Atlanta, GA,
14
April
2020
|
11:04 AM
America/New_York

Celebrating National Occupational Therapy Month

Shepherd Center recognizes the vital work occupational therapists perform every day.

April is Occupational Therapy (OT) Month. We want to take this opportunity to recognize and celebrate all of Shepherd Center's top-tier OTs who deliver pre-eminent care to our patients every day. 

We asked some of our OTs to talk about what they love about their profession and memorable moments they have had working with patients. Keep reading to get to know a little more about our fantastic OTs!

Helen Burke, OTR/L, CLT

What is your role at Shepherd Center?
I am an OT who runs the vision clinic and have helped with rolling out the new vision program.

What is your favorite part of being an occupational therapist?
My favorite part of being an OT is getting to help others regain their independence in a multitude of ways. It’s a job that constantly challenges me to think outside the box to creatively problem-solve ways to help the patient.

What is something most people may not know about occupational therapy?
I think people don’t realize all the skills we have as OTs and the varying populations that we can work with. It was part of what drew me to OT. We can work with people of all ages and with all types of challenges. I believe as a whole, we are a very creative and crafty group of individuals who use those skills to make functional devices out of the most unlikely items sometimes. I had worked in home health for a while and had a patient who was on a fixed income. He couldn’t afford to pay for a sock aid to help him get his socks on. I ended up fabricating one from an empty detergent bottle and rope. It worked just fine, and he was able to be independent with his lower body dressing.

What is a career moment you are most proud of at Shepherd Center that was especially meaningful to you?
I would have to say a special moment that sticks out in my mind is when a patient I had seen was leaving. He told me, “You helped me to be able to walk again. I will always remember your smile first thing in the morning and when you came to check on me when I was in the ICU.” It's moments like those, as a clinician, that remind me that this job is so much more than providing my clinical skills. My smile made an impact as well in a patient's recovery.

Jackie Lazzaro, OTD, OTR/L

What is your role at Shepherd Center?
I am an occupational therapist at Shepherd Center’s Complex Concussion Clinic. We are an interdisciplinary team that serves clients recovering from concussions and mTBI, ages 12 and older, to address cognitive, ocular-motor, vestibular, balance issues, and more, as they work toward returning to their life roles and activities.

What is your favorite part of being an occupational therapist?
My favorite part of being an occupational therapist is witnessing my clients regain their abilities to participate in meaningful activities and life roles, even if it looks a little different than before. Those HUGE “little” moments are amazing. I love seeing the joy on their faces while they are doing something again for the first time or telling me about doing something for the first time since I last saw them. It’s an honor to be on such a journey with them.

What is something most people may not know about occupational therapy?
Many people are not aware of what the “occupation” in occupational therapy truly means. Occupational therapists define occupations as meaningful activities that people want, need and are expected to do. Occupations change throughout a person's lifespan, and people can participate in occupations at an individual, group and community level. The general groups of occupations include activities of daily living (bathing, getting dressed, etc.), instrumental activities of daily living (driving, meal preparation, etc.), rest and sleep, education, work, play, leisure and social participation. As occupational therapists, we work with individuals on optimizing their occupational performance based on their goals, no matter what stage in life they are in and what barriers they may be facing. We believe that occupational performance greatly affects an individual’s overall wellbeing.

What is a career moment you are most proud of at Shepherd Center that was especially meaningful to you?
The Complex Concussion Clinic is an emerging practice area for OT. I was able to witness one of my first clients of this clinic return to work and other life roles with minimal symptoms with techniques to optimally participate and confidence in her abilities. This was after weeks of ups and downs, and a lot of hard work on her end. With this area of OT being an emerging one, it was a special experience to see how much of an impact on occupational performance OT services can make for this niche area of practice. I am so excited to see this area continue to grow and have positive impacts on many.

Tori Le, MOT, OTR/L

What is your role at Shepherd Center?
I’m an occupational therapist treating individuals with spinal cord injury and other neurological diagnoses.

What is your favorite part of being an occupational therapist?
I love building a relationship with the people I work with. It is so rewarding to watch an individual come in feeling like a “patient” and leave feeling like a person who can achieve goals, return to life roles and believe in themselves.

What is something most people may not know about occupational therapy?
Occupational therapists can specialize in a variety of creative and innovative areas including driving rehabilitation, assistive technology and home modifications. There are actually many occupational therapists who go on to become famous inventors and world innovators.

