APTA Michigan Lines Blog Details

Oncology Rehab’s Past, Present, and Future: Part 2 – Where are we now??

The first installment of this three-part series for APTA MI Lines blog focused on the past of oncology rehabilitation, our roots and early development into a specialty area of practice. This second installment aims to present the current status of oncology rehabilitation, in the domains of clinical practice and education (both entry level and post professional). As my colleague, Chris Wilson, so eloquently introduced in part one, Michigan really is on the forefront of this specialty area of practice. In addition to our collaboration with Deb Doherty on our textbook publication (Oncology Rehabilitation: A Comprehensive Guidebook for Clinicians. https://www.elsevier.com/books/oncology-rehabilitation/doherty/978-0-323-81087-6), we have also all been very involved in our state and national professional associations, Deb and I founding APTA MI Oncology Rehabilitation Special Interest Group (SIG) and Chris serving multiple roles within APTA Oncology at the national level. Presently, Deb serves as APTA MI Oncology Rehabilitation SIG Research Chair and I serve as the Chair of the SIG. Chris, currently serves as the President of the academy. It is essential that we continue to serve in these roles and inspire others to do so as well to continue the advocacy efforts towards improved access to and quality of care provided as well as improved workforce capability to manage this growing population of patients.

Currently in the clinical practice domain, many cancer survivors do not receive a referral to an oncology rehabilitation specialist. It is ideal to start oncology rehabilitation at the time of diagnosis, to obtain baseline measurements, impart critical information about the treatment trajectory (the what to expects etc.), and establish a meaningful relationship so the patient will know how to access oncology rehabilitation services when they are needed, because as we all can appreciate, it really is not an if situation, but a when situation. Establishing oncology rehabilitation as standard of care takes effort, inclusive of imparting education on the value of oncology rehabilitation services to our referral sources. APTA MI Oncology Rehabilitation SIG leaders are currently providing this valuable education to several medical schools within the state towards this end. I do not contend that our colleagues intentionally withhold the option of oncology rehabilitation for their patients, many are unaware of the benefits and even more still are hyper-focused on their discipline and the business of life saving. An esteemed colleague of mine, Meghan Burkhart, once said, “medical, surgical and radiation oncology add days to life, oncology rehabilitation adds life to days,” and I could not agree more.

Currently in the education of the clinical workforce domain, APTA MI Oncology Rehabilitation SIG is leading the nation once again in that our leadership has prepared and provides an entry level oncology rehabilitation course to every DPT program in the state of Michigan! Nationally, APTA Oncology is committed to facilitating provision of entry level content, having just established entry level criteria, efforts are now focused on developing resources for programs to deliver this critical information. Post professional opportunities to acquire advanced practice skills have become more widely available and include residency, certificate programs, and virtual and in-person continuing education courses. All one need do is perform a simple Google search to begin the process of acquiring skills and knowledge to improve the lives of cancer survivors through rehabilitation. Michigan has the first graduate certificate in oncology rehabilitation at Oakland University (https://oakland.edu/online/online-programs/GCOR) ), a fully online post professional opportunity to network with a global clinical workforce while growing your skills and abilities to provide holistic assessments and interventions in the oncology domain. Additionally, efforts to educate our colleagues in medical oncology are ongoing and essential to ensuring that every person living with and beyond a cancer diagnosis has access to the quality of life enhancing benefits of oncology rehabilitation.

Toward these crucial ends, leadership by example continues to be the emphasis here in the mitten state. We are proud to have the first state level SIG dedicated to clinical best practice development and patient advocacy, have provided a white paper on how we accomplished this feat, and continue to mentor other states to follow in these impressive footsteps. I encourage all who have an interest in practicing in this area, even if you do not want to work full or part time with this population, to join the SIG to network with nationally and globally recognized leaders in oncology rehabilitation. Your future patients will thank you!!! Please use the QR code below to advance your network and connect with the SIG!

Please stay tuned for our third installment in this series for the Lines blog! Deb Doherty will be discussing the future of oncology rehab!


Lori Boright PT, DPT, DScPT, CLT is an Assistant Professor at Oakland University and is a practicing physical therapist at Ascension South East Michigan, where she is responsible for leading clinical research initiatives and the statewide development of Oncology Rehabilitation across care settings.



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