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Purpose and Mission
Rehabilitation specialists are doctors who have completed training in the specialty of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation, and may also have a subspecialty in brain injury, hospice and palliative, neuromuscular, pain medicine, pediatric rehabilitation, spinal cord injury, or sports medicine.
Rehab specialists focus treatment on function and have a wide range of medical knowledge to permit them to treat a variety of conditions at all stages of life. Their job is to diagnose and treat pain relating to an injury, illness, or disabling condition, create a treatment/prevention plan, lead a team of medical professionals such as physical therapists, occupational therapists, and physician assistants.
In most cases, PM&R doctors work closely with other healthcare professionals including primary care physicians, neurologists, and orthopedic surgeons.
Some rehab specialists might not have a direct supervisor as they work as part of a private practice. Those who are direct employees of hospitals and clinics often report to a department head or service chief.
PM&R physicians do frequently have significant supervisory responsibilities in terms of managing a patient’s healthcare team. Senior rehabilitation doctors often train and evaluate residents, therapists and other technical staff. Many will serve on hospital medical committees and/or on the management board of their practise.
Doctors are required to earn a bachelor’s degree and then graduate from medical school to earn an MD. Newly graduated physicians then participate in a three- or four-year clinical residency program working with experienced colleagues.
Rehabilitation specialists then begin a four-year training program in physical medicine & rehabilitation to qualify for a fellowship in the specialty.
All practicing medical doctors must register with both the Medical Board of Australia (MBA) and with the Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency (AHPRA).
Responsibilities of a Rehabilitation Specialist
Physical and rehabilitation medicine includes four main clinical areas: neurological, musculoskeletal, amputee, and rehabilitation after spinal cord damage.
Neurological rehabilitation involves treating people recovering from acute brain injury, including strokes. Rehab doctors also treat patients with long term neurological conditions such as multiple sclerosis and cerebral palsy.
Note that musculoskeletal rehabilitation is the original focus of the discipline of physical medicine. Musculoskeletal rehabilitation includes the medical management and rehabilitation of disabling conditions such as arthritis, chronic soft tissue injuries, and back pain.
Amputee rehabilitation typically involves outpatient care as well as pre-amputation counselling and inpatient assessment. Some physicians working in this sub-specialty also provide medical input to orthotics clinics, wheelchair centres, and the like.