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I am beyond thrilled today to have another friend and colleague back on the blog today in our "Faith at Work" series. Please welcome Megan Mobley to the discussion! She has graciously put together some thoughts and encouragements for us from her perspective of working as a PT in a burn unit. And if you want to get caught up with the series you can view previous therapists thoughts on these links: Neuro Rehab, Spinal Cord, Management, Ortho/Sports Rehab, Acute Care 1, Acute Care 2. Enjoy!
Where do you work? Describe the patient population in which you work.
Since graduating in 2010, I have been working as a PT at the regional burn center in Augusta, GA (Joseph M. Still Burn Center), which happens to be the largest in the USA. All of my patients have impaired skin, whether it be burn injuries or complicated wounds (necrotizing fasciitis, Stevens-Johnson syndrome, pyoderma gangrenosum, calciphylaxis). I am also involved in wound care in our outpatient clinic that involves scar management after burn injury, smaller non-healed burns, or less complicated wounds (venous, arterial, diabetic, pressure).
What do you enjoy about working in that field of PT?
Never did I expect to go into wound care, but I have always loved the hospital setting. The burn center is such a special place. No one expects to get injured, and families are uprooted from around the southeast portion of our country (we have some international patients too), in order to come to Augusta, GA for treatment. I am able to walk along the patient and their family members during the most traumatic event of their lives.
What are some of the unique physical, emotional, or spiritual challenges of working in that field PT?
I touched on some of this above, but burns are an unexpected trauma. A loved one is recovering in the hospital, who may have been the breadwinner of the family, a father of 3 kids, and lives in a town 3 hours away from Augusta. Families take turns visiting. Some patients have no visitors. Many staff members are burned out from working in this setting, and treat it only as a job. It has to be so much more than that! Patients are in the hospital from just a few days to 6-12 months prior to their first admission home. Some patients never make it out of the hospital unfortunately. It can take a toll on you emotionally, but you have to stay focused on the long term of getting that patient as independent as possible and returning home. Your co-workers are a great support system. We work very closely together and support one another. In this setting, your co-workers truly are the only ones who understand your day. Patients are always in pain, but they are able to receive some pain medications, but therapy is never pain free here. I love educating the patient and their family on what their new normal may look like upon discharge home.
How does your faith impact your work and how you view your patient interactions?
Loving others above myself. Loving my patients and their family members even when they are unlovable. I can extend this love because Jesus first loved me. I try to be compassionate and put myself in the patient's or caregivers' shoes because this is their first experience going through a catastrophic burn injury (even though I have seen it countless times). I try to explain and educate them on healing timelines and what to expect during recovery. It is not an easy place to work, but I see it as a mission field. We have patients who tried to commit suicide but were given a second chance. I try to point those things out that the patient has a purpose and is still here for a reason.
Briefly describe a story in which you really felt like you ministered to a patient and their family.
There was a young couple that I worked with several years ago, and the woman was injured over 50% of her body including the most visual areas of the body: her face and hands. Her husband was at her side every day in the hospital, and their home was 3 hours away. He would participate in our therapy sessions, and he was always so engaged saying “She is my best friend. I will do anything for her.” It is a full time job for a caregiver when a patient with a large burn injury discharges home: lotion application and massage every 2 hours, donning compression garments and wearing them 23 hours/day, stretching, exercises. I was able to be there for this patient and her husband as they transitioned home after being in the hospital for several months with a burn injury that was not fully healed. I tried to educate and give them home exercise programs and other resources to help them prepare for managing everything at home. This particular couple ministered to me as well because their love and commitment were so strong to one another! Over the years, I have seen other spouses leave their partners after this type of injury because “this wasn’t the life I signed up for.”
***Check out my book "Rehab the World" written for Physical Therapists to encourage us in our workplace and prepare us to serve those around us. If you like, please leave a review and spread the word!!***