process. The desire to learn and improve must be stimulated by the ultimate goal of rehabilitation, which is to restore the client to optimal efficiency. There must be a dedication and commitment to finding a better way. Treatment should solve problems rather than accommodate for them. The answer is in the outcome and improvement is the only acceptable outcome.