The director of a new Longview, Washington, physical therapy clinic said it will provide a “vital” service to the community by rehabilitating injured workers.
Peoples Injury Network Northwest (PINN) opened its eighth clinic earlier this month on Commerce Avenue. Andrew Wodka, clinic director and physical therapist, said the Kent-based business exclusively treats injured workers.
Workers injured on the job can file a state Labor and Industries claim through a doctor’s office. In some cases, the doctor will refer patients to a physical therapy clinic like PINN for treatment.
PINN sees the most L&I cases in the state, Wodka said.
Similar to other physical therapy clinics, PINN offers cardio machines, weights and stretching equipment. But the clinic also includes special equipment to help patients simulate their work, such as ladders, buckets, and stations mimicking lifting, sorting and other activities.
Wodka said PINN plans to remodel the clinic to create more space and height to mimic different jobs. The clinic will add pulleys to reproduce a dock setting, a slanted roof, full-size kitchen, deck simulations and an outdoor area.
“Think of an industry and we can simulate it here,” he said.
The clinic will also borrow, rent or buy specific equipment or may ask patients to bring in their own uniforms or tools to make the therapy more realistic, Wodka said.
“If it looks and smells like work, the patient will be more engaged and safer when they go back,” he said.
In Washington, falls cause the most work injuries, Wodka said. Injuries to the lower back, shoulders, knees, and strains, sprains and torn ligaments also are common.
Some patients come to the clinic with fresh injuries, while others begin therapy for an old injury affecting their work, Wodka said.
Patients who can still work typically come to the clinic for two-hour working conditioning sessions five days a week. When patients’ injuries prevent them from working, Wodka said they come in to the clinic five days a week for four to eight hours for work-hardening therapy. Patients need an average of six weeks of therapy.
Wodka said being off work because of an injury is not a vacation.
“You don’t want to be an injured worker,” he said. “The key is to go back to work and to live a normal life.”
Work-related injuries often come with secondary complications, including weight gain, depression and loss of identity, he said. Part of Wodka’s job is coaching patients and encouraging a “never give up attitude,” he said.
The business also provides testing for employers to analyze workers’ capabilities, as well as injury prevention education.
PINN has clinics in Olympia and Vancouver and the company felt Longview was good next step, Wodka said. The area has many manufacturing jobs — where workplace injuries are more common — and the new location also helps current PINN patients, he said.
Wodka said one of the first things he did was call the Vancouver clinic to ask if Cowlitz County patients wanted to move appointments to the Longview clinic. Many were “happy to eliminate their drives,” he said.
Currently Wodka is the Longview clinic’s only employee, but he said the clinic is set to bring on three more physical therapists and a front-desk employee within six months.
Along with seeing patients, Wodka said he is meeting with doctors, occupational therapists, chiropractors and big employers in the area.
Wodka, 51, has been a physical therapist for 25 years. He said he is passionate about the industry because of the outcomes.
“I get a lot of satisfaction taking someone who got hurt at work who’s afraid, anxious or angry, who weeks later is feeling like themselves again, and can go back to work enjoy doing their livelihood,” he said. “We’ve transformed a lot of people’s lives.”