How Athletic Trainers Benefit Orthopedic Clinics

Joshua Walker, AT
6 min readDec 2, 2021

Athletic Training is traditionally a profession that serves in the realm of sports teams. Over the last 15–20 years there have been transitions to non traditional types of work environments. Some of these include industrial, performing arts, law enforcement, and clinics. When it comes to clinic setting the athletic trainer is made for a orthopedic clinic setting. Some think that athletic trainers are underqualified to work in a clinic. These position are usually staffed by a nurse or a certified nursing assistant. Athletic trainers are trained and have a deep understanding of the human body and the ability to evaluate injuries, so they would be able to compliment the clinical setting extremely well. Athletic trainers deal with orthopedic injuries daily when working with sports teams and are healthcare professionals. Athletic trainers are taught basics like the use of blood pressure cuffs and Snellen eye charts as part of the curriculum which will also translate to the clinic setting extremely well.

Anyone who wishes to become an athletic trainer must attend a four year university to get their bachelors degree. Once they have gotten their bachelors they can apply to graduate schools which carry athletic training masters programs. Previously, athletic trainers would only need to receive a bachelors degree, but starting 2022 every program across the U.S will be transitioned to a masters degree. There are five domains of athletic training which students will learn about. Injury and illness prevention and wellness promotion, clinical evaluation assessment and diagnosis, immediate and emergency care, therapeutic intervention, and health care administration and professional responsibility. Everything that is learned though schooling will align with one of these domains. While going though schooling, individuals will learn a lot about the human body and the injuries and ailments that can afflict it. Typically, student’s classes build on each other from semester to semester. Starting with learning every structure in the human body; bones, muscles, and ligaments to name a few systems. They will also learn how to test and evaluate in order to diagnose injuries and illnesses. The students will learn therapeutic exercise or how to rehabilitate injuries. By the end of their schooling, students will have the knowledge and ability to sit for the Board of Certification exam. Once this test is passed individuals are certified athletic trainers, however, this does not allow them to start practicing(in most states). In order to start practicing as an athletic trainer, you have to obtain a license from the state you wish to work in. Most states in the U.S. require a license. A few states only require registration, and California is the only state that requires no licensing or registration at all.

When it comes to clinic practice the name of the game is numbers. How many people can we get thought the clinic in a day to turn out a profit. By utilizing an athletic trainer in an orthopedic clinic they can increase the number of patients that a physician can see in a day. The way that an athletic trainer would be able to increase productivity is by doing the initial examinations. For instance, if someone comes into the clinic, the athletic trainer can take the patient back, get the vitals and then proceed to complete a history and initial examination in order to get a differential or a diagnosis for the patient. Once that is done they can tell the physician what they believe the issue to be, and the physician can do a quick specific exam based on the exam of the athletic trainer. This allows the physicians to see more patients, as they will not have to complete the full exam to rule injuries out themselves. Another way that an athletic trainer can increase productivity is if athletes are coming in to get pre participation physical examinations the athletic trainer can perform the majority of the process. This allows the physician to just come in and perform the last part of the physical. By using this process it frees up more time for the physician to be seeing other patients and thus, move more patients though the clinic daily.

Another way that athletic trainers can help in the clinic is by increasing patient satisfaction and outcomes. This is easily done by having an athletic trainer who knows what they are doing and is able to articulate that to the patient very well. Most athletic trainers have worked with high school student either as a licensed professional or though their years of schooling. This helps with the ability to explain injuries and how they are going to be treated in a very basic manner that still gets the main points across. By being able to explain to the patients what is going on with them in basic terms helps gain the interpersonal connection between the patient and clinician. Athletic trainers are able to bring a very personal type of care into a clinic were people are only there until they are healed up. This can increase patient outcomes because if a patient feels comfortable with the people they are seeing, they will be less hesitant when it comes to doing what is told of them for rehabilitation or follow up care.

From an administration standpoint utilizing an athletic trainer has a few benefits. The first being that the more people you can get through the clinic per day the more money the clinic will be able to make. Having an athletic trainer on staff also could allow for the possibility of outreach to local high schools for sport coverage. This would be free advertising as the employee would have the clinic name on their equipment and clothing. With these athletic trainers working in the community, there are possibilities of new referrals coming in due to athletic injuries. The hope is that after these patients at healed they will again want to return to the same clinic if another injury was to occur based on the good experiences they had previously. Lastly from an administrative standpoint, most of the skills that athletic trainers perform in the clinic can be billed though third party reimbursement depending on the state practice acts for the athletic trainer. This again will be bring in more income for the clinic.

Over all, athletic trainers in the orthopedic clinical setting bring many benefits including increased patient flow for physicians, increased patient outcomes and satisfaction, and increased revenue for the clinic. Of the three the most important is the patient satisfaction and outcomes because at the end of the day the clinic is there to help the patient.

References

Athletic Training Services. Athletic Training | Wellness Center | Campus Recreation | University of Wyoming. (n.d.). Retrieved December 2, 2021, from http://www.uwyo.edu/rec/wellness-center/athletic-training/index.html.

A New Year, a New Bill Number and a Renewed Push for AT Licensure in California. (2020, February 24). Advocates for Injured Athletes. http://injuredathletes.org/blog/2020/a-new-year--a-new-bill-number-and-a-renewed-push-for-at-licensure-in-california/

https://www.nata.org/sites/default/files/ATsOrthopedicPractice.pdf

https://www.nata.org/sites/default/files/natm2021_poster-printforweb.pdf

https://www.nata.org/sites/default/files/physician-extender-faqs.pdf#:~:text=Athletic%20trainers%20%28ATs%29%20are%20routinely%20employed%20in%20hospitals%2C,able%20to%20increase%20patient%20throughput%20and%20revenue%20generation.

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