Student-run program provides free access to physical therapy

The program, called Samaritan's Touch, is completely run by University of Kentucky physical therapy students

LEXINGTON, Ky. (WTVQ) – When we think of medical care that everyone should have access to, our first thought may not be physical therapy. Those services, however, can mean the difference between being able to work and live your life without pain, and not.

A program through the University of Kentucky, now more than twenty years old and completely run by students in the Department of Physical Therapy, provides this valuable service to our underserved communities–completely for free.

Hannah Young, a second-year physical therapy student, says the program serves a dual purpose: it provides hands-on experience much earlier on in her physical therapy education than she’d otherwise have, but it also helps the community.

“We actually get to treat patients which usually doesn’t start until we start clinicals. Getting that chance to start, first off, before we get to that opportunity gives us a crash course in, okay, this is what it’s going to look like treating patients,” said Young.

The program is supervised by physical therapists in the community and professors who volunteer their time, and about 27 students run the program two nights a week at the Good Samaritan Outpatient Clinic.

According to Associate Professor of Physical Therapy Denise O’Dell, 75 percent of clients have some sort of orthopedic condition, and physical therapy services could help them get back to work.

“Many of these individuals who don’t have insurance still work. They still have a job, they just don’t have insurance and so a lot of times there will be an injury that’s limiting them from standing and doing their job or taking care of their kids, and so coming to therapy has made the difference of some of these individuals returning to work or being able to function or doing the jobs that they want to do that many of us take for granted to get access to,” said Professor O’Dell.

The program also helps its patients get connected to other rehabilitation services they may need, like braces for injuries.

Professor O’Dell says it gives students valuable experience talking and interacting with patients, as well as how to work with medical interpreters, putting students in situations they may come across in their future careers.

“I love to see the students really see the impact of their exercises,” said Professor O’Dell, “to see them overcome their fears and connect with the individual and see that what they’re doing is really making an impact and difference…I like to see their success.”

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