Treatment Team Member Spotlight: Jennifer Florio, Physical Therapist for NeuroRestorative Massachusetts

Jennifer Florio, Physical TherapistIn recognition of the significant contribution that physical therapy plays in improving the quality of life for many, the month of October has been designated as National Physical Therapy Awareness Month.  NeuroRestorative is proud to have physical therapists on staff throughout our locations and programs as an integral part of our treatment teams.  NeuroRestorative sat down with Jennifer Florio, a physical therapist (PT) for NeuroRestorative Massachusetts, to discuss her experience as a PT serving participants with brain and spinal cord injuries. 

NeuroRestorative: What does your job as a PT entail?

Jennifer: As a PT, I provide functional assessments and therapeutic interventions to improve participants’ mobility, balance, strength and endurance as they work towards increasing independence and a reentry into the community.  Upon admission, I evaluate participants and create individualized treatment plans that are compatible with their unique challenges.  Working closely with the occupational therapist, I adapt the participant’s immediate environment to promote repetition of productive movement strategies.  I also develop home exercise programs for participants to keep them active, increasing their strength and independence.  

NeuroRestorative: How does your role interact with that of other members of the treatment team?

Jennifer: I work closely with other members of the treatment team.  We attend regular multidisciplinary team meetings with case management, nursing, occupational therapy, speech and our physician to discuss the participants’ progress, challenges and medical developments. 

NeuroRestorative: How do you involve families with their loved one’s treatment?

Jennifer: As a team, we work with families to teach them how they can contribute to the participant’s recovery by carrying over exercises and learning how to assist with transfers and ambulation.  We also perform home visits to make suggestions for adaption of home environments as a participant is nearing discharge.

NeuroRestorative: What is one of the greatest challenges you face as a PT and how do you overcome it?

Jennifer: It is challenging to see a participant with such strong rehabilitation potential refuse to take advantage of therapeutic opportunities that would help them reach a functional milestone.  I am currently working on a health promotion intervention, “Action Works for Acquired Brain Injury,” to help increase physical activity in NeuroRestorative participants.  The intervention includes a functional activity circuit-training program that uses task-specific exercises performed in repetition.  The program will be used as an active tool that therapists, participants and direct care staff can utilize together to produce the best outcome possible.  

NeuroRestorative: What is the greatest reward?

Jennifer: It is rewarding to work with participants who may have given up hope and see them reach new levels of independence in just months after experiencing a rehabilitation plateau.

NeuroRestorative: Are there any experiences in particular that stand out to you that you would like to share?

Jennifer: In my five years of work with NeuroRestorative, there have been so many success stories.  One that comes to mind is that of a 21-year-old traumatic brain injury (TBI) survivor who came to NeuroRestorative from a Skilled Nursing Facility (SNF) where he had been living among octogenarians and using a walker.  He had been considered to have reached a plateau in his rehabilitation.  Within three months at NeuroRestorative, he not only no longer required the assistance of a walker to get around, but he was even able to workout at the local YMCA where he began playing basketball. 

NeuroRestorative: What is the key to success in physical therapy for people participating in a brain or spinal cord injury rehabilitation program?

Jennifer: Research has shown that individuals with brain injury respond best to task-specific and purposeful exercise performed in repetition.  It is paramount that brain injury survivors take advantage of daily exercise opportunities to avoid inactivity, which is so detrimental to their wellbeing.  I believe that what you practice gets stronger, what you focus on gets bigger and what you keep doing is who you become.

Jennifer Florio has worked with NeuroRestorative for five years and has been a licensed physical therapist for individuals with brain and spinal cord injuries for 19 years.  She has worked in acute care and acute rehabilitation settings, and in SNFs.  She is currently working on her doctorate in physical therapy at Boston University.  

For information on NeuroRestorative’s entire treatment team, click here.