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Report cites shortage of rehab professionals.

Report Cites Shortage of Rehab Professionals

The diminishing pool of physical and occupational therapists and rehabilitation nurses is quickly reaching crisis proportions, according to Crisis Ahead: Recruitment and Retention of Rehabilitation Professionals in the Nineties and Beyond, a report issued by the Professional Advisory Council of the National Easter Seal Society.

"A simple ad in the Sunday paper to fill a vacancy is no longer good enough," said John R. Garrison, Chief Executive Officer of the National Easter Seal Society. "If rehabilitation professional shortages continue to become widespread, then the very mission of rehabilitation becomes jeopardized."

The "rehab flight" dilemma can be summed up as an inequality of supply and demand. In almost every area of expertise, demand is increasing and supplies in certain professions are shrinking. The report states that both elements of the equation seem to be out of control.

The increase in needed services stems largely from medical technological advances in recent years. Increasing numbers of people are living into old age, often with multiple disabilities. Those born with disabilities and those who experience accidental trauma are surviving at greater rates. In addition, the growing awareness of the rights and needs of people with disabilities is increasing the demand for occupational therapy that will allow them to live independently. Significant federal legislation mandating the provision of occupational therapy services is contributing substantially to this demand.

While the need for rehabilitation is growing, the supply of occupational therapists has leveled off with approximately 2,300 therapists and 900 assistants entering the field each year. In the area of physical therapy, the nation will need 42 percent more physical therapists than are currently employed, according to a 1984 Brandeis University Health Policy Center prediction. Bureau of Labor statistics indicate that physical therapy will be the third fastest growing occupation through the year 2000. The situation in rehabilitation nursing is exacerbated by the general shortage of nurses.

The answers, according to the Easter Seal report, lie in both recruitment and retention. Creative efforts are proposed to attract new people in the areas needed; this includes greater use of direct mail, newspaper, radio and TV advertisements, professional and staff recruiters, sign-on bonuses, free housing, and participation in exhibits and open houses. A major effort should be directed toward showing young people the potentials of a career in rehabilitation.

Efforts at retention may include: day care programs, part-time employment and job sharing, expanded career ladders, education and in-service programs, higher reimbursement, as well as greater participation in patient management.

Approaches for tapping unused talent include: attracting minorities, encouraging retired therapists to re-enter the profession, and awarding scholarships and/or stipends to students in exchange for rehabilitation work.

"Easter Seals is acting now to meet this imminent shortage of rehabilitation professionals," said Garrison. "Not to change or develop creative approaches now would almost certainly mean serious understaffing in the years just ahead."

Brochures on rehabilitation and physical and occupational therapy are available from the National Easter Seal Society. Rehabilitation professionals and those interested in entering the field of rehabilitation who want more information can contact the Easter Seal affiliate in their community or the National Easter Seal Society at 70 East Lake Street, Chicago, Illinois 60601.

The National Easter Seal Society is a nonprofit, community-based health agency dedicated to increasing the independence of people with disabilities. Easter Seals makes a difference in the lives of disabled adults, children and their families by offering a wide range of quality services, research and programs. Easter Seals is in the forefront of advocacy efforts on behalf of people with disabilities. Through 200 nationwide affiliates, more than a million people receive Easter Seal services each year.
COPYRIGHT 1989 U.S. Rehabilitation Services Administration
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1989, Gale Group. All rights reserved. Gale Group is a Thomson Corporation Company.

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Title Annotation:report by Professional Advisory Council of the National Easter Seal Society
Publication:American Rehabilitation
Date:Mar 22, 1989
Previous Article:Information management for a rehabilitation client assistance program.
Next Article:Results of the VENUS Project: increasing program utilization of vocational services.

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