Recovering from an accident, illness, surgery or cancer treatment can require weeks – or even months – of specialized care. That’s where outpatient rehabilitation comes in. It helps restore mobility and independence – and it can be the single biggest factor influencing the quality of the rest of your life.
“Whether your goal is to get back your golf swing or learn to walk all over again, there are a wide variety of outpatient rehabilitation programs in every geographic region served by Atlantic Health System medical centers,” says Dan Whelan, director of outpatient rehabilitation services. “Convenience is key when patients are making regular trips to rehab. We have a responsibility to make care accessible to patients in every community we serve and to maintain the same high standard of care throughout those facilities.”
With more than 160 staff members working at more than a dozen outpatient rehabilitation locations, there are specialized therapists and programs to meet every patient’s unique needs … and do it well. Multiple centers offer physical therapy, occupational therapy, speech therapy, audiology, stroke rehabilitation, lymphedema management, pelvic floor rehabilitation and more. Specialized programs, such as the Amputee Walking School, athletic training and sports rehabilitation, aquatics therapy and the recently opened Gerald J. Glasser Center for Neuro Rehabilitation in New Providence, offer added services and unique cutting-edge technologies for patients with specific needs.
Talent, Teamwork and the Therapist-Patient Relationship
A commitment to excellence among Atlantic Health System outpatient rehabilitation facilities begins with the therapists, many of whom have earned specialty certifications in addition to advanced degrees from the American Board of Physical Therapy Specialties. They meet regularly to collaborate with their peers, testing theories and outcomes, while a Clinical Excellence Committee ensures that best practices are shared throughout the system.
“Much emphasis is placed on the therapist-patient relationship, with therapists assigned to the same patient for each session,” points out Whelan. “This system-wide strategy puts patients on a productive path to recovery under the supervision of therapists who become partners in that journey.”
Having several different types of therapists working in the same facility is also an added benefit, says Jason Metoxen, MSPT, OCS, a physical therapist at Atlantic Rehabilitation’s New Providence campus.
“If a knee replacement patient is experiencing dizziness, for example, we’ll confer with a vestibular specialist on-site who can also evaluate the patient and make recommendations for possible further treatment – all under one roof.”
In addition to providing a hands-on therapeutic role, many physical therapists agree that education and encouragement are also critical to the therapist-patient relationship.
“People with a back injury, for example, need to be educated about the importance of continuing their exercises at home, following rehab, to avoid reinjury,” says Robert A. Baumgartner, PT, DPT, a member of the Newton Medical Center physical therapy staff for 30 years. “Our goal is to help them manage their condition independently.”
To help ease the transition from outpatient therapy to home, many Atlantic Health System outpatient facilities have established their own on-site fitness centers, which patients can join for a nominal monthly fee.
“Just because you’re discharged, doesn’t mean you’re gone and forgotten,” remarks Paul Cuntala, PT, DPT, of Hackettstown Medical Center. “Our exercise physiologists understand your health history, can explain how to properly use the machines, and can assist your progress. Fifty percent of our joint replacement patients opt to join our fitness center because they feel more comfortable under our watchful eyes.”
Advanced Therapeutic Devices
Atlantic Rehabilitation patients have access to advanced therapeutic devices, such as the following:
AlterG® Anti-Gravity Treadmill® – a treadmill developed with NASA technology that allows patients to exercise at a lower body weight, reducing the impact of walking or running at up to 80 percent of their body weight.
Bioness® L300 – a medical device, worn on the lower leg and operated by a handheld remote control, that uses state-of-the-art, functional electrical stimulation technology to help improve safety and efficiency for people with foot drop.
Bioness® H200 Wireless Hand Rehabilitation System – a device that helps patients recovering from stroke, brain injury, spinal cord injury or nervous system disorders regain control of the muscles in their hands and forearms.
To complement rehabilitative exercises, therapists often prescribe integrative medicine techniques, such as Qi Gong and yoga, to help further reduce pain, increase strength and endurance, and prevent future injury.
Growing Need for Cancer Rehab
“We are seeing a tremendous increase in the number of cancer patients coming for rehabilitation,” observes Whelan. “The aftereffects of lifesaving cancer treatment can include pain, lymphedema, and problems with coordination, balance, range of motion, strength, endurance and flexibility. An individualized and comprehensive rehabilitation program can help patients restore optimal physical functioning following cancer surgery, chemotherapy or radiation.”
