Krisi ProbertArticle by Krisi Probert, OTD, OTR/L, CHT

When I was on my last Level 2 rotation in OT school, I was placed in a long-term care facility. I knew I wanted to concentrate in geriatrics (let me be clear—not pediatrics; beyond that, I wasn’t fussy) and our school used the last rotation to attempt to place you in an area where you would enjoy working upon graduation.  One day, as I was busily making my rounds doing morning ADLs, sweating and trying fruitlessly to help yet another patient don compression hose amidst clouds of talcum powder, a CNA innocently asked me, “What makes your job different from mine?”

I don’t remember my answer, but I will never forget her question. I also remember thinking how I never wanted to be asked that question again. Because, regardless of how eloquently I phrased my answer, essentially she was asking, “What difference are you making?”

It is a question we should be asking ourselves every day. It should be the framework we use to guide every evaluation, set every goal, write every daily note, and summarize every discharge. In the end, what did we do for this patient, this treatment, this bout of therapy that changed their lives? And when I review this treatment session and begin to create the narrative for what transpired during my time with the patient, am I adequately representing the difference I made in their lives that day?

Don’t be satisfied getting through each day ticking off patients and slogging through paperwork. I know, I know—there are mounds of documentation to wade through, and each year, as our reimbursement decreases, the demands for more evidence that we are working is increasing. Set out to defy the system not by getting by with the absolute minimum (and believe me, I have had many days where that was the only thing I was looking for); challenge yourself to blow the reviewers away with just how amazing you actually are. I know you are an amazing therapist, seeking to enrich yourself with information—you wouldn’t be reading this blog if you weren’t. Unfortunately, the reviewers paying the bills cannot be there to see it.  The only indication they have of what an incredible therapist you are is what they see in writing.

Let’s not get on the other side of this wave of new healthcare changes mourning the decline of a great profession because we were unable to justify the change we were creating. Set a professional goal this year to raise the bar on your own documentation. Get crazy and make it a personal goal to become the go-to person for developing others in this area.  Create a legacy of your skills and a written footprint of your influence by accurately reporting, in detail, the power of your therapeutic relationship. You owe to your patients, your profession, and every person that seeks to recreate the successes that come naturally to you. Don’t let anyone that crosses your written path of documentation wonder, “What difference are you making?”

Krisi is an expert OT speaker for the Hands, Shoulders, Knees & Elbows track at the 2014 Skin, Bones, Hearts & Private Parts CME conference. See Krisi this summer in Walt Disney World, Florida.