Shelby Miller is a second year DPT student who posed the question on Twitter “How do you respond to a patient who tells you they are ready to die?” Megan Eldridge, Sharon Gorman, Talia Pollok, and Julie Skzrat, all physical therapists who work and/or teach in the acute care setting, responded by providing assistance and insight to Shelby on this topic. 

Shelby shared her experience and how she responded to this patient and question. Shelby is a second year PT student who was finishing her first full time clinical rotation in an acute care setting. 

Megan had a similar situation as a physical therapist new to the acute care setting. When Shelby posted the tweet, Megan wanted to provide her shared experience. Megan suggests looking into hospital’s protocols for these situations and looking at it from a multidisciplinary standpoint.

Sharon put her professor hat on as she teaches this topic at Samuel Merritt University. She recommended screening and referring for depression using the patient health questionnaire (PHQ-2, PHQ-9).

Talia and Julie emphasized for therapists to be prepared for these conversations and they will occur in any setting. Talia discussed the importance of maintaining resilience of therapists in these situations to prevent burn out. She believes physical therapists do play a role in end of life care. 

With extensive work in cardiopulmonary physical therapy, Julie encouraged all therapists to increase their understanding of positive intensive care syndrome to understand a patient’s experience post-COVID. 

Other resources provided by the experts include:


50:36 “Sometimes the bravest and most important thing you can do is just show up.” – Talia Pollok

50:49 “For you, today is ordinary but for you patient and their family, it is extraordinary. So be patient.” – Julie Skrzat

51:11 “Remember to always listen to your patients.” – Megan Eldridge 

51:31 “Speak the truth, even if your voice shakes.” – Sharon Gorman 

52:06 “Just because we are physical therapists doesn’t mean we just treat the physical. We also treat the emotional.” – Shelby Miller