The Importance of The Relationship Between the Healthcare Professionals and the Personal Trainer

Natalie Davis | 31 Oct 2017


We are personal trainers. We have a special relationship with our clients and play a crucial role in promoting their health and well-being. We take pride in this and love our jobs, and sometimes we become too wrapped up to communicate with anyone else who works with a client. This has to stop. If we do not cultivate relationships with our clients’ other health care providers, then we are simply doing them a disservice.

We have the privilege of seeing our clients more times a week than most healthcare professionals. In many cases, we end up with more comprehensive knowledge than their friends and loved ones about their daily life, nutrition, stressors, and pleasures. Depending on the training environment, we even train them in their homes. As a client’s life goes on, they will begin to work with other healthcare providers who will offer advice and treatment strategies to keep them well, and we as trainers need to be involved and understand its significance.

“My client has sustained an injury and their physician recommends surgery. Do I have a role to play?”

YES! Communication with the doctor ensures excellence and continuity of care.

Become knowledgeable about the surgery and what complications may occur when planning your exercise routine. Keep in mind that medicinal pain-relievers often make clients drowsy and unbalanced, which can affect exercise performance. Heed any recommendations and restrictions the physician makes.

Establish a relationship with the doctor. Ask if he/she has any advice for exercises to do before or after the surgery. This is important because you don't want to put the client in any position that will cause more distress. Plan your training sessions to safely avoid and stabilize the injured area while working with different areas of the body. Establishing a relationship with the doctor is a great way to maintain the continuity of care, open communication, and maybe even cultivate a referral source!

“My client just had surgery. Should I be involved?”

YES! Your client is going through rehabilitation, whether it’s at a clinic, hospital or the client’s home. A Physical Therapist (PT) or Occupational Therapist (OT) will be supporting their rehabilitation, and communicating with them ensures excellence and continuity of care.

Find out what their treatment plan and prescriptions are. It's important for the patient to perform the exercises outside of therapy sessions, and you will be a source of accountability.

  • Implement their treatment plan and exercises during your exercise program. Provide the client with instant feedback on their form.
  • Email your plans, notes, and findings to their therapist. This is a great way to show compliance with the patient's treatment plan and to develop your own understanding of the rehabilitation process. Showing a detailed plan to the therapist shows your expertise and may even land referrals in the future.

Having the patient’s/client’s healthcare team talking with each other makes sure the best treatment plan is provided. For example, if the therapist focused on the injured rotator cuff on Monday, you could focus on the other muscle groups of the core and legs on Tuesday to avoid excessive strain on the affected area. Your client will heal faster and gain a better understanding of their body.

“My client sees a massage therapist. Should I get involved?”

YES. Massage Therapists and Personal Trainers will significantly need a close relationship to ensure the client gets the best plan of action. Tight and restricted joints and muscles can affect the strength and flexibility of limbs and prevent functional movements. As trainers, we can teach and demonstrate stretches of all types (static, dynamic, PNF), but when trying to break down myofascial adhesions, the massage therapist is the best for that job.

Communicate with the massage therapist about areas of need. They will be able to loosen these areas in preparation for better movement patterns. Sending notes of which area of the body was tight or restricted will help the massage therapist determine on what to focus on. Personally, I like to discuss my findings with a massage therapist regularly, as it helps me improve my practice as well.

“A doctor wants me to work with their patients, but I’m a personal trainer. Should I get involved?”

YES. On rare occasions, doctors will hire or contract a trainer to work with their patients. This is a great relationship because you get to witness first-hand the what and how of their diagnostic approach to healthcare, as well as their best practices for post-rehabilitation. I was fortunate to work with a Doctor of Osteopathy and saw how he evaluated his patient’s orthopedic conditions in his clinic. He used a combination of massage, stretching, and manual adjustments for treatment. Since he was fortunate enough to be cash-based, he could easily refer his patients to me for their continuation of care. He taught me Active Isolated Stretching, which is an amazing way to stretch clients for maximum flexibility. This experience motivated me to later become certified in that stretching technique.

“So, what are you saying about other healthcare providers who work with my client? Should I get involved?”

YES! Having a relationship with other healthcare providers will eventually benefit you and the client in many ways. For one, a customized, individualized treatment plan can be shared among everyone involved. Second, their prescribed exercise routine will be implemented. Third, you develop of network of referral sources, and advisors. Now, start making connections!

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Natalie Davis

About the author: Natalie Davis

An elite personal trainer and business owner, Natalie embodies the term fitness. She owns Embody Pure Fitness in Washington D.C which specializes in post-rehabilitation training and wellness for all ages and fitness levels. She has been known to have "magical hands".

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