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A Day in the Life of a DME Athletic Trainer

Posted April 20, 2016

Brian Bradley, MS, LAT, ATC, CSCS

By Brian Bradley, MS, LAT, ATC, CSCS

Durable Medical Equipment (DME) is a fancy term for braces, splints and crutches. I work in an orthopaedic clinic that employs 7 Athletic Trainers (ATs) to work in the DME Department. Here is what an average day looks like.

Clinic typically runs from 8:00am to 5:00pm with an hour lunch. During clinic, I use the electronic medical records (EMR) system to track the DME ordered by the physicians. When an order comes up, there are several things I have to do before the fitting. First, I check to see what was ordered, the diagnosis, what insurance the patient has and the size of the patient. There are also different rules for each insurance carrier I need to know.

I select the proper brace ordered from inventory and bring it to the patient’s room. There, I instruct the patient on what the brace does, how to use it and the general care of the brace. Once they understand everything, I go over the insurance information with them including how it will be billed and how much they should expect to pay. I then escort the patient to check-out and follow through with inputting the appropriate HCPCS codes into the charge ticket. Afterwards, I log the brace into our inventory tracking system.

Brian Bradley on the job as a DME Athletic Trainer.

Sometimes physicians order a home exercise program for a patient. In that case, I create a progressive home exercise program geared specifically for the patient based on their diagnosis. I also take into account their age, height and weight. Once I create the program, I go into the patient’s room to explain and demonstrate how to perform the exercises. I then answer any questions they may have and teach them the importance of translating the exercises over to everyday life. It is important for them to be aware of their body posture and daily functioning to assist in preventing further injury.

Although some physicians order more DME/HEPs than others, there is still a lot of work that needs to be done when I do not have many DME orders. I contact both commercial and worker’s compensation insurance carriers to obtain benefits and authorization for high-end items like functional knee braces, TENS units and range of motion devices. Updating and managing the inventory for the clinic is another important part of my job to make sure we have enough items in all the sizes. I also contact patients who may need to pick up items for surgery and schedule them to come into 1 of our 6 locations. I take calls from patients who have questions on how to use a brace or how to adjust the brace so it fits better.

I enjoy being an AT in the clinical setting because I get to see a wide range of patients, from pediatrics to patients on Medicare, from athletes to patients with worker’s compensation claims. At the orthopaedic clinic, I am exposed to a wide variety of injuries. We have 21 physicians with 7 physician assistants. They treat everything from anterior cervical disc fusions to hammer toes, total joint replacements to patellar femoral pain. There is even an orthopaedic surgeon with a specialty in orthopaedic oncology treating musculoskeletal tumors.

One thing that attracted me most to working in the DME department was the regular schedule. I do not have to work any Saturdays or late night games. I am home every night with my wife and daughter eating dinner as a family. While I did love being an AT in the secondary school setting, I love that I get to see my family more. I also have the opportunity to pick up additional work as needed that fits into my schedule. I enjoy being an AT and am happy I found a setting where I get to use my education and experience but still spend a lot of time with my family