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My First Week of Inpatient PT Volunteering

I have a few weeks off for winter break before my last semester of classes begins, so I started volunteering at a nearby hospital. Inpatient is different than I expected, in good and bad ways.

The good

The PT’s day is always different, and they have so much flexibility with their jobs. Every morning each PT and PTA are given a packet with a list of patients which includes their room number, basic diagnosis, and the treatment from the previous day. The PT’s generally choose the area of the hospital that requires the most evaluations and the assistants/aides help patients with simpler treatments, but everyone pretty much goes wherever they please. The PT’s, PTA’s, and techs all have walkie talkie devices to communicate with each other, and I’m pretty jealous that I don’t get one. I love how you’re always on your feet running around the hospital, and you look at patient charts and document treatments on the computer whenever there is spare time. Everyone reconvenes at lunch time to talk about the patients that they saw, note the patients that should be seen again in the afternoon, and write down the information of any new patients that need to be seen.

Also, there are so many abbreviations! Some I had seen before, some I was able to figure out by staring at the paper for far too long, but most I had to ask about. I ended up making a list of things to look up when I got home. One of those being a total hip replacement, which is so awesome! I had no idea that was possible, and not that I’m surprised that it is possible, but I had never heard of it before.

The bad

This hospital is not too diverse, based on the range of patients and treatments. A majority of the treatments are simply transfers, gait assessment, and simple bed exercises, which are not too exciting to watch over and over again. I think I would be more excited by inpatient if I could be hands on or be more helpful in some way.

Some stories

Two patients have commented that I’m really small, one of them suggesting that I eat more spinach! They made me giggle, but they probably make a good point.
The determination of some patients is inspiring. You can tell that they are in pain, yet they’re so appreciative when the PT convinces them to move a little bit.

I’m having trouble remembering what patients say, and I wish I could write down some quotes. I just know that although I hate waking up at 7 am and watching others help patients can be somewhat dull, I look forward to observing and learning more about the patients and physical therapy. One patient thanked me, and although I just stood by and watched, it felt great.


Have you spent any time observing in a hospital? Share your experiences below!

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