If you go to the APTA website, you’ll find a nice header logo that states, “The Science of Healing. The Art of Caring.” For years, those within the profession have talked about what we do as an “art” – with experience and professional judgement as the brush’s guide. This idea has lead to a “treat-on-the-fly” mentality that is too hit-and-miss for health care.
What do I mean by this? Take low back pain for instance. Experience, professional judgement, and personal bias often leads Physical Therapists to provide care that is backed by little or no medical evidence. These treatments may be chosen for many reasons from “it’s worked before” to “I just had a feeling”. Is that really provided best quality care?
Isn’t it time we standardize practice a little? When strong evidence exists that supports a certain intervention or system, should we not be using it? This is true for Physical Therapists across the board, not only the ones doing the research. Classifying low back pain patients based on signs and symptoms and providing matched interventions is the perfect example. Studies that have examined this system show that patients receiving matched interventions based on classification get better and get better faster. So…what’s the hold up?
Some argue that these “simplified” ideas take the “art” out of our profession. I beg to differ. Like the logo from the APTA displays, the “art” of Physical Therapy lies in our ability to interact in a empathetic way with our patients. To make them better – not just physically, but mentally, maybe spiritually. It speaks to our ability to holistically treat our patients.
Some say standardization pigeon-holes practitioners, taking experience and judgement out of the picture. Wrong. It simply says that as a profession, we support scientific research — know it — and use it to get our patients better, get them better faster, and in the most cost effective manner.
Physical Therapy IS both art and science. Both are important and necessary for good Physical Therapists. However, relying on outdated theories or “gut instinct” isn’t the providing best practice. Our patients deserve better.