As the baby boom population ages and the prevalence of osteoarthritis rises, Atlantic Health System’s outpatient therapists are also helping a growing number of patients regain mobility following hip and knee replacements. “We’re not only helping people resume their daily lives, we’re putting more people in their 50s, 60s, 70s and 80s back on the ski slopes and tennis courts than ever before!” remarks Whelan.
Specialized Outpatient Rehabilitation Programs
Aquatic Therapy (908-598-6594)
Patients with reduced mobility and limited strength due to illness or injury – who cannot tolerate weight-bearing exercises on land – are positively buoyant over the benefits of aquatic therapy. The program, located at Berkeley Aquatic Club in New Providence, offers physical therapy and medical fitness services in a therapeutic pool setting. Therapists use the underwater treadmill, stairs, resistance jets, and external resistance aids, such as paddles and weights, to help patients improve function, balance, strength, circulation, sensation and motor control … in the comfort of 92-degree water.
Neuro Rehab (908-522-2215)
Patients recovering from strokes, brain injuries, movement disorders, vestibular disorders, neurodegenerative diseases, gait/balance dysfunction and spinal cord injuries can receive specialized care at Atlantic Rehabilitation. The centers, including the new Gerald J. Glasser Center for Neuro Rehabilitation, offer physical therapy, occupational therapy, speech/language pathology, and audiology to improve physical functioning, communication skills, swallowing, visual/perceptual deficits, and cognitive dysfunction. There is also a full working kitchen and washer/dryer for occupational therapy, private treatment rooms, and a biweekly prosthetic/orthotic clinic.
Amputee Walking School (multiple locations; 1-800-247-9580)
Patients of all ages and levels of lower limb amputation can attend this advanced gait training and running program, offered at many Atlantic Rehabilitation facilities. Those beginning the Amputee Walking School will learn basic exercises and stretches designed to improve their walking gait with their prosthetic devices. Training is customized to individual needs and as they progress, patients will learn more advanced techniques to increase strength and flexibility. Family members and loved ones of amputees are also encouraged to attend the program for educational purposes and support.
Orthopedics and Sports Rehabilitation
(multiple locations; see list at end of article)
Whether you are an elite athlete or a weekend warrior, Atlantic Health System’s orthopedics and sports rehabilitation programs are designed to return you to action as safely and quickly as possible. Therapists certified in various areas of specialization work closely with patients and their doctors to create a customized rehabilitation treatment plan for many injuries, including arthritis and other chronic pain issues; exercise-related or sports injuries; overuse and overtraining injuries; postsurgical rehabilitation, including joint replacement surgery; reconditioning after illness; and spine, shoulder, elbow, ankle, foot, hip and knee ailments. Patients recovering from an injury or looking to improve their performance in their sport can benefit from Cybex and Arc machines; elliptical trainers; the AlterG Anti-Gravity Treadmill; concussion rehabilitation services; functional movement screening; sports-specific strengthening programs; yoga-based stretches; Pilates core strengthening; 3-D motion capture advanced motion analysis; Biodex isokinetic muscle assessment and rehabilitation; Titleist golf swing analysis; and more.
At Atlantic Sports Health Physical Therapy at 111 Madison Avenue in Morristown, patients can perform running, agility and sports-specific drills on a 50-yard indoor turf field.
“To my knowledge, it’s the only hospital facility of its kind,” remarks Christine Sheerin, PT, DPT, OCS, lead physical therapist. “We have full locker rooms with showers, a range of sports and therapeutic equipment, and therapists to help patients – from middle school age to those in their 90s – return to full function in their sport. Patients arrive here ready to work … or rather, play!”
Shipshape First Mate
One of Phil Glorioso’s greatest passions in life is diving. He works as a mate on the Sea Lion dive boat in Brielle, N.J., and explores shipwrecks off the New Jersey coast. But when the 75-year-old husband, father and grandfather from Oakland strained a muscle doing a home repair project, he knew exactly where to turn to get back in shipshape … his community hospital.
Phil had been successfully treated for muscle injuries and arthritis by Amy Bolan, a physical therapist at Chilton Medical Center’s outpatient sports medicine facility in 2004 and 2006. When he returned to Chilton in 2018, Phil was thrilled to learn that Bolan (and many other staff members) was still there. He knew he would be in the best possible hands, yet again.
“Working on a dive boat requires heavy-duty chores, like pulling anchor chains and coming up the dive ladder into the boat with 132 pounds of dive gear on my body. I couldn’t do that with arthritis and a muscle injury,” says Phil.
