Certified Athletic Trainers in the Orthopaedic Office

William R. Pupkis, CMPE, Healthcare Consultant

Certified athletic trainers (ATCs) are a valuable resource in an orthopaedic practice setting, able to offer many support services. Working under the direction of physicians, ATCs are highly educated health care professionals who specialize in the prevention, assessment, and rehabilitation of musculoskeletal injuries and illnesses.

TherapistAll athletic trainers have a bachelor’s degree with a major in athletic training from an accredited college or university and almost 70% of ATCs hold a master’s degree or PhD. Accredited athletic training programs include instruction and training in areas including first aid and emergency care, assessment of injury/illness, injury/illness prevention, nutrition, human anatomy and physiology, and therapeutic modalities. ATCs are regulated and licensed health care workers in 48 states and the District of Columbia and must obtain 75 hours of medically-related continuing education credits every three years.

Working as physician extenders, ATCs may also improve your practice’s efficiency, patient care, and patient throughput by:

  • Performing physical exams and special tests
  • Obtaining patient histories
  • Casting
  • Splinting
  • Educating patients and answering questions
  • Fitting durable medical equipment (DME)/braces
  • Gait training
  • Organizing notes and radiographic studies
  • Performing post-operative patient follow-ups
  • Instructing patients on in-home exercise programs
  • Performing therapeutic exercise
  • Presenting final case reviews to physicians

Before employing an ATC in your practice, you must first verify whether or not your state has a restrictive practice act (see www.nata.org/state-practice-acts) and consult your state regulatory board (see http://cf.nata.org/legislators/map.htm?g=state-government/regulatory-boards). While ATCs may bill directly, certain state regulations and insurance company policies may restrict the scope of their practice.

Colleagues from around the country have stated they use ATCs in their orthopaedic practices as cast technicians and pharmacy coordinators and for DME fitting and billing. I personally found ATCs to be perfect managers for the practice’s DME business. They oversaw inventory levels and ordering, paid particular attention to what physicians used on a regular basis, and had positive customer service and staff feedback.

For more information on the role of ATCs, visit the National Athletic Trainers' Association website, www.nata.org.

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This entry was posted on Monday, June 30th, 2014 at 3:46 pm and is filed under Practice Management. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

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