Written By: Shana Carter PT, DPT, EdD, OCD, UDN-C


Acute care is the one setting that seems to strike fear into the hearts of clinicians if they have never worked in this setting! Patients with Arterial lines, PICC lines, external fixators, multi-trauma patients, and complex medical diagnoses all paint a stressful picture for new acute care clinicians. Additionally, the psychosocial components of patient care play a major role in treating patients in the acute care setting. A clinician may be providing treatment to patients experiencing homelessness, patients experiencing incarceration, patients who are end of life and looking to transition to palliative care as well as patients experiencing mental health issues and conditions such as post-traumatic stress disorder. All psychosocial components must be factored in when providing care in the acute setting to ensure the highest quality of care for high-acuity patients. Let’s change the stress associated with accepting an acute care position today with some simple steps to help demystify and destress the acute care setting!

  1. ALWAYS check the patient’s vitals before mobilizing them. Blood pressure, oxygen saturation, and heart rate can change quickly in high-acuity patients.
  2. ALWAYS put a gait belt on the patient as vitals, fatigue level, balance and level of consciousness can change quickly and without warning.
  3. ALWAYS review the patient’s lab values for any critical findings before initiating a treatment visit. Hemoglobin levels and several other lab values can change over the course of just a few hours.
  4. NEVER take another provider’s word for whether the patient is appropriate for treatment! Complete your chart review, vital signs review, and lab values review, and use your clinical judgment on the patient’s appropriateness. After all, it is your license you are operating under!
  5. ALWAYS ask for help if you are unsure or uncomfortable with complex cases. As part of a multidisciplinary team, there are always people on your team who can help!
  6. ALWAYS ask what level of Trauma Center a facility is when interviewing for an acute care position. There is a vast difference between the acuity of patients in a Level I facility versus a Level V facility.
  7. ALWAYS gain experience in more than one setting and more than one facility! Acute care is very different from one facility to the next. Rural healthcare is also a great option to gain experience and work in a broader scope than you would have the opportunity to in a large facility with a multitude of staff and a variety of providers!

Whatever path your career takes you on as a clinician working in the acute care setting can be a very rewarding experience and help you build your resume very quickly. Working in a hospital setting exposes you to patients with neurological conditions, orthopedic conditions, general medical conditions, pediatrics, and many more! This type of experience is hard to gain working solely in outpatient or skilled nursing facilities. One last tip, if you are interested in travel therapy, acute care settings are always looking for travelers! Travel therapy offers clinicians amazing opportunities to see the world while getting paid! I have included pictures from one of our many trips! This was Spain in 2022!

Join me as we dive into this topic further during my Summit Live Webinar, Acute Care Essentials, on August 12th. This course will cover vital sign ranges and laboratory values that are essential to providing safe and effective care in the acute care setting.


Explore some online continuing education courses from Shana below:

Functional Ergonomic Solutions

Orthopedic Care Across Settings


Visit summit-education.com for more information.


About Summit Professional Education

Summit equips therapists with better continuing education courses that provide CEUs while impacting patient outcomes. Find high-quality on-demand CE along with the largest offering of live options — including live webinars, live streams, and in-person courses. Want to deep dive on a topic? Summit offers hundreds of 6-hour courses for the most in-depth learning!

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