In ancient times, how well you moved could be a life or death situation. If you couldn't outrun a predator or an enemy, you were probably dinner or a captive, or worse. People born with limb defects or those whose injuries impeded their movement, had very short life spans. Luckily the human race has evolved to a place where we value human life, even when the body is not perfect.
Physical therapists have contributed immeasurably to the quality of life for people who have limited mobility. There was a time when the only thing technology had to offer was crutches. Now there are assistive devices that provide ways for people with even severe disabilities to live fulfilling lives.
Physical Therapists as Inventors
Working with individual patients, PTs often wish for devices that would address a specific physical need or deficit. This was a recurring notion for Kimberly Castle, associate professor of physical therapy at the University of North Georgia (UNG); "I wish someone would invent that to help my patient."
Castle's wish is on the way to being granted. In partnership with prestigious Georgia Institute of Technology, UNG is offering students enrolled in the Department of Physical Therapy an opportunity to bring their ideas to reality. As part of their curriculum, PT students can literally invent something to address a specific purpose for a suffering patient. Georgia Tech industrial design students will help with the mechanics and the result is a solution for the patient, and a business and entrepreneurial opportunity for students of both schools.
"This puts physical therapists in the driver's seat for designing the devices our patient's need rather than adopting products designed by others outside of our field," says Dr. Mary Ellen Oesterle, head of the Department of Physical Therapy.
Finding the Best Solutions
Such a collaborative effort benefits everyone. PTs understand the physiology of the patient better than anyone. Even though every patient is unique, fashioning a device to improve function or speed recovery will help others with the same needs. Aside from a physical apparatus, computer science has enabled applications that find answers for patients.
One example comes from UNG itself. Two students developed an application that will enable a non-verbal man to communicate more effectively using a computer accessory. Who knows what other clinical applications will result from the inventions of PTs
Contact us to find your next position in Physical Therapy or other Allied Health specialties. And, if interested in learning more about this and related topics, visit the Healthcare section of our blog.
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