What is a Physiatrist?

Physiatrists are physicians who specialize in physical medicine and rehabilitation (PM&R), a medical specialty that deals with the evaluation and treatment of patients whose functional abilities have been impaired.

The disabilities and impairments may result from injuries or diseases such as stroke, neuromuscular disorders, musculoskeletal disorders, cardiopulmonary diseases, arthritis and others. The physiatrist can help to improve a person's functional capabilities by medical treatment and organizing and integrating a program of rehabilitation therapy such as physical, occupational, speech therapies, psychological, social nursing, prosthetic, orthotic, engineering and vocational services.

Physiatrists usually work closely with geriatricians, rheumatologists, neurologists, hospitalists, surgeons and others.  PM&R has become one of the most competitive specialities for residency training.  It is a 5-year post-graduate training program.

Also check this link here from the American Academy of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation : https://www.aapmr.org/about-physiatry/about-physical-medicine-rehabilitation/what-is-physiatry

How does a physiatrist contribute to acute care?

Physiatrists are best used early in the acute care episode, preferably within the first 3 days, or minimally in the first week after admission.  When consulted early on they can:

  • Coordinate rehabilitation interventions
  • Help manage agitation and delirium
  • Diagnose and manage musculoskeletal injuries and conditions
  • Minimize the use of antipsychotics and benzodiazepines
  • Reduce the risk of complications
  • Enhance early mobilization
  • Facilitate transfer to an inpatient rehabilitation facility
  • Significantly shorten acute care length of stay

How does a physiatrist contribute to post-acute care?

Physiatrists are typically consultants in post-acute care settings.  At inpatient rehabilitation settings across Ontario they work closely with hospitalists and other consultants to:

  • Coordinate rehabilitation interventions
  • Clarify functional goals for discharge
  • Help manage agitation and delirium
  • Diagnose and manage musculoskeletal injuries and conditions
  • Work with families and caregivers on discharge planning
  • Provide specialized rehabilitation care especially in the areas of:
  • Amputations
  • Brain Injury
  • Pelvic and lower limb fractures and joint replacements
  • Spinal Cord Injury
  • Strokes

Author *2018 LRR

 

Resources:
Grade 11 Health Careers Course PowerPoint Presentation: Click to Download

 

Finding a Physiatrist

Getting an appointment with a physiatrist requires a referral from your family physician, who is best suited to determine your need for this type of specialist. If you would like to research physiatrists in your area, you may contact the College of Physicians and Surgeons of your province for a list of specialists in physical medicine and rehabilitation (physiatrists). Physicians will be listed as they must obtain a license to practice in a province from the Provincial Colleges.