Rehabilitation Therapy and Wound Management: Strategic Partnership in Home Health

Rehabilitation therapists play an important role in the management of pressure injuries and other wounds in the home. Therapists have a strong foundational knowledge of evidence-based practices in wound care and, in collaboration with the interdisciplinary care team, can provide instrumental support for effective wound care management. Rehab therapists receive specialized training in wound assessment and documentation and perform essential interventions supporting optimal patient outcomes and improving the financial strength and stability of a home health agency.

Although scopes of practice differ from state to state, in general physical therapists (PTs) and occupational therapists (OTs) provide similar wound care services, with each discipline delivering unique influence in wound healing.

Speech-language pathologists (SLPs) or speech therapists (STs) play a more indirect role. They do not treat wounds but do provide an important perspective within the interdisciplinary care team. For example, STs develop customized plans of care to support restoration of swallowing and communication for patients with laryngectomies and tracheostomies.

Let’s take a closer look at how the direct contributions of physical and occupational therapists together can support effective wound management.

Physical Therapy and Wound Management in the Home Setting

Did you know that most state scopes of practice promote physical therapists playing an active role in wound care management? In fact, PTs receive extensive training in wound healing, including cleaning and debridement, application of wound dressings, compression therapy, pulse lavage, high-frequency ultrasound, and complete decongestive therapy for lymphedema.

Through intense education and instruction, physical therapists obtain essential assessment skills, crucial in designing the most appropriate wound care treatment plans and treatment modalities, including specific interventions for mobility training, strengthening, balance, and wound healing. By providing individualized attention to each patient, PTs play a crucial role in improving a patient’s quality of life and restoring functional independence.

With interdisciplinary collaboration and advanced wound care management, physical therapists provide effective and efficient pressure injury healing and successful management of lower extremity edema.

Occupational Therapy and Wound Management in the Home Setting

Similar to physical therapy, occupational therapists’ scopes of practice are determined by state. OTs also receive specialized wound care management training including application of wound dressings and debridement. Additionally, occupational therapists’ individualized, patient-centric approach to incorporating supportive modalities, including pressure mapping and strength training, is crucial for improved wound prevention and optimal healing.

Strategic Partnership Reveals Improved Patient Outcomes

Exceptional wound care management in the home setting is attainable. Realizing this goal begins with home health agencies seizing the incredible opportunity to cultivate a culture of collaboration and establish a strong interdisciplinary team, singularly focused on successful wound management practices. Agency leaders and decision makers can take this a step further by reaching out to community hospitals and health systems, skilled nursing, and assisted living partners, and creating a more inclusive partnership.

Successful wound prevention, care, and healing are critical to realizing optimal patient outcomes. Although physical and occupational therapists are not often recognized for their role in wound management, their individual and collective efforts can have a meaningful impact toward reducing the risk of pressure injuries. Comprehensive interdisciplinary collaboration that includes rehab therapists promotes exceptional wound management practices and strengthens the future financial stability of your home health agency.


Director of Post-Acute Care Solutions, Relias

Trish Richardson is a board-certified nurse executive and certified medical-surgical registered nurse with 30 years of business and healthcare experience including acute and post-acute leadership positions in clinical education, operations, management, and oversight for successful organizational change initiatives. She is also president-elect for the North Carolina Nurses Association.

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