10 Creative Physical Therapy Inservice Ideas

Nov 22, 2019
8 min read
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Engage your audience with these 10 creative ideas for physical therapy inservice topics.

creative PT Inservice-Topics

Presenting an inservice can be a stressful experience for many physical therapists—even the most knowledgeable and outgoing. Aside from glossophobia (fear of public speaking), trying to make your presentation interesting and relevant for your colleagues provides an additional challenge.

Keep reading below for 10 creative inservice ideas and topics to help you prepare for your next presentation.

#1 Case studies

As a PT there’s nothing quite as satisfying as treating a complicated patient and watching them improve. A case study is a great way to present your research, interventions, and the progress you’ve helped your patient achieve. It allows you to share any great ideas or techniques you’ve applied to the case, in turn providing your colleagues with ideas for their own patients.

Conversely, a case study can be a great way to get insights and ideas from other therapists about how to improve your plan of care, change up stagnant treatments or set new goals. A case study can be a great way to spark discussion, providing your colleagues the opportunity to provide insight, experience, and treatment techniques you may not have considered.

Consider presenting clinical observations as a part of your presentation. Have you observed any patterns in patient presentations? How did you address them? What interventions were the most effective? Pose these findings and any related research to the group. See if anyone else has recognized this or dealt with a similar situation.

#2 Continuing education course

Likely you’ve sat in on more than one presentation based on a continuing education course, so this type of inservice isn’t the most novel solution—but there are ways to make it more interesting for your audience.

Presenting information learned in a course is one of the best ways to utilize the knowledge you've gained. Condensing one, two, or three days' worth of material into a brief presentation, teaching it, and answering questions about it will solidify understanding and help you recognize patients appropriate for the techniques.

If there’s a lab component, it will force you to review and practice the skills, and observing your peers practice them will help you identify mistakes. Breaking your presentation up with lab time throughout can help maintain engagement during the presentation.

Additionally, tell your colleagues why you took the course, what you did or did not like about it, and if you would recommend it. With the rising cost of continuing education for PTs, peers and colleagues appreciate honest opinions about the course to help decide if they should take it. Did you disagree with the course? Was the evidentiary support substantial? Discuss these points as well. Dissent is okay—and it can spark discussion (and engagement!) with your audience.

#3 Research article

Staying up-to-date on current research can feel overwhelming and time-consuming, especially as a new graduate trying to find your way through a new clinical setting, provide the best care for your patients, and balance having any kind of a life outside of work. However, reviewing articles can deepen your knowledge, provide treatment ideas, make you think critically and re-evaluate your own practice. Presenting research can be a great way to spark discussion and debate among colleagues, and bring new ideas to light.

When discussing research articles, include why you chose to read this article, what the findings were, and how it applies to your patient population. Include design critiques and feasibility of implementing the technique with in-vivo patients. Compare conclusions with other articles and discuss differences.

#4 Allied Health colleagues

Inviting colleagues from other disciplines (i.e., Speech-language pathology, Occupational Therapy, Neuropsych, Recreational Therapy) to present an inservice can be a great way to solidify the team approach that rehabilitation was built on.

With so much of rehab being dictated by insurance reimbursements, as well as the emphasis on documentation and productivity, most rehabilitation professionals do not get the time they need to collaborate on patient care.

Letting other disciplines educate PTs about their role, scope of practice and perspective on different patients and populations can benefit therapists by improving referrals and maximizing patient outcomes.

Alternatively, if you work in a facility where your patient is being treated by multiple disciplines, consider presenting with your colleagues about a shared patient. Present each discipline’s focus, treatment, and goals for treatment. Discuss your interventions and how you collaborated between disciplines to support each other’s goals.

#5 Vendors

Inviting local medical vendors to inservice your team is a good way to build a resource and referral network for therapists. Medical device companies that sell braces, splints, traction, TENS, and NMES units will come and present on new devices, often bringing samples for patients and staff to trial and sometimes providing loaner units for the clinic.

