This limb swelling occurs when the lymph nodes of the immune system are damaged due to surgery or radiation, causing a fluid buildup in the arms or legs.
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On a recent weekday, physical therapy students from the University of Indianapolis spent time with Laura Rinehart learning about her role in wound care management. The first-hand experience was important to Rinehart. It’s where she got her start in physical therapy. It’s where she got her start in wound care.
“When I was in high school I shadowed a physical therapist who worked in wound care. When I saw her cleaning a wound, I liked how she was able to practice those skills and work with the patient on mobility,” said Rinehart, who has worked in wound care at IU Health for nearly a decade. She remembered when she was 10 and her little brother burned his hand on a grill and received wound care to help facilitate his full recovery. Later in life she saw how physical therapy helped her grandmother following multiple strokes.
“When students come here, they aren’t necessarily aware of the wound care aspect of physical therapy. It may be their first exposure and I want to make sure they understand the impact we have on patients,” said Rinehart, 37.
In the basement of Methodist Hospital in the outpatient wound clinic, Rinehart joins other physical therapists, a wound ostomy nurse practitioner, a medical assistant, and a case manager, in working with outpatients to provide a full assessment and plan for healing.
The team collaborates with physicians in various specialties to provide a cohesive plan of care for complex wounds like cellulitis, lymphedema compression-related edema, and deep tissue injuries. Treatments include exercise, compression wraps, wound drainage, and therapeutic technologies such as low-frequency ultrasound; high-voltage pulsed current and negative pressure wound therapy.
“Our work involves both pain management and healing,” said Rinehart. “We are truly involved with the patient from the point the wound opens to its closing. We also want to make sure there is no reoccurrence so education is a big part of our therapy. We want patients to properly care for themselves, and to understand why it is important to be compliant.”
Rinehart says the best part of her job is seeing immediate changes with wounds from the interventions that are practiced, and the impact it has on the patients returning to their daily routines.
“I like developing the relationship with patients, and part of me is in awe of people putting trust in me. I take that seriously. It makes me want to be a better therapist because I know they trust me.”
More about Rinehart:
-- By T.J. Banes, Associate Senior Journalist at IU Health.
Reach Banes via email at T.J. Banes or on Twitter @tjbanes.