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Release Date: 4/4/2012

Therapists learn 'hands-on' patient care at St. Anthony's

Physical Therapy student

For more information about the student clinical program in physical or occupational therapy offered at St. Anthony's Medical Center, call Sandy Lehn at 314-525-4577.

Jill Knapp is nearing the end of a six-year-program of study that will result in a doctorate degree in physical therapy.  Her focus right now is on hands-on patient care in the Acute Rehab Therapy Department of St. Anthony’s Medical Center.

“You learn a lot more working in a clinical setting, because you actually work with the patients,” Knapp said.  “It gives you the chance to apply your classroom knowledge in a real-life situation, before you’re out there on your own.”

Each year, St. Anthony’s Therapy Services Department serves as a host/mentor for about 40 students from eight institutions of higher learning, including Saint Louis University, Washington University and the University of Missouri State-Columbia.  Hundreds of additional students in other areas of study, including nursing, diabetes education, nutrition services and pastoral care, perform their clinical studies in other departments of the medical center.  Last year alone, St. Anthony’s contributed more than 8,000 hours and $280,000 in total staff time and services, as a community benefit to advancing health careers.

Knapp is one of four students currently doing their clinical internship rotations at St. Anthony’s Acute Rehab – two in physical therapy and two in occupational therapy.  Students range from college freshman to doctoral candidates, pursuing specialties that include occupational or physical therapy.  The hands-on training helps the students get used to talking to patients, touching them, dealing with their physical deficits and documenting their progress, said Sandy Lehn, manager of the Acute Rehab Therapy Department. 

“It’s a good learning environment for the students, who are exposed to a wide variety of patients and conditions,” Lehn said. “It’s good for us, because it helps our staff keep current through the students and helps us to recruit staff – we go to our students first if they are a good fit for our needs.  And our patients – they love it!  They feel like they’re helping train future therapists, and they have the chance to watch these students grow.”

Every aspect of what a student does is supervised by a licensed St. Anthony’s staff therapist.  They get mentorship and guidance on evaluation, treatment, documentation, goal-setting and the designing of specific treatment plans to get patients to a functional level, Lehn said.

Patients come to Acute Rehab Therapy for a wide range of problems, including orthopedic, stroke, spinal cord injuries, amputations, cardiovascular and pulmonary problems neurological injuries or disorders and multiple traumas.   All are inpatients, and the average stay is 13 days.  To qualify, patients must be able to participate in three hours of combined, appropriate therapy each day, for five out of seven days a week, and must have a realistic goal of returning to the community.

“Most of our patients go home to their communities,” Lehn said; “a few go to nursing homes for further therapy.  The best part of my job – and the jobs of everyone in this department – is watching a patient progress.  Every day, every patient – and every student we train – is different; our job is to try to help them along to where they need to go.”

For more information about the student clinical program in physical or occupational therapy offered at St. Anthony’s Medical Center, call Sandy Lehn at 314-525-4577.

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