Good As New

Interdisciplinary team goes beyond skilled facilities in restoring function.

In late February 2021, Mitchell* was involved in a horrific car crash near his home in Vero Beach. The impact was so intense that Mitchell was ejected from his vehicle and flung onto the unforgiving asphalt roadway. He suffered several severe, life-altering injuries.

“The accident left me with fractures in my lower spine and a traumatic brain injury,” the 22-year-old elaborates. “For a while, I couldn’t even breathe on my own, and even after I regained the ability to do that, I was still unable to walk, talk or do basic things for myself. To regain that ability, I was told I would need extensive rehabilitation.”

To help him regain the level of function he desired, Mitchell chose Encompass Health Rehabilitation Hospital of Treasure Coast, the only acute rehab hospital in Vero Beach. Encompass Health offers a higher level of care than a skilled nursing facility.

“Our hospital is committed to offering the most innovative rehab programs for multiple trauma and brain injury and delivering the right care to each patient,” asserts Dawn Bucaj, RN, BSN, business development director at Encompass Health. “Experienced teams coordinate advanced technologies and treatments with direct physician supervision to provide a seamless approach for restoring patient confidence and enhancing outcomes.

“Some of the conditions treated through this program include multiple fractures, multi-trauma with spinal cord injury, multi-trauma with brain injury, nontraumatic brain injuries such as tumors, nontraumatic spinal cord injuries, traumatic brain injuries and traumatic spinal cord injuries.”

Once patients are admitted, an interdisciplinary team evaluates the patients’ individual  needs and goals. The team includes an internal medicine physician, rehabilitation physician, occupational therapist, physical therapist, respiratory therapist, speech therapist, nutrition specialist, case managers/social workers and rehabilitation-certified nurses.

“After the initial evaluation, the team meets weekly to reevaluate the patients’ progress and update their goals based on that progress and the patients’ changing needs,” Dawn describes. “These reevaluations focus on improving care for maximum recovery. Patients are seen by two physicians three to five times per week as part of this process

Individualized Therapies

The therapies chosen as part of Encompass Health’s multiple trauma and brain injury program, which is certified by the Joint Commission, are custom-tailored to each patient based on needs, abilities and goals, Dawn reports. Important issues such as mobility, activities of daily living and community reintegration serve as the basis.

“Individualized therapies include occupational, physical, respiratory and speech therapy, and nutrition counseling,” Dawn expounds. “During their stay, all patients receive at least three hours of therapy every weekday and 24-hour care from rehab-certified registered nurses. These level of care requirements set us apart from skilled nursing facilities. 

“As part of the overall program, we also offer a skin care program and a bowel and bladder management program, if needed. All of the therapies provided are aimed at restoring function and enabling a smooth community reentry.”

The interdisciplinary rehab team follows patients throughout their stay. The team’s most valuable members are the patients and their families, Dawn notes.

“It is particularly important for patients to be close to their support system of friends and family throughout their recovery,” she observes. “At Encompass Health, patients and families undergo training through our education program, where they learn about the patients’ specific injuries and how to prepare for a safe discharge back home.”

Encompass Health Rehabilitation Hospital of Treasure Coast is part of the Encompass Health network of more than 140 inpatient rehabilitation hospitals across the country. As a national leader and integrated health care provider, Encompass Health is committed to delivering high-quality, cost-effective care utilizing individualized care plans and state-of-the-art equipment.

“As a proud member of our national network, we are able to work with our patients to reduce further hospitalizations by implementing proven fall prevention strategies and improving communication,” Dawn says. “Our goal is to get our patients back to or as close to their prior level of function as possible.” 

“They Were Fantastic”

According to Dawn, many multiple trauma patients are at risk for other medical conditions and complications. Mitchell suffered such a fate.

“His speech and swallowing were affected,” Dawn reports. “And during his hospitalization, he developed pneumonia, a lung infection, and septicemia, a serious infection of the bloodstream. He ultimately required a tracheostomy, which is a surgically created hole in the windpipe, to enable him to breathe effectively.

“Because we are an acute-level rehabilitation hospital, we can manage complications such as these. In fact, an acute inpatient hospital is the only place patients can receive this level of medical and rehabilitative care. It is not available in skilled nursing facilities.

“Patients definitely need to request Encompass Health by name to ensure that they are triaged to the highest level of care. It is always the patient’s choice where they go to have their rehab needs met.”   

Despite the severity of his condition, Mitchell is extremely pleased with his stay at Encompass Health and with the care he received from the staff.

“The Encompass Health staff worked very closely with me while I was there, and I regained a high level of function through their help,” Mitchell enthuses. “I’m not quite 100 percent yet, which isn’t surprising because my injuries were so significant.

“I’m still working on my recovery with outpatient physical, occupational and speech therapy, but I’ll get there thanks to the great start that I got from all the people at Encompass Health.

“I can’t thank them enough for all that they did for me. They were fantastic, and I highly recommend them.”

© FHCN article by Patti DiPanfilo. Biodex photo courtesy of Biodex.mkb
* Patient’s name changed at his request
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