FPTR Researcher Sees Potential and Growth for the Physical Therapy Profession Amid COVID 19

FPTR funding recipient, Michael Tevald, PT, MPT, PhD, says COVID 19 survivors will have significant rehabilitation needs and that it is up to physical therapists to adapt and build strategies to help.

Despite the challenges of the pandemic, Michael Tevald, PT, MPT, PhD, believes COVID 19 presents many opportunities for physical therapy researchers. In 2018, Tevald was the first to receive the $40,000 Acute Care Research Grant to investigate rehabilitation strategies in people undergoing lung transplants. The course of his work, like that of many physical therapist researchers, has been affected. Nonetheless, Tevald shares his thoughts on how physical therapist researchers and clinicians are primed and adequately positioned to continue developing innovative ways to help patients regain their mobility.

  • How has this health crisis impacted your work and research?
    The cessation of non-COVID 19-related research in response to the pandemic has been a challenge for many investigators. Our work with lung transplant recipients, for whom immunosupression is a necessary fact of life, has been heavily impacted. To protect this population, we’ve worked to keep them away from the hospital setting to limit exposure. Unfortunately, that has heavily restricted how we are able to collect our data. This challenge has forced us to adapt and be more creative in how we collect data remotely via telehealth systems.
  • What do you foresee the future of physical therapy to look like?
    Physical therapists have a track record of adapting to changing environments. I see no reason why this situation is any different. While telehealth has been around for a while, I think the current situation is forcing more of us to explore it possibilities. I don’t see it fully replacing the traditional, face-to-face interaction between physical therapists and patients, I’m certain that we will come out with innovative ideas for how we might extend our abilities to help the people we work with.
  • How can physical therapy researchers adjust and show they remain vital to the healthcare profession?
    This question makes me think of a conversation I had with the team of acute care therapists I work with. The initial response of hospital systems to COVID 19 was to limit staff interaction with COVID+ patients, in large part due to the global shortage of personal protective equipment. While understandable given the circumstances, this approach reversed years of progress we’ve made in building a culture of mobility in the hospital and critical care environments. Within days, the medical team immediately began developing a plan to reintegrate our services into the management of patients. This included a “rehab in place” model where acute care therapists were delivering enhanced services to COVID+ patients who couldn’t be placed in rehab facilities.  The lesson from that story is that PT plays a critical role in the healthcare system. Survivors will need significant rehabilitation and treatment; the burden will be on us to develop strategies to help them.

Tevald is an Associate Professor at Arcadia University’s College of Health Sciences where he serves as the director of Post-Professional Programs. He is currently the secretary of the Early Career Research Special Interest Group of APTA’s Section on Research. In 2007, Tevald was awarded a New Investigator Fellowship Training Initiative (NIFTI).


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