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In-Depth Look: Athletic Trainer in an Orthopaedic Clinic

Posted February 3, 2016

Joe Cygan, MS, ATC, OTC, RMSK is a Clinic Coordinator for an orthopaedic clinic.  In this role, he works as an Athletic Trainer (AT) and extends the services of the physician in an orthopaedic clinic.

Describe your setting:

I am a Clinic Coordinator and work as an AT for Dr. Peter Millett at The Steadman Clinic in Vail, Colorado.  The Steadman Clinic delivers orthopaedic care whether the patient is an injured professional athlete or just wants to be able to walk again without pain.  The clinic specializes in knee, hip, shoulder, elbow, hand, spine, foot and ankle injuries.

How long have you worked in this setting?

I have worked in this setting for 3 years.

Describe your typical day:

I usually arrive around 7:00am or7:30am and begin preparing for clinic or surgery.  This typically involves reviewing the patients for the day and making sure we have all notes and images we need for their visit.  If we are having a clinical day, we usually start by seeing the patients who had surgery the prior day either in physical therapy or in the hospital to make sure they are ready to go home.  We then start clinic around 8:30am.

My main responsibilities include seeing the patients initially, formulating a differential diagnosis for new patients and determining how surgical patients are recovering from their surgery.  I then go in with Dr. Millett and see the patient and coordinate any follow-up care the patient may need, including MRI, labs or surgery.  We also have another AT and 2 Physician Assistants (PAs) who do the same thing.  We typically see 30 to 40 patients per day.  At the end of the day, I make sure there are no outstanding issues such as MRI authorizations, patient phone questions and missing notes.   After that, I dictate about all of the patients I saw that day.

On surgical days, I get in about the same time and help make sure we are ready for all of our cases for the day.  We typically do 7 to 10 cases a day.  We make sure the patients know what procedure we are performing and that they are comfortable with the procedure.  We also go over post-operative pain management medications to make sure there are no contraindications to the medications.  I then either scrub in and act as a first assistant in surgery or I stay in clinic and catch up on paperwork.  That way I’m available for patients who call in with questions or concerns.

What do you like about your position?

I like being on a team of healthcare professionals who include orthopedic surgeons, PAs and ATs.  I also enjoy that we have a fellowship program for both ATs and physicians, with whom we can exchange knowledge.

What do you dislike about your position?

The insurance industry is getting harder and harder to get approval from in a timely manner.  As a clinic, we try to get patients everything they need within 24 hours. Unfortunately, insurance companies do not always see it that way.

What advice do you have about your practice setting for a young AT looking at this setting?

I would advise young ATs to get some experience prior to coming to this setting.  This is still a relatively new setting and role for our profession.  We need to be very knowledgeable of injuries and be able to diagnose independently and confidently.