Education takes a village, says Elizabeth Cole

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Monday, July 1, 2019

LUBBOCK, Texas – Some stakeholders make their mark on the complex rehab industry with their advocacy. For Elizabeth Cole, it’s always been about education.

Here’s what Cole, who capped off her career with a Distinguished Service Award from NRRTS at the National CRT Leadership and Advocacy Conference last month, had to say about the role of education in elevating the profession.

HME News: Education runs throughout nearly your entire career in complex rehab. Before retiring, you led the ROHO Institute for Education, and you also held educational roles at U.S. Rehab and Sunrise Medical. How did you get the teaching bug?

Elizabeth Cole: It’s not the most exciting answer. It’s not like I was thinking, “I’ve had enough of practicing as a physical therapist.” At that time, Sunrise Medical was doing these two-day seminars—it was really the beginning of clinical education being provided by manufacturers—and I remember thinking, “I’d like to do that some day when I get out of practice,” and the opportunity just came along.

HME: Why are there so many resources for education in CRT? There are the manufacturers; there are organizations like NRRTS, RESNA and the Clinician Task Force; there are member groups like U.S. Rehab.

Cole: For people entering this industry, especially for seating and mobility, so much of the knowledge and skills now required to effectively evaluate and prescribe CRT you learn on the job. Therapists don’t get a whole lot of that education in school. It’s a specialty area of practice.

HME: It’s also an area of practice where there are constantly regulatory and policy changes, and technology advancements, right?

Cole: To keep yourself updated and abreast of what’s going on, yes, it’s just really important.

HME: How did education evolve over the course of your career?

Cole: There was a big wave of education being offered by manufacturers in the beginning. Most of them realized, we need to provide this background clinical and application education, even just generic information that’s not product specific, so people know how to use and apply the technology. Some of that has decreased. Clinicians and providers don’t have the time or funds to travel to these symposiums, and it’s a hard thing for manufacturers to financially keep it up. The good thing is, there’s a lot more available online now. A lot of manufacturers have tapped into that.

HME: It also seems like NRRTS and the other organizations are stepping up and offering more in this area.

Cole: Yes, they’ve done an enormous job providing resources. That’s been one of the highlights of my career, being able to work with these groups, not only on education but also on policy and coding changes, and a separate benefit for complex rehab.

HME: Now that you’re retired, what do you miss most about your career?

Cole: The amazing group of professionals who I worked with. They are truly some of the most passionate, dedicated and fun people I know. They’re people I’ve looked up to and admired, and they’ve become more than just my peers or co-workers; they’ve become my friends. It is truly my seating and mobility “family” that I’ve missed the most.