Six Tips for Creating a Successful Clinical Setting $0.00

Six Tips for Creating a Successful Clinical Setting

By: Dr. Jim Wagner, OTD, OTR/L, CHT, CPAM, CSCS, CKTP |
Six Tips for Creating a Successful Clinical Setting

Happy Hand Therapy Week! Every day around the globe occupational therapists and physical therapists who specialize in rehabilitation of the upper extremity change the lives of countless people for the better. Hand therapy week gives us the opportunity to showcase the benefit of the services we offer and share the specialty we love. After thinking of the several topics that would have been great to discuss on this blog, I decided to take on an often-overlooked topic. Therapists love to learn new tips, tricks, and strategies to provide various treatment intervention as do I.

However, one topic that doesn’t seem to pop up much is how to provide strategies in creating an environment that allows our patients to flourish, meet their personal goal and help us make a patient for life! What creates that environment? Passion and compassion! Below are just six quick strategies we use in our OT/hand center to help make that happen.

Personalize the Waiting Area and Clinical Area

Your front desk staff are your first line of defense and that first positive interaction can make all the difference! Talk with your patient service specialists about how to meet the needs of those coming to your hand clinic.

Greet your patient with a smile and ask if they need help filling out any required paperwork. (After all, they may only have one hand…) Help them get comfortable and answer any questions they may have.

Set up a clinic that has a personal feel. People come in with pain, trauma, and fear. Make your setting a place the takes the fear out of therapy!

Hang some motivational pictures, place plants around the clinic, offer coffee and other beverages, or play soft relaxing music in the background.

Have an Open Floor Plan but Leave Room for Privacy

Allowing people to be around others that are going through a similar situation and receive feedback from them gives a sense of community, security, and comfort. Many will share their stories and encourage others on their journey as well. Have a private clinic room for those who do want privacy or when wound care is needed to be done.

Avoid Clinician Burnout

Become an expert! If you’re bored or unsatisfied in your career… it’s your own fault! The people we serve need us to be the very best we can be. People can smell job and career dissatisfaction a mile away. There is so much to learn and so much to share. You could start a journal club, begin a new program, provide an Inservice to the community or fellow colleagues, read journal articles, do a study, get credentialed, or get your doctorate. I feel I have learned more in the last five years than in my whole 25 years of clinical practice. I still feel I have so much more to learn!

Surround yourself by people who are smarter than you and then learn from them! This has always been my plan of attack. Whether it be in my home life (yes, I AM saying my wife is smarter than me), the gym, or the clinic. I have had the opportunity to meet, work with, and learn from some of the best OT’s, PT’s, and CHT’s in the business, and I am so thankful. I make it a goal of mine to be teachable and humble.

Don’t be that clinician who does the same thing with everyone. No matter how many fractures, tendon, or nerve injuries we have treated, it’s the first time for the person we are serving. Every person deserves a comprehensive personalized therapy program based on the best clinical evidence. Think globally! We are not just “hand therapists”. Assess your patient from the plantar fascia to the nuchal line. Remember the concept of regional interdependence and fascial lines. Muscles, tendons, and nerves don’t stop at the wrist!

Help Your Patient Keep Perspective

No matter how traumatic the injury remind your patients, “This too shall pass”. However, that is not always easy to convey to someone in pain. Many injuries and surgeries will have life changing consequences. Let them know that there may be some difficult times they will have to go through, but there will be life after therapy! Motivate them, advocate for them, and always reassure them.

Help Mitigate Pain on the First Visit

Helping control someone’s pain on the first visit is essential! It can be difficult to thoroughly evaluate and treat on the first visit, but even a little goes a long way. A few ideas are to use custom fabricated orthotics, TheraBand Kinesiology Tape, Biofreeze, Therapearl, and/or an elastic resistance home program that is patient centered. These are vital to patient “buy in” and will encourage them to come back. Therapy doesn’t have to hurt to be effective.

Listen, Cry, and Laugh. Most Importantly, Have Fun!

Listen! This is key. There has been one consistent complaint I have heard throughout 25 years of clinical practice and that is, “No one listens to me!”. Be present in the moment with your patient. Smile and make eye contact. Show them that you are there for them completely during that small window of time. Make their goals your own goals.

Laughter is the best medicine! Even in the most tragic situations, a smile or a laugh can begin to heal wounds. Know your patient first before you know their experience. Cry with them, laugh with them and let them know they are not alone! No one wants a dry, boring, stiff therapist.

I have only mentioned six strategies of many that will help to enhance the patient experience. We must always remember that no matter how busy we are or how we feel on any given day, it’s not about us. We all want the very best for those we serve. After all…wouldn’t we want the same?

About the Author


Clinical Coordinator and Team Leader, Robert Packer Hospital

Adjunct Professor, Ithaca and Keuka College

Jim is an Occupational Therapist and a Certified Hand Therapist who has specialized in upper-extremity and sports-related injuries in clinical settings for 24 years. He earned his occupational therapy degree from Keuka College and his post-professional clinical doctorate from Rocky Mountain University of Health Professions with a specialty in hand therapy. Jim is currently the team leader at the hand/upper extremity center at Guthrie Clinic in Sayre, Pa. He is credentialed in physical agent modalities and is a certified strength and conditioning specialist, as well as has extensive experience in kinesiology taping. He is also an adjunct professor in the occupational therapy programs at both Keuka College and Ithaca College. Jim is a member of the American Society of Hand Therapists and has been published in the Journal of Hand Therapy. He has also been involved in competitive powerlifting/bodybuilding for 30 years. In addition, he is an avid homebrewer.