Military News

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Teamwork fuels innovation at PTOT Clinic

by Airman 1st Class Kyle Johnson
JBER Public Affairs

3/19/2015 - JOINT BASE ELMENDORF-RICHARDSON, Alaska -- The task: to turn a former aircraft hangar into a medically qualified physical therapy clinic by moving 18 workstations, 125 separate pieces of equipment weighing 24,000 pounds, paint 9,100 square feet of wall with 20 gallons of paint.

The deadline: two days.

This was the responsibility that loomed over the Airmen of the 673d Medical Operation Squadron Physical Therapy/Occupational Therapy Clinic last October.

The PT/OT clinic was slated for a 91-day makeover, and to operate at full capacity throughout the construction, the clinic temporarily moved their operations to Hangar 5.

"We didn't have to curtail our operations any by going to Hangar 5," said Air Force Master Sgt. Rhonda Huff, PT/OT flight chief for the 673d MDOS.

"If we had stayed in place, we would've had to work around construction and not had as many evaluation rooms or as much treatment area to actually treat our patients."

The move was extensive, but it paid off - $375,000 in patient care costs to be exact.

The staff at the PT/OT clinic made it all happen.

"We have a great staff," said Lt. Col. Randy Green, 673d MDOS, PT/OT flight commander. "They're the ones that make things go and their attitude made all the difference."

"Lieutenant Colonel Green couldn't have a better team," said Air National Guard Tech. Sgt. John Stone, a C-17 Globemaster III loadmaster with the 249th Airlift Squadron, who is being treated at the clinic. "The Airmen are outstanding and the NCOs are phenomenal. They work beautifully together."

Before beginning the renovation, the clinic was plain, cramped and crowded, Green said.

"I walked in and said 'Where's the clinic?' This is unacceptable." Green said, remembering his arrival at the clinic.

"It was very compact," said Rachel Pasque, an Army spouse. "They fulfilled their mission, but I think they got frustrated trying to do so with the facilities they had."

"You could definitely tell it was not designed to be utilized as a physical therapy clinic," Stone said.

Green went to the Facilities Utilization Board and pitched his vision for the clinic.

Green said everyone wanted a change; he just happened to be the one to kick it off.

"Sometimes you just need someone to say, 'Hey, let's do it.'" Green said. "I was that guy."

The FUB agreed, and they began the process of turning whitewashed hallways into a spacious environment that inspires recovery.

The remodel was finished with almost no impact on work performance by the move into the hangar, but there were ups and downs.

Pasque said she found it particularly humorous when the technicians had to communicate to each other that they were using a piece of equipment that used electricity.

"Table going up!"

They had to wait for the other technicians to be finished using electricity, or they'd blow a breaker and halt treatment.
"Table going down!"

Pasque said the transition into the hangar wasn't easy, but she thinks the technicians executed their job remarkably well with the facilities - and electricity they had.

"I couldn't use Teddy Watch while I was going to Hangar 5, so it was little more of a challenge for me to go [there]," Pasque said. "But it was definitely worth it."

On March 2, Col. Teresa Bisnett stood on shiny new 7 millimeter antimicrobial sports flooring and cut a red ribbon, ceremonially kicking off the new facility's operation.

The sports flooring resembles hardwood, but holds a secret.

Huff said the material is slightly soft and gives under pressure, creating a more comfortable environment for patients to receive their treatment. The sleek new floors are all the more noticeable in the open layout the clinic now boasts.

By removing the extra walls and halls, the renovation increased the operational space of the clinic by 500 square feet.

"The remodel allowed us to maximize the space we already had," said Tech. Sgt. Adeleke Peterson, noncommissioned officer-in-charge of the clinic.
"It allowed us more open area for treatment and allowed our technicians to function more effectively."

The facilities themselves are nothing like the old space the PT/OT staff was previously working in, but the change didn't stop there. New cutting-edge equipment has been added to the PT/OT clinic's arsenal.

One piece is receiving lots of attention - the AlterG, a treadmill that allows patients to lunar walk their way to wellness.

Users strap themselves into a large, airtight bag that surrounds the lower part of the machine. Then they can control the pressure on joints by adjusting the air pressure inside the device.

"This is a place where patients want to come for rehab," Huff said. "Whereas before ... it just wasn't conducive to what we do."

"They are certainly more [able] to fulfill a broader mission at this point," Pasque said.

With an extra 500 square feet, the renovations have some practical benefits, but there's an emotional impact on the patients as well.

"It has a bright, clean, clinical feel to it now," Pasque said.

"It invites you in," Stone said. "I want to go there and get restored to 100 percent."

"It was an enormous task," Green said. "Everyone had the right attitude. That made all the difference."

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