Physical therapy brings Airmen back to fight
By Airman 1st Class Shane M. Phipps, 366th Fighter Wing Public Affairs
/ Published March 28, 2013
MOUNTAIN HOME AIR FORCE BASE, Idaho -- From storming the beaches of Normandy, France, in 1944, to guarding the streets of Mosul, Iraq, in 2006, physical fitness has been essential to American and coalition forces.
With the historically high physical demands put on troops, injuries can happen despite safety precautions. With this in mind, many military installations are equipped with a solution to help their members become fit to fight again - physical therapy.
"Our goal is always to bring a person back to their prior level of physical function," said Dr. Jennifer Skeesick, 366th Medical Operations Squadron physical therapist. "We want everyone to be able to do their job well and take care of themselves."
Physical therapy is a component of the hospital but is located within the Health and Wellness Center inside the base gym.
"Initially, we receive a referral from a physician at the hospital," explained Skeesick. "Next, each patient will come in and have a complete examination where we then create a plan for their treatment and that's when we entrust the rest of their care to our technicians. Finally, after that is completed the patient comes back to us and we determine where they're at in the plan of care."
A team of highly qualified, licensed technicians work hands-on with each patient to ensure a safe recovery.
"As an assistant, we pick the ball up after the therapist has created a plan of care for the patient, then we'll execute it and progress them, writing daily treatment notes and always communicating their current status with the therapist," said Dan McGarthy, 366th MDOS licensed physical therapist assistant.
Although physical therapy has always been part of the hospital, confusion about what the therapists are authorized to do persists.
"I think it's important to recognize our position as providers, who simply specialize in physical therapy," said Skeesick. "Short of prescribing medication we are like any other doctor here, able to make physical fitness profiles and refer patients to specialists as necessary."
The team is a unique combination of military and civilian therapists and assistants all working together to protect and enhance the most valuable resource - Airmen.
"I've been here about a year, and I am really impressed and humbled by all the folks serving, and I am happy to help any way I can," said McGarthy. "My special enjoyment comes from sharing my knowledge and setting folks up to succeed in the future so they don't have to come back and see us."
For the physical therapy crew, the hours of dedicated care for their patients are all worth it come deployment time.
"Personally, one of my favorite parts of the job is making a positive impact on the military and getting people back as safely and quickly as possible so they can do their jobs," said Skeesick. "Watching troops prepare to go off to a deployment, and making sure they're ready to go is something we take very seriously."