These presentations often review changes in technology and design of the equipment, and generally includes a refresher on insurance reimbursement and out-of-pocket cost for patients, which alleviate patient concerns about reimbursements. Additionally, many vendors provide some light refreshments, which can entice even the most disillusioned audience.

#6 Your expertise

Use your inservice as an opportunity to combine personal and professional interests. Are you a skier, dancer, golfer or swimmer? Educate your colleagues on form, common errors, injuries and surgeries resulting from your sport. Review goals or exercises targeted to this audience.

Or, consider applying your interest as an avenue to address other impairments. For example, if you’re a dancer, build an inservice around salsa as a way to improve balance in your patients. Are you a yoga instructor? Review different breath and stretching techniques as a means to improve posture and flexibility. If you’re an exercise enthusiast, review common injuries of your favorite activity.

If you’re an expert on something, share it with your colleagues—you’ll be more passionate and engaging, and you can help your colleagues individualize their treatments in a more patient-centered way.

#7 Volunteer organizations and community resources

Community resources are an important tool for discharge planning patients from PT. Strong community resources can help patients maintain gains and engagement in physical activity. Inviting speakers from community organizations, such as fitness centers, Silver Sneakers programs, adapted sports organizations, and camps can educate therapists about available resources.

Knowing which populations an organization serves, facility accessibility, and the cost of participating helps PTs recommend appropriate resources, as well as educate patients about the programs.

If you volunteer at an organization (perhaps through the PT Day of Service?), present it to your colleagues. Tell them how and why you became involved, what is offered, populations served, volunteer commitment, typical costs and how to refer patients to the program. Share with them why you enjoy it and encourage them to join.

Adaptive sports and recreation organizations can be a great asset on the continuum of care. Being able to provide appropriate community resources to patients can help with discharge planning and community reintegration, as well as engaging them in regular physical activity. Additionally, many of these adapted sports organizations depend on volunteers, and are very grateful for rehabilitation professionals and their expertise.

#8 Video

If a picture is worth one thousand words, imagine what a video can do for your presentation. Informative videos can reinforce the material covered in the presentation, as well as reduce speaking time. It can be difficult to practice or envision a technique by practicing on a colleague, and videos with patient demonstrations can help bridge the gap. Very often pre- and post-treatment videos effectively demonstrate improvements with intervention better than data on the screen.

A note of warning, though: make sure the video will play in your presentation and have backups—either links to the website or a saved copy. There’s nothing worse than a technological malfunction in front of an audience!

#9 Live patient demo

With the express permission of your patient (check with your employer regarding their policies) bring your patient to your inservice. Let the patient tell your colleagues in their own words how their life is affected by living with their condition, how a specific intervention has affected them, and what they think of therapy.

Are you a specialist in a specific technique or intervention? Perform your patient’s re-evaluation (again, with permission) with your colleagues present. Present their initial evaluation data, demonstrate a typical treatment, and present their progress. Ask your patient what they’ve noticed is different. Especially with neurological conditions, there is no substitution for seeing or practicing on a patient with that condition.

#10 Quiz

Starting your presentation with quiz questions posed to the audience can assess baseline knowledge of your inservice topic, as well as increase participation and engagement. Ending your presentation with a quiz has a similar effect, but also helps summarize the key points of a presentation. Consider breaking into groups and creating a competition. Tossing candy out for correctly answered questions can also be a great incentive.

No matter the topic, a good inservice presentation requires preparation and practice. Hopefully this article has given you ideas for how to make yours more creative. Good luck!

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About Brianne Carroll, PT, DPT

Brianne is a Physical Therapist from Rockaway Beach, New York. She earned her undergraduate degree in Exercise Science from Manhattan College in 2012 and her DPT from Hunter College in 2015.  Since beginning her PT career, she has worked both hospital and outpatient settings, treating a diverse patient population, including cardiac, pulmonary, orthopedic and neurological patients.  Outside of physical therapy, Brianne teaches snowboarding for the Adaptive Sports Foundation in Windham, NY, and enjoys reading, high intensity interval training  and hanging out at the beach.


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