Jorking in Rehabilitative Care:
Changing Workforce Trends

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The rate of change coming to Rehabilitative Care is fast, "so fast it is overwhelming," Robert Larrison, President of Carolinas Rehabilitation, told the Competitive Workforce Alliance Allied Regional Skills Partnership. "We go in one direction for a few days or weeks and then find out something new has happened with the Affordable Care Act and we must move in a different direction." Larrison spoke to the Partnership as part of its series, "The Affordable Care Act, Trends and Implications for the Allied Health Workforce."

"We know the need for trained therapists and assistants will grow as the population ages," Larrison said, "but the models of patient care will be transforming over the next 12-18 months" Larrison said. "The Affordable Care Act will change how care is delivered, where care is delivered and the workforce needed to deliver it," he said. Citing the push toward more community-based care, Larrison told the Partnership that he expects rehabilitation facilities to use ''traveling therapists'' to get services to more rural populations. "Working in one office has been the model, but that will change." He also expects home health agencies will expand their therapy services. Virtual therapy sessions may also come in the future, and that could mean increased opportunities for Occupational and Physical Therapist Assistants, who could perform duties in community and rural settings. For more click here…

Therapists will also find the ratio of full-time positions to part-time positions changing. Carolinas Rehabilitation operates four rehabilitation hospitals and 13 outpatient facilities across the Charlotte region and currently employs about 900 therapists. Today 85% of those are full-time. "I expect to see a shift with the number of full-time employees dropping to around 60% and part time employees rising to 40%."

These models are designed to cut healthcare costs, but Larrison emphasized that the quality of care must also be maintained. "We monitor any changes in care models closely," he said, "to make sure those changes don't cause other problems. We use other methods to cut costs as well, such as reducing turnover rates." Carolinas Rehabilitation has introduced a career pathways model to provide opportunities for promotion, as well as adding more support staff so the highest trained professionals can work at the top of their skill levels. "We are using more athletic trainers and rehabilitation aides to help our therapists be more productive with patients."

Larrison noted at the same time the workplace is changing, new opportunities are also emerging. Specialization is a growing trend among therapists. "We see increased specialties in pediatric, orthopedic, or neuroscience therapy which offers career opportunities and meets growing patient needs. We expect that to continue as well, but all therapists need to remember that while clinical training is critical, so is the skill of being empathetic. Therapists need to be able to listen to patients and understand their challenges to get the best results."

Larrison ended his remarks by saying, "These are the trends and changes now, but as healthcare institutions continue to work with the Affordable Care Act, expect more changes to come."



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