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April is Occupational Therapy Month

Occupational therapists are a vital part of rehabilitation at Shepherd Center.

By Katie Kimball, MS, OTR
Occupational Therapist, Spinal Cord Injury Rehabilitation Program

Most people outside of healthcare think the primary job of an occupational therapist is to help people find jobs. But for those of us in the profession, we feel we have found THE job.

Being an occupational therapist means helping people participate in their daily occupations. These occupations range from basic things, such as getting dressed and brushing one’s teeth, to more complex things like grocery shopping and mowing the lawn. An occupation is defined as anything that “occupies” one’s time, so the activities we may do with patients are limitless.

At Shepherd Center, we work with people whose lives have changed dramatically after traumatic and non-traumatic injuries or diagnoses of conditions, and we have to help them find ways to participate in all of the occupations they used to do on a daily basis. Because of the nature of their injuries, many of these occupations cannot be done as easily as they were before. Often, we are breaking down activities with the patients and working together to figure out how they can do each and every piece of a task in a way that requires the least amount of help possible.

As someone starts to work with an OT, they may hear things like, “We can make that work,” or “There’s a splint for that.” Fortunately, OTs tend to be creative. With that creativity, we can help people find ways to do things with new strategies, various tools and by “using what they got.” Better yet, the people we get to work with are adaptable and resilient. Together, we can solve challenges and develop strategies and techniques to help patients maximize their function and lead fulfilling lives.Being an occupational therapist is a rewarding career because we help people get back to what they love. When people can do what they love, they get back out and live. There is nothing better than receiving news that someone just did his entire morning routine by himself, or that someone was accepted into graduate school and is living on campus, or that someone had her vehicle modified and is now dropping her daughter off at school.

Living is the heartbeat of occupational therapy. When your job is to help people really live, there’s no doubt it’s a profession that will be around for another hundred years.

Learn more about patient programs at Shepherd Center.

KATIE KIMBALL, MS, OTR, has been an occupational therapist in the inpatient spinal cord injury rehabilitation program at Shepherd Center for more than three years. Born and raised in Wisconsin, she completed her undergraduate and graduate degrees at UW-Madison and then moved to Atlanta to work at Shepherd Center. While she enjoys all aspects of OT, she particularly enjoys helping patients gain independence in bowel and bladder management. She lectures each semester for a local university and has presented at continuing education courses within Shepherd Center. In her free time, she explores the Atlanta food scene and enjoys staying active with her family and friends.

About Shepherd Center

Shepherd Center provides world-class clinical care, research, and family support for people experiencing the most complex conditions, including spinal cord and brain injuries, multi-trauma, traumatic amputations, stroke, multiple sclerosis, and pain. An elite center recognized as both Spinal Cord Injury and Traumatic Brain Injury Model Systems, Shepherd Center is ranked by U.S. News as one of the nation’s top hospitals for rehabilitation. Shepherd Center treats thousands of patients annually with unmatched expertise and unwavering compassion to help them begin again.