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Medical Screening for Therapists: the Sherlock Holmes Approach

Presented by William Boissonault, PT, DHSc, DPT, FAAOMPT, FAPTA

Course Description

An important element of clinical decision making for therapists is recognizing red flag warning signs that a patient should see a medical doctor. This seminar will help prepare the therapist to assume the role of an interdependent practitioner working within a collaborative medical model. A proposed examination scheme designed to promote efficient and effective collection of patient red flag findings will provide the structure for our discussions. Professional communication with patients and medical doctors will also be a central theme throughout the seminar. A combination of lecture, small group activities/discussion, and laboratory sessions will constitute the learning experiences.

Learning Objectives

Upon completion of the seminar the participant will be able to: 

  • Compare and contrast the therapist’s role and responsibilities to that of physicians associated with the differential diagnosis/medical screening process.
  • Integrate the medical screening principles into an efficient and effective patient examination scheme.
  • Evaluate history and physical examination findings (red flags), and decide whether communication with a physician is warranted regarding a patient’s health status, and indications for imaging.
  • Employ strategies to facilitate professional communication between therapist and physician and therapist and patient; including when, how and what to communicate as part of a patient referral.
  • Describe the risk factors, pathogenesis and clinical manifestations of selected medical conditions and medications representing the various body systems.
  • Compare and contrast, vascular/neurogenic claudication, osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, ankylosing spondylitis, musculoskeletal cancer,, infection, abdominal aortic aneurysm, kidney stones, related to risk factors, and signs and symptoms clinical manifestations.
  • Effectively pursue additional information associated with differential diagnosis by the therapist


William Boissonnault, PT, DPT, DHSc, FAAOMPT, FAPTA is a Professor at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, Senior PT at the UW Hospital and curriculum director at the UW/Meriter Hospital Orthopedic Physical Therapy Clinical Residency Program. He received his BS degree in PT from the University of Wisconsin-Madison, his MS and DHSc from the University of St. Augustine and a t-DPT from Massachusetts General Hospital. Boissonnault holds multiple adjunct faculty positions, both nationally and internationally, teaching differential diagnosis, diagnostic imaging, and communication skills. He has textbooks and journal publications related to differential diagnosis and physiotherapy practice. Boissonnault is the president of the Foundation for Physical Therapy. He was president of the Orthopaedic Section of the APTA, chaired the APTA Manipulation Legislative Task Force and the American Academy of Orthopaedic Manual Physical Therapists Practice Committee. Boissonnault has received the Orthopaedic Section APTA Stanley V. Paris Distinguished Service Award, the APTA Baethke-Carlin Award for Excellence in Academic Teaching and the University of Wisconsin-Madison Medical School Dean’s Teaching Award for Excellence and Innovation in Medical Education. He has been named a Catherine Worthingham Fellow of the APTA.


  • Providence/Swedish Employees-  $200
  • Non-Providence/Swedish Employees-  $400

Course Information

  • November 7-8, 2015
  • 15 Contact Hours
  • Appropriate Audience: PT


David Howell, OTR/L, Rehab Education Manager
(360) 486-6992

Registration Instructions: