Fall 2013Impact

Physical therapy students pair with IU clinic

Partnership to support community in need

Free-Clinic-26Krannert School of Physical Therapy students are offering free services to a community in need through a partnership with the Indiana University Student Outreach Clinic. The IU-SOC is an interdisciplinary, student-run clinic dedicated to providing free medical, legal, dental, pharmacy, physical therapy, and social services. Micaela Hornstein and Sara Bemenderfer, two third-year physical therapy students at UIndy, began pursuing this partnership with their faculty adviser, James Bellew, in November 2011. Their efforts led to UIndy’s first participation day at IU-SOC in October 2012. Since then, UIndy students have been providing physical therapy services at the clinic once a month and plan to increase to twice a month in September. The students work together in teams, along with a licensed physical therapist, to assess and treat movement dysfunction and educate the community on general health and wellness topics.

“You don’t get this type of experience in the classroom,” says Micaela. “It helps build confidence and make connections to what we’ve learned in the classroom.”

A community in need

The IU-SOC is run from the Neighborhood Fellowship Church on Indianapolis’s near-eastside. While racially, culturally, and economically diverse, this neighborhood is known for its sense of community. Unfortunately, 50 percent of residents live at or below the poverty level, and a large percentage of IU-SOC clinic patients report unmet health needs for a variety of reasons. “It’s amazing to see patients who may not have been able to see a healthcare professional otherwise get help with their medical needs,” Micaela says. The IU-SOC helps to close the healthcare gap by coordinating a presence in the community using an approach that addresses not only the physical health but also the emotional and social well being of each patient. A number of patients come from outside the neighborhood, but patients are not turned away.

Interdisciplinary work

The IU-SOC is a unique place for professional students from a variety of disciplines to come together to learn from each other while providing needed services to the community. “The interdisciplinary focus is a great benefit for students,” says Sara. “There are times when patients need a team approach to treatment, and having everyone available on the same day really allows the best care for the patient and greatest learning experience for the student.”

IU-SOC wouldn’t be able to provide the comprehensive care for the community without the university partnerships. The clinic quickly evolved to include pharmacy, social work, physical therapy, and more. The clinic will continue to grow as the universities build trust and relationships with Neighborhood Fellowship Church and the community.

—Jen Zentz

Health Sciences dean celebrates new Indiana law

A bill passed this spring by the General Assembly is a major step forward for Hoosiers who want more choice, greater efficiency, and lower cost in their health care. HB 1034, which became law July 1, gives Indiana residents direct access to physical therapy, meaning that an individual can be evaluated by a physical therapist and receive up to 24 days of treatment without first obtaining a physician’s referral. Until now, Indiana was the only state that did not allow direct access to evaluations by physical therapists, and one of only three states that did not allow even limited access to treatment without a referral. The change acknowledges key trends in health care, including the promotion of wellness to control costs and the fact that, as demand for primary care exceeds the availability of family physicians, patients are accessing care through a variety of channels. Physical therapy is a logical first choice for many kinds of patients, including athletes with sprains and strains, adults with everyday aches and pains, and patients with chronic conditions such as Parkinson’s disease or multiple sclerosis who need occasional guidance to manage mobility problems. Research has shown that patients who visit a physical therapist directly for outpatient care have fewer visits and lower overall costs on average than when referred by a physician.

A longtime concern about direct access was that physical therapists might fail to identify signs and symptoms that should be evaluated by other health care providers, but studies from direct-access states have shown this fear to be unfounded. At accredited programs such as the Krannert School of Physical Therapy at the University of Indianapolis, the state’s leading producer of physical therapy practitioners, the curriculum already prepares students to screen and evaluate patients in a direct-access environment, collaborating with physicians and other professionals as needed.

A doctoral degree, earned through years of rigorous classroom and clinical training, is now the standard credential for new physical therapists entering the field. In light of the new law, these well-trained practitioners have more reason to stay in Indiana.

—by Stephanie Kelly, dean of the College of Health Sciences

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