Hand Therapy as a New Grad or Student

Tips for Getting Prepared for hand therapy as a new grad or a Level II Fieldwork Everything you need to know in hand therapy starts with the upper extremity anatomy. Here is a quick checklist to review and hopefully help get you started in your new hand therapy setting.

By: Tristany Hightower

new grad

I suggest, as a new grad or student, reviewing the following.

Anatomy – Everything you need to know in hand therapy starts with the upper extremity anatomy.

  • Review muscles by action (shoulder flexion, elbow extension, wrist flexion, etc).
  • Review brachial plexus and innervations of muscles of UE
  • Wound Healing/Bone Healing
  • Timeline of healing


Billing may be specific to your sight and the business model, but knowing a few of these billing items can be helpful.

Review what items can be billed for under each category:

  • Therapeutic exercise
  • Therapeutic activity
  • Self-Care
  • Neuromuscular Re-Education
  • Manual Therapy

Common Upper Extremity Conditions

Understanding the anatomy behind non-complex UE conditions is very helpful

  • Trigger finger
  • Carpal Tunnel
  • Cubital Tunnel
  • Distal Radius Fracture

Standardized Assessments to Review

Students need to know standardized assessments and know how to do them correctly. We have included some of the most popular ones we use in the clinic.

  • Grip/Pinch Strength
  • ROM using goniometer
  • Monofilament testing
new grad

Special Tests

  • Have a resource of special tests for the shoulder, elbow, wrist, and hand to have a point of reference for working in the clinic
  • It is not necessary to memorize the special tests, but have the resource easily accessible for when an initial evaluation might have needed a special test.

Studying outside of Clinic

  • Review patients who you are seeing the following day to get an idea of the diagnoses that you will be seeing
  • Review the diagnosis to understand the anatomy.
  • Consider having a list of exercises/activities that each patient does based on the diagnosis category
  • Create treatment plans to review with the clinical instructor or supervisor each morning

Biggest Tips

  • Have resources easily accessible to reference as necessary. Therapy for hand therapy and the upper extremity is very complex and requires consistent learning. I had to be okay with not knowing the answers to every question, but I always have the resources to answer the questions my CI asked with assistance.

Helpful Resources

  • The ASHT Manual for Clinical Educators (free)
  • ASHT Student Workbook (free)
  • Rehabilitation of the Hand (found 6th edition online for free)
  • The Hand: Examination and Diagnosis 3rd Edition (found a used edition for 10 dollars)

In summary, being a student or new grad in the field of hand therapy can bring many challenges, but the effort in learning and understanding can be very rewarding. It is a field that requires lifelong learning, which brings much fullfillment to one’s career.

Leave a Comment

More To Read

Splinting vs Stretching after a Stroke to treat Hand Spasticity

May 12, 2023

Splinting versus Stretching to improve hand function and reduce hand spasticity after stroke Reference: Ahmad Khan, M., & Singh, P. (2018, February). Effect of Hand Splinting versus Stretching Exercises for Reducing Spasticity and Improving Hand Function in Poststroke Hemiplegia: AComparative Interventional Study. Retrieved December 4, 2022, fromhttps://www.ijotonweb.org/article.asp?issn=0445 -7706;year=2018;volume=50;issue=4;spage=125;epage=129;aulast=Khan The Skinny: A comparative study by Khan…

Read More

Brachial Plexopathy Case Example in Hand Therapy

November 14, 2021

Brachial Plexopathy Case Example in Hand Therapy (plexopathy examples)   One of the recent cases we have seen is a 13-year old with a brachial plexus injury.  We are seeing the patient post-surgery for tendon transfers to increase functional use of his left upper extremity (LUE). Before the surgery, he could not extend the wrist and…

Read More

Risk Factors for Complex Regional Pain Syndrome (CRPS) in Patients with Hand Trauma

March 12, 2023

Hand Trauma and CRPS in patients attending Hand Therapy By Tristany Hightower Savaş, S., İnal, E. E., Yavuz, D. D., Uslusoy, F., Altuntaş, S. H., & Aydın, M. A. (2018). Risk factors for complex regional pain syndrome in patients with surgically treated traumatic injuries attending hand therapy. Journal of Hand Therapy, 31(2), 250–254. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jht.2017.03.007  The…

Read More

Sign-up to Get Updates Straight to Your Inbox!

Sign up with us and we will send you regular blog posts on everything hand therapy, notices every time we upload new videos and tutorials, along with handout, protocols, and other useful information.