“Amy helped ease my pain and, through a combination of exercises, taught me how to work out this old body to keep the blood flowing while improving range of motion. She is a true health professional – bright, talented and motivated to help others. I was so fortunate to work with her the first time, the second time and the third time I came to Chilton!”
“We have provided outpatient rehabilitative care to generations of families in our communities,” says Bolan, a 15-year veteran of Chilton’s sports medicine team, who has been recognized for her outstanding service. “Our team has been together a long time. Patients and their loved ones know that they can count on us for one-on-one, friendly, personal service.”
Getting Back in the Game with Aquatic Therapy
When a friendly basketball game at the Summit YMCA resulted in a complete fracture and displacement of his tibia and fibula, 23-year-old Matt Eisenbud knew it would be a long road to recovery. With a rod, plate and screws holding his lower left leg together following surgery at Overlook, Matt spent several weeks on crutches, gingerly balancing the weight of his six-foot frame.
“I wanted to get back into shape, but was limited in what I could do,” says Matt, a former semiprofessional football player turned e-commerce entrepreneur, who typically spends five to seven days a week at the gym.
When Matt’s mom – a nurse in Overlook’s Community Health Department – suggested aquatic therapy at Atlantic Rehabilitation’s facility in New Providence, Matt decided to give it a try.
“I had an intro session with the primary physical therapist for Atlantic Rehab Aquatics, Jaime Cozine, who had me walking on the underwater treadmill and performing range-of-motion exercises I wasn’t able to do on land,” comments Matt.
That first session prompted Matt to dive head first into aquatic therapy for 45-minute sessions three days a week.
“Jaime is really good at identifying the angles and range of motion necessary to maximize the recovery of my muscles and joints,” remarks Matt. “While I’m in the water and she’s on the deck, an underwater video camera allows her to see the mechanics of every movement up close on a TV screen next to the pool.”
“Since we’ve been working together, Matt has progressed from exercising in neck-deep water, which reduces his body weight by 90 percent, to waist-deep water, which reduces body weight by 50 percent,” reports Cozine. “He’s jogging on the treadmill, climbing stairs, performing plyometric exercises, and even jumping.”
“I feel so much better about my progress because of aquatic therapy,” comments Matt. “I can fully bend my knee with no stiffness, and I can walk briskly without pain. I’m confident that I’ll be perfecting my layup in no time.”
Step by Step After a Life-Changing Decision
Forty-eight-year-old Ron Conti could not run alongside his children. In fact, he could not walk more than a block or two without pain.
Born with club feet, Ron wore leg braces through sixth grade and subsequently struggled with his limited mobility as he entered adulthood, got married and eventually had a family of his own. Determined to improve the quality of his life, he sought the advice of a series of doctors. During one visit, they discussed a radical solution – amputation.
“He said it would be a game changer,” recalls Ron, an IT executive who lives in Randolph with his wife and two children. “I’d be more mobile and able to do more things, so I took a year to prepare. I met with an amputee, a prosthetist and then started to prepare for the operations. I practiced walking with a walker and crutches. I had my first below-the-knee amputation, followed by the second nine months later.”
Along the way, Ron had therapists at Atlantic Rehabilitation on his side. Before and after each surgery, Ron worked with Suzanne Bowen, PTA II, an outpatient therapist at Morristown’s Mount Kemble Avenue facility, who specializes in helping amputees adjust to their prosthetics and maximize the use of their new limbs.
“Through a series of exercises and drills several times a week, Ron and I worked on his flexibility, balance and control,” says Bowen. “We kicked a soccer ball back and forth; Ron learned to use his foot to tap a cup perched on a cone; and gradually, he maneuvered both feet through a series of obstacles on the floor. I’ll never forget the day we ran down the hall together. I was so proud of him!”
“I couldn’t have gotten where I am now without the help of Suzanne, Nathalie McMorland, and the support I received from other amputees at the Amputee Walking School and support group,” acknowledges Ron. “Now, I can play basketball and soccer with my kids. For the first time in my life, I can run a mile. This wasn’t just a game changer; it was a life changer.”
Berkeley Aquatic Club
New Providence Campus
Atlantic Health Pavilion – Pompton Plains
Hackettstown Medical Center
Newton Medical Center
Overlook Medical Center – Union Campus
111 Madison Avenue – Morristown
Morristown Medical Center Health Pavilion – Rockaway
Medical Arts Center (MAC) II – Overlook Medical Center
Chatham Physical Therapy