Treatment, recovery, and rehabilitation of traumatic brain injury patients takes a dedicated team of providers and specialists, often called the Multidisciplinary Team. This team can include:
Aquatic Therapist: An aquatic therapist is an occupational therapist, physical therapist, or recreational therapist with specialized training to provide therapy in a heated water pool. Aquatic therapy is used to increase strength, coordination, ambulation skills, endurance, muscle movement, and to reduce pain. It is often used in day (outpatient) rehabilitation or long-term care treatment settings. The ultimate goal is to increase functional ability with simple daily activities.
Case Manager/Social Worker: A case manager or social worker is responsible for facilitating appropriate treatment and appointments, locating needed services, providing resource information, and assisting with discharge planning. They maintain contact with the patient's insurance carrier, referring physician, and family and caregivers to make sure treatment goals are being met.
Kinesiotherapist: A therapist who provides subacute or post-acute rehabilitative physical therapy that focuses on regaining muscle strength, endurance, and function, as well as patient education. Kinesiotherapy emphasizes the psychological and physical benefits of therapeutic exercise.
Massage Therapist: A licensed massage practitioner may use massage therapy to reduce TBI symptoms such as headache, dizziness, and nausea.
Neurologist: A neurologist is a physician who specializes in diagnosing and treating conditions related to the nervous system. The brain, spinal cord, and nerves make up the nervous system, so the expertise of a neurologist is paramount in treating TBI.
Neuropsychologist: A neuropsychologist is a board-certified psychologist with specialized training in brain anatomy, brain function, and brain-behavior relationships. A neuropsychologist’s evaluations provide valuable information about a patient’s ability to manage their own financial, legal, and medical decisions, and their ability to return to home, school, community, or work.
Occupational Therapist: An occupational therapist uses functional activities to prevent, reduce, or overcome physical and emotional challenges to meaningful daily living. Occupational therapists can assist with a number of skills, including:
- Eating and swallowing
- Grooming, bathing, and dressing
- Using the toilet
- Getting in and out of beds, chairs, and bathtubs
- Thinking skills
- Vision training (restoration of normal vision)
- Sensory training (restoration of normal sensation)
- Driving skills
- Home management skills (shopping, cooking, money management)
- Fine motor skills, such as buttoning a shirt
- Wheelchair positioning and mobility
- Medical equipment training
The occupational therapist may also use splints and casts to reduce muscle spasticity or contracture and to optimize muscle functioning.
Physiatrist: A physiatrist is a medical doctor with specialized training in physical medicine and rehabilitation. The physiatrist is often the leader of the rehabilitation treatment team and makes referrals to various therapies and specialists as needed. The physiatrist works closely with the patient, the rehab team, and the family and caregivers to develop the best possible treatment plan.
Physical Therapist: A physical therapist evaluates and treats the patient’s ability to move their body. The physical therapist helps improve physical function by focusing on muscle strength, flexibility, endurance, balance, and coordination. The goal of physical therapy is to increase independent ability with physical tasks, but physical therapists can also provide training with assistive devices such as canes or walkers.
Primary Care Provider: A primary care provider (PCP), or primary care physician, is a healthcare professional who practices general medicine. PCPs are the first stop for medical care. Most PCPs are doctors, but nurse practitioners and physician assistants can also be PCPs. PCPs should be kept informed of all developments and treatments in a TBI patient’s case.
Rehabilitation Nurse: Rehabilitation nurses monitor all body systems. A rehabilitation nurse attempts to maintain the patient’s medical status, anticipate potential complications, and work on goals to restore functioning. A rehabilitation nurse is responsible for the assessment, implementation, and evaluation of each individual patient's nursing care and educational needs. They also coordinate with physicians and other team members to move the patient from a dependent to an independent role.
Rehabilitation Psychologist: A psychologist who specializes in helping patients with traumatic injury to regain as much physical, psychological, and interpersonal functioning as possible.
Recreational Therapist: A certified recreational therapist provides activities to improve and enhance self-esteem, social skills, motor skills, coordination, endurance, cognitive skills, and leisure skills. Recreational therapists plan community outings to allow patients to apply learned skills in social settings. Additional programs provided by recreational therapists may include pet therapy, leisure education, wheelchair sports, and gardening.
Speech-Language Pathologist: Speech-language pathologists identify, evaluate, and treat communication, cognitive, and swallowing disorders. Communication difficulties may include such things as understanding what is heard, being able to speak clearly, thinking of the words to express ideas, and problems with reading and writing. The speech-language pathologist also treats cognitive deficits such as attention, thinking skills, memory, executive functions, and social interactions with others. Training in the use of assistive technology for communication and cognitive impairments may be provided.