Little Milestones, Big Impact: Play is Key Part of Physical Therapy
As the leader in specialty pediatric burn care, Shriners Children’s provides wraparound services at each stage of a child’s recovery from the acute injury to reconstructive surgeries.
A key part of the multi-disciplinary approach to burn treatment is physical therapy, and it starts as soon as the child is admitted to one of Shriners Children’s four burn hospitals.
“Our care plan starts on day one,” said Rehabilitation Manager Kim Tran, who has worked as a physical therapist at Shriners Children’s Ohio for 27 years. “We determine the child’s range of motion and focus on those areas where it may be limited.”
Burn patients tend to have difficulty moving because the scar tissue is tighter than regular skin. So a big part of physical therapy is movement and stretching.
“We pride ourselves on having an aggressive approach to physical and occupational therapy, so we get these kids up and moving as much as possible,” Tran said.
This is where physical therapists tap into their creativity.
“We want to incorporate play as much as possible, so we have toys, games and all kinds of tools to add a little fun,” Tran said.
For example, therapists may blow bubbles and ask a child to stretch their arms high to pop them. The team works on gripping and grabbing by pulling and peeling stickers or using small building blocks to a create a castle.
The method may look a little different based on a child’s medical needs, but Tran said the goal remains the same: getting them back to pre-burn activities.
“If a toddler was crawling before the burn injury, we work to get them back to that point. Or if an older child was attending school, we’re going to get them into the classroom again,” Tran said.
The continuum of care at Shriners Children’s can sometimes span years after the injury.
“What’s unique about children who have a burn injury is the affected skin can’t move with their growth spurts, so they have to come back for reconstructive procedures,” she explained. “We’ll work with them again to help straighten their elbow or leg.”
Every stretch and step adds up to a victory for patients and their therapists.
“The most rewarding part of my job is helping a child through a really traumatic event so they can go back to being a kid,” she said. “Every therapy session has so many little milestones that ultimately lead to good outcomes and that child walking out of the hospital.”
Shriners Children’s provides specialty pediatric burn care at four locations: Shriners Children’s Ohio, Shriners Children’s Boston, Shriners Children’s Texas and Shriners Children’s Northern California.
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