Proof of Expertise: Is your physical therapist an expert?

When the word expert is attached to a person’s name, our ears immediately perk up and stand at attention.  It leads to believe that what information is presented from that person is absolute truth, instantly filling us with trust and ease. In the context of rehab therapy, our physical and occupational therapists are the experts we rely on for guidance in achieving our desired outcomes. However, what constitutes an expert physical or occupational therapist?  Is it simply the diploma hanging on the wall behind their desk, word-of-mouth or the number of years they’ve been practicing sufficient enough to prove expertise?

The aforementioned parameters are not always enough proof.  Incontestable clinical outcome data gathered from an outcomes-based management system is an important tool in assessing a physical therapist’s success, however, a particular approach to care is equally important.  Linda Resnik, PT, Ph.D., OCS, published a study to “describe characteristics of therapists who were classified as expert or average therapists based on the outcomes of their patients.”  The conclusion of the study found that practitioners classified as experts had a patient-centered approach to care, utilized collaborative problem-solving, patient empowerment through education, and the development of the patient/therapist relationship. So it isn’t always about the years of experience the practitioner has, but rather how an individualized and educational approach to care can maximize positive outcomes.

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