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Acute Care Physical Therapy

Acute care physical therapy for your child

When your child is in the hospital for treatment or a procedure, you’ll meet many different types of providers. One of them might be an acute care physical therapist.

Physical therapists work in many different areas. You can find physical therapists:

  • Working in schools
  • Outpatient clinics
  • Providing in-home care
  • Seeing patients in hospitals

What is an acute care physical therapist?

The physical therapists your child sees in the hospital are called acute care physical therapists.

How do acute care physical therapists help hospital patients?

Physical therapists can help hospital patients maintain their strength and keep functional mobility while they’re recovering. Functional mobility is the ability to move in bed, sit on the edge of the bed, stand up, and walk.

It can be difficult for your child to move around while in the hospital. They are likely spending most of their time in one room. An illness or recent surgery may prevent them from moving around like they usually do.

An acute care physical therapist will work with your child to make sure they can do these things when they’re ready to leave the hospital.

What do hospital patients do during physical therapy?

Physical therapy while your child is in the hospital may include:

  • Moving in the bed
  • Sitting up
  • Getting out of bed
  • Getting to a chair or wheelchair
  • Exercises to help recover from a specific illness or surgery
  • Walking
    • Unaided or with assistance
    • With a cane
    • Using crutches
    • Using a walker  
  • Preparing you to help your child go home

During your child’s stay in the hospital, their physical therapist will be in regular contact with their doctor. They’ll provide updates to your child’s care team about their progress.

Acute care physical therapists can also offer recommendations to your child’s doctor when they are ready to leave the hospital. Those might include:

  • Continuing physical therapy
  • Medical equipment your child might need at home
  • How much help you and your child might need at home

What happens during the first visit with an acute care physical therapist?

Your child’s physical therapist will begin with an initial evaluation. This is the first step.

The initial evaluation includes:

  • Your child’s physical therapist asking questions about
    • Where you live
      • If your home has stairs
      • Size of your home
      • Bathroom size and location
      • Location and size of your child’s bedroom
    • How well your child moved before the hospital stay
    • Activities your child enjoyed before their hospital stay
  • Tests to gauge your child’s
    • Flexibility
    • Range of motion
    • Mobility
    • How well they can move from the bed
    • How easily they can move from one place to another
    • How well they can walk
  • A personalized plan including
    • How often your child will need physical therapy in the hospital
    • Exercises that can help improve strength, balance, and flexibility
    • Goals for your child’s discharge

If your child’s physical therapist determines they need special safety equipment (like orthotics or stabilizing equipment), they will arrange for your child to have it. They will also be sure you and your family know how to use it safely.          

What is the goal of physical therapy in the hospital?

Your child’s acute care physical therapist will help ensure your child is ready for discharge and is set up for success at home, so they can recover and regain their strength.

Reviewed: October 2021