What is the best physical therapy practice for assessing and treating individuals with severe brain injury? The question started Corrine Boyea, PT, DPT, RESD ’17, on an exciting research path two years ago when she was a student in the Medstar National Rehabilitation Network and George Washington University (MedStar-GW) Neurologic Residency program.
Boyea first pursued the topic as part of her research project in the program, and has continued studying it. In January, she presented her findings as part of an acute care platform presentation at the American Physical Therapy Association Combined Sections Meeting (CSM) in Washington, D.C.
“I wanted to find a way to make treating this complex patient population easier for therapists,” said Boyea, who is now an adjunct faculty member in GW’s Physical Therapy (PT) Program. “It can be very intimidating to work with someone with impaired consciousness following severe brain injury, so I looked to the literature and created an algorithm for best practice. This was no easy task, but I learned so much through the process.”
Boyea reviewed more than 60 research articles and compiled the most relevant information to use in creating the final product. Elizabeth Ruckert, assistant professor in the GW PT program and the neurologic residency program director, mentored Boyea throughout the process. The algorithm provides a streamlined process for clinicians to follow from the receipt of physical therapy orders from a physician to discharge planning and documentation. The algorithm’s skeleton structure enables clinicians to apply specific patient information and learn an assessment and intervention path.
In addition to the algorithm, Boyea created two training modules on disorders of consciousness and the use of the algorithm. She credits the instruction she received in educational theory and her experience teaching at GW during residency with providing the tools to design effective and engaging learning modules.
This year, Boyea teamed up with the current neurologic residents to study how these learning modules and the algorithm might improve patient outcomes and the self-efficacy of therapists treating patients with disorders of consciousness. “While it’s a small sample size, the residents improved in their ability to assess and develop a plan of care for individuals with disorders of consciousness after participating in the modules and using the algorithm,” Boyea said.
Reflecting on the entire experience, she said that it was “fun to see that research can take on different directions and keep progressing and growing. However, it requires an internal drive to figure out what’s next.” For Boyea, that next step is submitting a manuscript of her work for publication.