There are distinct differences in the implementation of physiotherapeutic care in nursing homes. Both nationally and internationally staffing levels of physiotherapy differ significantly between and within nursing homes. Since legislation or guidelines that specify the parameters of physiotherapy required in nursing homes are lacking, it is unknown how physiotherapists currently estimate the usefulness and necessity of physiotherapy in individual situations in long-term care. The purpose of this study was to describe how physiotherapists actually work, and how they want to work, in daily practice in Dutch nursing homes.
We performed a qualitative study with an online questionnaire. We asked 72 physiotherapists working in Dutch nursing homes to describe as accurately as possible usual care in nine different cases in long-term care. Furthermore we asked them to describe their role in the prevention and treatment of a number of indicators that measure the quality of care in nursing homes. Two reviewers thematically analysed the answers to the questionnaires.
Forty-six physiotherapists returned the questionnaire. Physiotherapy services include active exercise therapy aimed to improve mobility and movement dysfunctions, advising on prevention and management of falls, pressure ulcers, incontinence, malnutrition and sarcopenia, overweight, physical restraints, intertrigo, chronic wounds, behavioural and psychological symptoms in dementia, and physical inactivity, and ergonomic and behavioural training. The way and extent in which physiotherapists are involved in the various care- and functional problems differs and depends on organisational and personal factors such as, organisation’s policy, type of ward, time pressure, staffing level, collaboration with other members of the multidisciplinary team, or lack of knowledge.
Physiotherapists in nursing homes are involved in the prevention and management of different care situations and functional problems. The way in which they are involved differs between physiotherapist. Aiming for more uniformity seems necessary. A shared vision can help physiotherapists to work more consistently and will strengthen their position in nursing homes.