Blog Post

13 Physical Therapy Inservice Ideas

Leading a clinic inservice? Make your session a hit with these awesome ideas!

Meredith Castin
5 min read
August 19, 2020
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Physical therapy inservices are always enjoyable. If you’re in the audience, you get to learn new skills, bond with coworkers, and collaborate as a team to provide better patient care. But, when you’re the one on the hook to actually present an inservice, it can be a little stressful! We PTs are used to educating patients on a one-on-one basis, but speaking to groups can be a little more intimidating. For most of us, the hardest part is picking the right topic. You want to choose something that will inspire people, rather than cause them to slip into a food coma—and that means coming up with an idea that will be fresh and interesting, but also within your wheelhouse so you can present the concepts with confidence. We crowdsourced lots of great inservice ideas from therapy bloggers, and you’ll love these unique inservice ideas!

Clinical Topics

We’ll start with clinical topics. If you’re looking for a clinically-based PT inservice idea, you’re not alone. The vast majority of PT inservices do focus on clinical topics, and that’s because it’s always exciting to learn new ways to improve your practice. That said, the same old subjects get boring after a while. How many times can you hear about knee pain before you involuntarily drift into a midday nap? Here are some unique ideas to keep people inspired while you share your knowledge.

Sport-Specific Inservice

Any presentation based on a sport, rather than a body part, is automatically more engaging. There are many sports you can choose, but consider skipping over the more common ones—like running and yoga—in favor of more unusual activities like rock climbing, ballet, waterskiing, or gymnastics. This type of presentation has the added benefit of potentially attracting a new cohort of patients to your facility.

Injury-Specific Inservice

Another type of clinical inservice is one that focuses on a specific injury. Whether it’s something common (like plantar fasciitis), or more unusual (like a torn A2 pulley), the audience will love learning new specialized techniques and advancements in treatment. And you don’t necessarily have to stick to one injury, either. You can focus on a type of impairment that spans numerous diagnoses. Emily Cahalan, OTR/L, CLT, CBIS, co-founder of continuing education company ARC Seminars, points out that edema is frequently misunderstood and under-addressed in the therapy world. So, she encourages therapists to present inservices on edema identification and treatment, saying, “Edema management can significantly improve many people’s outcomes.” 

Ergonomics-Focused Inservice

With so many people working from home these days, we’ll likely see an increased need for in-home ergonomic assessments. “Patients might not have the same money to spend on their workstation as their employer does,” explains Julie McGee, PT, DPT, who runs the website Running From Injury. She points out that there are many ways to set up a comfortable workstation without spending a fortune, and an ergonomics-focused inservice presentation will help clinicians manage the inevitable wave of patients with new aches and pains stemming from their home office setups.

Population-Based Inservice

Focusing on a common patient population means your fellow therapists will find immediate value in your presentation. For example, many PTs work with patients who have dementia, but we’re not always confident in managing the challenges that arise when working with this population. Sarah Nord, MS, OTR/L, of Sensory for Dementia, recommends presenting an inservice on the physical and social conditions in the environment that might impact treatment sessions with these patients. She points out that there are multiple ways to manage distress behaviors and increase participation in therapy sessions.  

Inservice on Treatment-Based Classification Systems

Matt Huey, PT, MPT, Dip MDT, FAAOMPT, recommends presenting on treatment-based classification systems. Many PTs aren’t familiar with this concept, but he notes that outcomes for these systems are impressive, and there is good interrater reliability. “You evaluate a patient, and then based on the findings, you assign the patient a treatment based on a classification,” he says. He adds that patients can switch classifications during their sessions based on how they respond to treatments. 

Inservice on Mindfulness

Mindfulness has been a huge focus in the healthcare community recently, and there are all sorts of inservice ideas stemming from this concept. Danielle Salgo, PT, DPT, of The Fit New Mom, says, “I think a lot of PTs could benefit from an inservice on incorporating mindfulness into the treatment of chronic pain.” She notes that this has made a huge difference in her own practice, and that it’s one of those topics that can impact many different patients with various diagnoses. A related topic is breathing. Kristen Bingaman, PT, RYT, NBC-HWC, of The Resilient Rehab Mama, says, “I think a great inservice topic would be ‘breathe to build core stability.’” She points out that many practitioners teach the concept of core stability without cueing breath or considering the diaphragm, diastasis recti, transverse abdominal (TVA) muscle, or intra-abdominal pressure. “My training in pilates and yoga has made me super focused on the importance of breath for reducing pain, recruiting muscles, and building stability,” she explains.

