Outpatient Rehabilitation Services

Outpatient Rehabilitation Frequently Asked Questions

Expand a section below to learn more about outpatient rehabilitation at Lifespan. 

Patient receiving rehabilitation services
Lifespan’s team of highly trained physical therapists, occupational therapists, and speech-language pathologists provide treatment and education to help patients reach their full potential in resuming activities of their daily lives.

What is physical therapy?

Physical therapy is treatment to improve mobility (such as walking, going up stairs, or getting in and out of bed), to relieve pain and to restore physical function and overall fitness. The physical therapist uses exercise, manual therapy, education, and modalities such as heat, cold, aquatic therapy, and electrical stimulation to work toward these goals. Depending on the injury, disease, or condition, physical therapy may include work on flexibility, strength, endurance, coordination, or balance. Treatment may focus on preventing problems or on treating problems.

What is occupational therapy?

In its simplest terms, occupational therapists help people across the life span participate in the things they want and need to do through the therapeutic use of everyday activities (occupations). Common occupational therapy interventions include helping children with disabilities participate fully in school and social situations, helping people recovering from injury regain skills, and providing supports for older adults experiencing physical and cognitive changes.

Occupational therapy services may include recommendations for adaptive equipment and training in its use, and guidance and education for family members and caregivers. Occupational therapists have a holistic perspective in which the focus is on adapting the environment to fit the person, and the person is an integral part of the therapy team.

What Is language? What is speech?

Language is different from speech.

Language is made up of socially shared rules that include the following: vocabulary / word meaning (e.g., "star" can refer to a bright object in the night sky or a celebrity); word roots/parts that add meaning  (e.g., friend, friendly, unfriendly);  syntax or how to put words together (e.g., "Peg walked to the new store" rather than "Peg walk store new"); and use of language (that is, what word combinations are best in what situations, as in "Would you mind moving your foot?" could quickly change to "Get off my foot, please!" if the first request did not produce results).

Speech is the verbal means of communicating. Speech consists of the following: Articulation (that is, how speech sounds are made (e.g., children must learn how to produce the "r" sound in order to say "rabbit" instead of "wabbit"); Voice (that is, the use of the vocal folds and breathing to produce sound, which at times may sound hoarse ); Fluency : The rhythm of speech (e.g., hesitations or stuttering can affect fluency).

When a person has trouble understanding others (receptive language), or sharing thoughts, ideas, and feelings completely (expressive language), then he or she has a language disorder.

When a person is unable to produce speech sounds correctly or fluently, or has problems with his or her voice, then he or she has a speech disorder.

What do I need to bring to my appointment?

You need to bring:

  • A copy of your insurance card
  • Any relevant medical documents. For example, surgery reports, x-ray, MRI, school reports, IEP, prior therapy evaluations, and notes from other providers if available
  • List of medications
  • A referral with reason for physical, occupational therapy, or speech therapy with name, diagnosis (ICD-10), and date of birth on referral. Referrals may be brought to the appointment, entered into our electronic system by your primary care doctor, or faxed to the location where you will be seen.
  • Previous home exercise programs. If you have previously received individualized exercises from another therapist or visiting nurse services, it is very helpful to your outpatient PT to know where you are starting in terms of your exercise program. Written instructions are always welcome for review.

What can I expect on my first OT/PT visit?

A patient’s first visit with the therapist is usually about one hour. Please arrive 15 minutes early to complete the insurance and medical history information we need. Your therapist will take a thorough history and baseline measurements. You may be asked to change into a hospital gown for the examination. After the therapy examination, the therapist will develop a plan of care to meet your individual goals and to establish how often and for how long therapy may be indicated. This is a collaborative process, and your input will be integrated into the plan.

What should I wear to the appointment?

We encourage you to wear comfortable clothes. If you need specific exercise clothes, bathing suit, or shoes, your therapist will let you know.

I filled out the history form the last time I came here for therapy. Do I have to fill out the history form again?

Yes. Please arrive at your initial appointment 15 minutes early to complete paperwork (unless you have completed it and are bringing it with you).

How long will my follow-up appointments last?

Subsequent visits following the evaluation will last between 30 and 60 minutes, depending on the plan of care and your individual needs. Your therapist will work with you to choose an appropriate treatment length and frequency.

Will I see the same therapist every visit?

We make every effort to schedule the same therapist with each patient; however, there could be a need to see another therapist because of scheduling or a need for a therapist who focuses on a specific area.

Can I reschedule/cancel my appointment?

If you need to reschedule or cancel, please notify us as soon as possible; 24 hours in advance of the appointment is expected. If you need to cancel, please call our front desk as soon as possible so that we may offer the appointment to another patient.

Is public transportation available?

Yes. The location addresses and related bus routes are listed below. Please visit https://www.ripta.com for more information and a full listing of bus schedules.

  • 765 Allens Ave. / 115 Georgia Ave site: RIPTA Bus 3
  • 195 Collyer St.: shuttle available from The Miriam Hospital
  • 20 Powel Ave., Newport Hospital: RIPTA Bus 60 or 63

How do I get a copy of my initial evaluation and Rhode Island Hospital/Hasbro Children's Hospital medical record?

To obtain a copy of your medical records, please contact Health Information Services at 401-444-4040

Do you accept my health insurance?

Lifespan Rehab Services accepts most private health plans in addition to all state and federally funded plans, including Medicaid and Medicare. We recommend that you check with your health plan to determine health care coverage at Lifespan Rehab services before scheduling your clinic visit. You are responsible for all co-payments, deductibles, fees, and treatment costs not covered by your insurance company.

What are the clinical education opportunities?

Both the physical therapy and occupational therapy departments at Rhode Island Hospital and its Hasbro Children’s Hospital offer a variety of clinical educational opportunities to entry-level students in both accredited professional and accredited assistant programs. At Lifespan Rehabilitation, we believe that one of the greatest contributions to our fields that we can make is to provide the highest quality of clinical education to the student who participates in our programs. Many of our current therapists who went through our clinical student programs return to become full-time members of our staff. Requests for entry-level clinical education experiences should be initiated by the academic coordinator of clinical education at the academic institution.

Contact our coordinator of clinical education:

Elizabeth Clegg OTR/L

Rehabilitation Clinical Education Coordinator

164 Summit Avenue

Providence, RI 02906

Email: eclegg@lifespan.org

Phone: 401-793-2744

Discipline-Specific Questions

Expand a section below to learn more about aquatics, pelvic floor therapy, and oncology therapy. 


Do I need to know how to swim?

You do not need to know how to swim but should be comfortable in a pool that ranges in depths up to 5 feet.

Is aquatic therapy billed as physical therapy?

Yes. Aquatic therapy is really aquatic physical therapy. It is a skilled service with direct care from a licensed therapist, so your insurer will be billed for physical therapy services.

How do I get into aquatic PT?

You need an MD referral to be scheduled for a PT evaluation. After that, you will be oriented to the pool area and scheduled for follow-up visits in aquatic PT. 

Pelvic Floor Therapy

What can I expect upon the first visit of pelvic floor therapy?

A thorough history and physical examination will be conducted on the first day, specifically related to the problem you are coming to physical therapy for. For pelvic floor related conditions (e.g., incontinence, constipation, pelvic pain), it is likely that an external and internal pelvic floor muscle examination will be conducted and a speculum will not be used. Based on the results of the examination, your therapist will devise a specific plan of care with you to treat your condition.

What if I have my period — can I still come to my appointment?

Having your period is not a contraindication to what we do. As long as you are comfortable, it is perfectly fine to attend your appointment during your menstrual cycle.


I'm a cancer survivor; could I benefit from therapy?

Yes. An OT, PT, and/or speech language pathologist can address issues of lymphedema, muscle weakness, feeding and swallowing issues, decreased range, fatigue/endurance, balance issues, and cognitive or memory issues.