Every hospital personnel and medical staff is busy to the core. The level of activity of each department fluctuates depending on the number of patients and admittances coming in. This applies so well particularly with the emergency department. Of course, we do not want to see people going to the Emergency Room everyday due to injuries and life-threatening conditions. But thanks to the medical staff of the Emergency Department, because they are always there – ever ready to provide first aid treatment and save people’s lives (as necessary).


Yet, most hospitals (and eventually the patients) will find it more facilitative and advantageous if the usual emergency staff would include physiotherapists. A recent study done at Flinders Medical Centre by the School of Health Sciences, University of Flinders in Adelaide showed that patients who had musculoskeletal trauma, yet were diagnosed, treated, and cared for by physiotherapists in the emergency care unit, had the benefit of getting a reduced length of stay in the hospital.

The Study and Its Findings

The research was performed through 9,037 nominated patients in the emergency department. Medical care via physiotherapy was applied to 1,249 patients (14%) while the other 7,788 (86%) of the patients were managed by the usual medical personnel of non-physiotherapy background. Aside from the decreased time length of the patients’ stay in the hospital, the researchers noted that there were no misdiagnoses or adverse effects on the patients who underwent first-contact medical treatment from physiotherapists working in the emergency care team. The researchers performed the review even after 28 days since the patients left the hospital. They also checked the records of customer complaints and real-time safety incidents concerning the subjects for a period of one year. They found out that the patients, who were cared for by the first-contact physios in the emergency unit, did not require further imaging follow-ups.

It is noteworthy to mention, however, that while the results of the research is duly affirming the inclusion of physios in the emergency department, only minor musculoskeletal injuries can be managed by first-contact physiotherapy. These may include:

  • Sprains and strains
  • Closed limb fractures
  • Spinal pain which is non-trauma in origin.

As a Conclusion

Involving the expertise of physiotherapists for first-contact diagnosis and treatment in emergency care is advantageous and beneficial both to the staff of the emergency department and to the patients. For the former, physios can provide some extra hands – thereby reducing the waiting time for customers on queue in the emergency room and helping out with the workload. For the latter, they can manage mild musculoskeletal traumas of patients without adverse effects and misdiagnoses.

The value of physiotherapists in the emergency department are supported by a variety of medical literature online and offline. Various medical studies have also been done to reinforce the assertion. The thing is, its actual application among many hospitals is still yet to be seen.



Sutton, M. et al. (6 April 2015) “Primary-contact physiotherapists manage a minor trauma caseload in the emergency department without misdiagnoses or adverse events: an observational study.” NCBI – National Center for Biotechnology Information. Retrieved from www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov

The APA. (18 March 2016) “Physiotherapists in the Emergency Department.” Anatomy Physiotherapy. Retrieved from www.anatomy-physiotherapy.com

Image c/o Robert Couse-Baker [CC BY 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

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