Communication-Focused Inservice

More and more research is underscoring the importance of interdisciplinary collaboration in health care. One speech-language pathologist shared an excellent inservice idea for PTs working with aphasic patients: “Many stroke patients need PT, but I see so much confusion and frustration during their interactions, because the PT isn’t aware of how to change their communication approach to fit the client’s aphasia,” explains Beth Dolar, MS, CCC-SLP, of Speech Therapy Connect. She notes that there are certainly challenges that come from working with people who have aphasia—but they’re often made worse when PTs don’t realize that there are supported-communication strategies that can make things easier during treatment. “Aphasia affects communication, not intellect, and just a few tweaks and strategies will help the PT and the client with aphasia understand each other,” she says. Dolar recommends an inservice that focuses on how to effectively communicate with someone with aphasia—perhaps hosted with an SLP co-presenter.

Inservice on a New Surgery or Surgical Device

It can be tough to keep up with new surgical techniques—and it only gets more confusing when you consider all the different types of surgical hardware out there. That’s why surgical techniques—or surgery-related hardware and implants—can make such great topics for inservices. For example, consider speaking with a representative for a company that creates spinal implants. You could even invite the rep to co-present with you. This type of in-service has the added bonus of creating a possible “in” for you at that company, should you ever decide to pursue a career in rehab technology

Technology Topics

Speaking of technology, there are many other tech-related inservice topics to consider. Not only are these areas that PTs don’t learn about on a daily basis, but they can also help you build your non-clinical resume in specific niches.

Inservice on SCI Tech or Stroke Tech

There are lots of incredible rehab tech devices out there. They often cost a pretty penny, but they can be transformative for our patients. It’s hard to justify bringing an expensive device into our facilities when we don’t really understand how to convey its value. The first step to gaining our managers’ acceptance of these hot new pieces of technology is shedding light on them. By demonstrating the device—or bringing in a rep to do so—you can open your team’s eyes to the possibilities of incorporating this tech into your facility. Plus, you’re making connections that might one day lead to a clinical specialist or business development representative role. 

Inservice on Streamlining Your EMR Workflow

While some electronic medical records (EMRs) still live up to the reputation of being slow and clunky, many others have come a long way. Most EMRs are customizable, thus eliminating the need to input redundant information. Many enable you to create customized templates and flowsheets to make your documentation process seamless. The rub? In many facilities, nobody seems to know how to do this! You can take the initiative to present an inservice on how to streamline your EMR workflow to improve efficiency. Another bonus is that this type of inservice can support a career in clinical informatics one day!

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Inservice Related to Telehealth

Just a few years ago, barely anyone was talking about telehealth PT. What a difference time—and a pandemic—can make! These days, it seems that everyone has ideas on how telehealth fits into PT care. You can do all sorts of inservices on the topic of telehealth. From billing and compliance to technology or treatment approaches, most people would be thrilled to learn a bit more about this emerging delivery model!

Business Topics

If you’ve been struggling to get patients in the door—or if your team seems confused by billing  and documentation changes—here are some topics that make great fodder for a non-clinical PT inservice. It can be refreshing for the team to learn about business and marketing—and even better if it helps your organization successfully attract new patients!

Inservice on Modern Marketing Strategies

In the days of PT marketing yore, you could ship summer sausage to a few physicians and call it a day. Things have changed quite a bit, and marketing to busy MD practices isn’t the only way to generate new patient volume. There are all sorts of strategies to market directly to the community. Dr. McGee suggests giving an inservice on blogging for physical therapists. A blog and/or social media presence can help attract patients, of course, but the benefits don’t stop there. “I’ve realized that both my blog and my Instagram account are great ways to fight burnout,” she explains, adding that the experience of building these platforms has provided a much-needed balance to her clinical work.

Inservice on Alternative Revenue Models

With reimbursements declining, it’s imperative for clinics to come up with creative new ways to generate revenue. Whether you discuss creating onsite classes, selling products, or hosting con-ed courses, there are all sorts of opportunities to bring extra money into the facility. Presentations like these also help you hone your skills for a possible future move into a sales specialist role

Bonus: Show What You Know!

The inservice topics above are just a few of the many ways you can enrich your facility and build transferable presentation skills. Carol Grgić, PT, OCS, CSCS, of The Video PT, has enjoyed working at a facility that promotes monthly “show what you know” inservices. Presenters pick topics that they really know and love, and then provide some information on that topic. “I have found these sessions to be so valuable, as we have a variety of experience levels and ortho specialty areas,” she says. “I always learn a lot, and it’s also so fun and engaging!” You can take this concept in countless directions. If you’re interested in a safety or infection control career, consider presenting on falls prevention or basic OSHA regulations. There truly are no limits to what you can choose for your PT inservice, so don’t stop at just one!

As you can see, there are all sorts of creative ways to hone your presentation skills and share your knowledge with your coworkers. The key is selecting a topic that you truly understand and feel passionate about sharing with others. What types of inservices have you presented or enjoyed attending? We’d love to hear your thoughts in the comment section below!


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