Precision Rehabilitation has been home to the ‘physical therapy guys’ for years

Precision Rehabilitation has been a staple of the medical community in Blanding, and San Juan County, for nearly twenty years, although the name itself has only been around for the past eight years.

The three main providers for Precision Rehabilitation, Richard Ward, Physical Therapist, Alan Ward, Occupational Therapist, and Alon Pugh, Physical Therapist Assistant, originally started working for a company known as Mountainland Rehabilitation. Alon started in 1995, followed by Richard and Alan in 1996. Their office was located in the Four Corners Regional Care Center facility.  As Alon said, “We were physical therapy in Blanding,” so when the group decided to start their own business, the change occurred without a lot of fanfare.

“We started our own business without anyone noticing or knowing because we had been working for another company, Mountainland Rehabilitation,” Rich- ard explained. “We basically just bought the right to take over their contracts and be our own company. But as far as anyone in town knew, it was business as usual. I don’t think most people even knew if it was Precision Rehab or not, it was just the ‘physical therapy guys’. It wasn’t like there was this huge change going on. It was just the status quo but we put up a new sign.”

In 2000 Precision Rehab signed a contract with the newly formed, Utah Navajo Health System, Inc. and began a relationship that has benefitted both companies and the residents of San Juan County, in general. UNHS began with one clinic in Montezuma Creek, but as UNHS has expanded to open community health centers in Blanding, Monument Valley and Navajo Mountain, Precision Rehab has also expanded. They now provide services in three of the four UNHS facilities, with the exception of Navajo Mountain.

“The difficulty with Navajo Mountain is that physical therapy is best done on a repeated basis over a couple of weeks. Even once a week wouldn’t help. Most of our physical therapy patients are seen two or three times each week. With the long drive, and as spread out as we are now, Navajo Mountain is just not a doable option,” Alon explained.

Richard also noted that Donna Singer was very instrumental in forging the relationship with UNHS. When the hospital opened in 2009, it was just a natural progression to move into the hospital building and open an office across from the UNHS Blanding Family Practice Community Health Center. He said it’s been very helpful to be in the hospital and right across from the clinic so doctors can just walk their patients over and say, ‘this patient needs physical therapy’ or ‘can you look at this patient?’

“After surgery, patients lose strength so we do physical therapy to help with those patients. We work with geriatric patients after a fall and have a contract with Rocky Mountain Home Care PT and OT to do home care for their clients,” Alon explained. He said the hospital patients are a smaller part of the business because the hospital currently does no orthopedic surgery, but there are definitely some areas where they can help hospital patients.

“Usually it’s with weakness. Someone that’s elderly and they have some mitigating factor, like they’ve had pneumonia and they were weak enough before they got pneumonia that they were barely tottering around their house,” he continued. “Now they have pneumonia and they’re having trouble standing up from the bed. So the doctor will say, ‘let’s get physical therapy in here and make sure you’re safe to go home and be able to move.’ That’s the majority of the patients we see here, the geriatric population. There are times and seasons in life when you lose your strength. With geriatric patients we work with them after a fall and sometimes with home health patients,” he continued.

Much of the work Precision Rehab does involves follow-up after orthopedic surgeries like hip and knee replacements, shoulder work and sports injuries where orthopedic surgeons are involved.

“A lot of people suffer from pain. Back pain, neck pain, tendonitis, and sports injuries. We’ve got a lot of athletes in town and a lot of folks trying to improve themselves. A lot of the people out doing a lot of running, and we work with the problems associated with running like shin splints, ankle sprains, feet pain, bursitis,” Alon said.

Ward said the relationship with UNHS and BMH has made a huge impact in helping therapists understand the scope of what they are capable of doing.

“We definitely have enjoyed a increase in understanding about the patients we can help by having the doctors so close here. It really has made a difference in how easy it is to get the patients in for their treatments,” Ward said. “It’s a whole lot easier if a doctor can walk across the hall and say, ‘look, here’s this patient I have, this is the problem that’s going on and then turn to the patient and say, ‘this is what these guys can do for you.’ I just think it’s increased because of the ability to communicate.”

One of the challenges Precision Rehab faces is a lack of numbers on their staff. Ward said recruiting Physical Therapists is hard in Blanding because you have to find the perfect fit. In the past year Physical Therapisty Assistant Travis Whatcott came onboard and his hiring was considered a perfect fit because he wants to raise his family here. The business got lucky again, when they hired Shontol Burkhalter, PT, DPT, a native of Monticello, who received her Doctorate degree in Physical Therapy from the University of Utah in 2013. Shontol is highlighted in another story in this month’s newsletter.

“It’s all about family and this business fits family really well,” Alon said. “We got lucky getting Rich (Ward) to come here and then stay. His plan was not to stay. His plan was to say, ‘Wow! I get to be a supervisor over physical therapy and that will look good on my resume´ and that will be really cool to get me somewhere else.”

“I came here right out of school,” Ward said. “This is the only place I’ve ever worked.”

Rich and his brother Alan grew up in Bountiful, Utah. Rich got his PT training at Texas Woman’s University, in Dallas.

“Before you laugh, at the time TW was one of the top ten PT programs in the nation and allowed men into their health care related Masters Programs,” Rich said. “I came here on the two to three year program and now it’s been nineteen years and I’ve got no plans to leave. I’m having too much fun.”

Alon is a Blanding native and graduate of San Juan High School, he attended Salt Lake Community College in the PT Assistant program.

“The one thing I think people should know is that we love it here and that we love the people here, and that it’s extremely fun and wonderful to work with people and then see them downtown,” Alon stressed. “This is a community that’s built on friendship and love and we love that. That’s probably the biggest benefit that I feel I have from this career, the relationships I get to have with everyone in the community. That part is wonderful. And the only thing I hate about the job is the paperwork.”

Alan Ward received his Occupational Therapist training at the University of Utah. We will discuss the Occupational Therapy program at Precision Rehab in next month’s newsletter and talk about the OT services they provide.

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