Tara Myers has been a physical therapist for 13 years, providing in-home physical therapy services for the BAYADA Home Health Care Bucks County, PA office since 2014. We sat down with her to find out what she’s learned on the job. This is what she had to say.
1) I’m only as good as my team
Let’s put an underline and exclamation point on this one. In home health care, your entire work team is crucial to your client’s safety and progress. I couldn’t be successful if I couldn’t rely on everyone doing their job before I walk through the door. The nurses, the clinical manager, the client services manager, the occupational therapist, the speech therapists, the person who sends and receives labs, referrals, and discharge papers—everyone has to communicate effectively and everything has to gel for me to provide the highest quality care.
Do not take your work team for granted. They are your greatest asset.
2) Prepare to wear many hats
You never know what you’re going to get when you enter a client’s home. I think that’s why I really enjoy home care—you get to know and care for the whole person. Especially working with seniors, I’m not only a PT, I’m their sounding board, advocate, medication resource, and fix-it gal. I’ve replaced light bulbs, fetched mail, and changed kitty litter. I don’t mind wearing whatever hat my client needs at the time. That’s part of one-on-one holistic health care.
If you treat the whole person, not just the impairment, you’ll always be successful.
3) Be creative and flexible
Even though I feel like a traveling circus sometimes, turns out you actually can’t be one. You can’t drive around with a treadmill and a balance machine, so you’ve got to think outside the box. I’ve become really good at this. Who needs barbells when you have a can of soup? I carry things like a mat, exercise bands, and a ring toss game, but I can help clients work on dynamic balance by walking outside and watering their garden. We rearrange furniture for parallel bars. And a tube sock full of coins makes a great ankle weight.
Work with what you’ve got.
4) Sometimes success is subjective
Because we work with data and electronic medical records every day, it’s natural for a clinician to become super-focused on measurable outcomes. But in home health care, remember that an individual’s quality of life isn’t always so objective. A win for them is whatever’s important to them on that particular day. Nothing may go as planned, but that’s okay. Adapt. The client still appreciates you and is probably highly satisfied. It’s kind of like parenting: you can give your children the tools, but they only accomplish what, where, and when they want to.
Let your client share the driver’s seat.
5) Earn trust with your actions
Being debilitated or injured is a vulnerable feeling, especially when an outsider enters your home. All the promises in the world won’t make your client truly comfortable until you deliver. I understand my clients’ hesitation and don’t take it personally. I’m not perfect, I make mistakes, but I always own it and fix it. Once I prove to a new client that I will show up on time, every time, and that I am accountable for the quality of their care, that’s when trust is established and we start to nurture a really lovely, productive relationship.
Clients become like family when they trust you.