The relationship between a physical therapist and his/her patient is essential to the future treatment of the patient. Unlike other medical fields where the patient may only visit once or twice, a physical therapist deals with patients for a longer duration from a few weeks to a couple of months.
A sense of trust, loyalty and comfort is important to be established between the therapist and the patient. In medical universities, before anything else, a student is taught to maintain a professional relationship, to respect a patient’s privacy and to uphold the patient’s dignity.
But sometimes, miscommunications and misconceptions tend to cause problems in this relationship.
There are certain aspects to a relationship between any medical practitioner, such as a physical therapist and the patient being treated. Some of which are:
‘ Consent of the patient: Before performing any treatment on a patient, the therapist should make sure that the patient allows it. Without taking the consent of a patient, no treatment procedure is to be conducted. If consent of patient is not taken, then the patient would not feel comfortable and without knowledge of treatment, the patient is at full rights to take consequential action against the particular physical therapist.
‘ Decision-making process: The decision making process should not only be by the therapist but also by the patient, especially in cases where there is multiple forms of treatment available. The treatment goals of the patient is to be considered to form a good professional relationship. Sharing treatment plans with the patients helps develop a sense of trust for the patient in the doctor. Not including the patient in the decision making process is a risk factor since if anything should go wrong in the treatment, the therapist will be liable. If the patient knows the treatment being given and is given a choice, he/she will have more faith in the doctor and may be able to prevent unfortunate circumstances in the treatment.
When a patient visits a physical therapist, there are a few cases where the patient may not divulge all the needed information about their condition, they may withhold some essential symptoms or records of previous treatments. This can happen in many cases where the patient may feel like he/she is wasting the time of the physiotherapist.
This can cause severe problems in further treatment and to ensure that this does not occur the physical therapist is required to have a certain body language and way of talking and presenting himself or herself to the patient.
A physical therapist should listen intently to the case of the patient, nod at intervals to show the patient that he/she is being heard. The patient should feel safe and be comfortable enough to not hide anything from the therapist. Maintaining eye contact helps in building up the confidence of the patient. At the end of the diagnosis, the therapist should politely ensure that no information about the condition is being withheld.
There are cases where the patient may not be as cooperative and this can sometimes frustrate the medical practitioner. But as a physical therapist, and due to certain ethics and morals that are to be followed, one can’t necessarily abandon his/her patient. Usually, talking it out with the patient helps to resolve the problems faced by both the therapist as well as the patient. But in some cases where patients tend to be uncooperative, the doctor-patient relationship may be strained but the physical therapist does all he/she can to help the patient none the less. Thus must be the attitude. If at all, one is not able to deal with the patient, he/she can be referred to another physical therapist or program by the current therapist.
There is always a confidentiality between the physical therapist and the patient. Whatever the case be, information regarding treatment or otherwise related is usually kept between the therapist and patient unless the patient allows or chooses to reveal otherwise. This is known as doctor-patient confidentiality. A therapist or any other medical practitioner is not allowed to reveal information regarding the patient’s case file as the confidentiality can contain sensitive information about the case and may or may not jeopardize the patient’s relationships elsewhere. Breaking this confidentiality can land the physical therapist in a lot of trouble with a lot of grave consequences.
Sometimes a physical therapist can encounter having relationships not only with their patient but also with the patient’s extended family members and such. This can result in a complicated yet maintainable relationship. But as the terms of confidentiality with the patient, the therapist is expected to maintain individual confidentialities with the members of family as well.
Not respecting and abiding by these ethics can sometimes lead to embarrassing situations or even serious legal problems for both patient and physiotherapist.
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