What is a career moment you are most proud of at Shepherd Center that was especially meaningful to you?
This is a difficult question for me to answer, as I feel being an OT at Shepherd Center has allowed for so many meaningful moments. Recently, I have been given the privilege of leading my peers as the chair of our Home Modifications Committee. This role is so meaningful because my peers have entrusted me to provide leadership in our communal goal of positively impacting Shepherd Center patients and their family members. Home modifications may be necessary following a life-changing injury in order to increase access, independence or safety within the home. Home modifications can include a simple installation of a grab bar to make getting into the bathtub safer, widening the front door to accommodate a wheelchair, or identifying low and high tech equipment to simply make daily tasks a little easier. My hope is that our efforts as a committee will positively impact each individual's transition from hospital to home, ultimately setting them up for success and happiness. And that is definitely something an occupational therapist would be proud of!

Erin Prentice, MHS, OTR/L, CLT

What is your role at Shepherd Center?
I have been at Shepherd for 10 years. Initially, I started working on the adolescent team. I have since transitioned to a float occupational therapist who works throughout the spinal cord injury continuum of care. In addition, I am a certified lymphedema therapist working on the edema team and a PATH-certified hippo therapist in Shepherd’s equine-assisted therapy program.

What is your favorite part of being an occupational therapist? 
As an occupational therapist, I get to see patients beyond their diagnosis or disability. I get to see them as a whole person with various backgrounds and tons of potential. Getting to work with patients and having every day be different makes being an OT exciting. There's never a dull moment. I enjoy helping my patients engage in things that are the most meaningful to them that they think they may never be able to engage in again. Aside from adapting equipment, breaking down and overcoming barriers, and helping them achieve their goals, my favorite part is hearing from patients after they have left Shepherd. Hearing their success stories about graduating college, moving out on their own, weaning off the vent after five years or going on to have their second child is so inspiring!

What is something most people may not know about occupational therapy?
One of the things that occupational therapists can and should address with our patients is sexuality and intimacy. Historically, healthcare professionals and occupational therapists have not been proactive in addressing these areas. Both sexuality and intimacy are considered to be an activity of daily living and play a huge role in our patients' lives. Sexuality is an essential part of the whole person and plays a huge role in how our patients identify themselves, develop relationships, and correlates with quality of life. Working with patients who have significant disabilities, these areas are often not addressed because of physical and emotional dysfunction, however, sexuality and sexual participation are often common concerns.

What is a career moment you are most proud of at Shepherd Center that was especially meaningful to you?
It is really hard to pick just one moment over the past 10 years. We often get to do special things for our patients and then there are days we are just there to show them our support and help get them through some of their most difficult days. I have been able to participate in a high school graduation, take someone to an Atlanta United soccer game, and work with a new mom on care for her child. Those times are special, but so are the ones when your patient is able to feed themselves for the first time since they were hurt, put on a shirt, or access their phone to Facetime or text a loved one. I am most proud to be able to work with such an amazing group of people and get the chance to help every patient I interact with in some big or small way.

Jennifer Roane, OT/L

What is your role at Shepherd Center?
Being an occupational therapist means teaching people how to participate in their daily activities and at Shepherd, and that is just what I do. I work in inpatient rehab on the Comprehensive Rehabilitation Unit, focusing on people who have experienced a traumatic or non-traumatic injury that has dramatically changed their life and how they participate in their daily “occupations.” These occupations can include dressing themselves, taking a shower, brushing their teeth, cooking, or getting out in the community to grocery shop or visit a local restaurant. After sustaining a spinal cord injury or brain injury, often, these tasks are more difficult or need to be completed differently, and it is my job to get people back to being as independent as possible. 

What is your favorite part of being an occupational therapist? 
Building relationships with patients during their rehabilitation and seeing their determination and strength as they work to become as independent as possible is my favorite part. I also really enjoy finding creative ways to help people gain independence with tasks.

What is something most people may not know about occupational therapy?

  1. When people hear the term "occupational therapy" for the first time, they often think we help people find jobs.
  2. This year, U.S. News and World Report Best Jobs list identified occupational therapy as #28 out of 100.

What is a career moment you are most proud of at Shepherd Center that was especially meaningful to you?
An area that I am particularly passionate about is women’s health after spinal cord injury. Through the years, a group of us have developed and taught a women’s class, called No Boys Allowed, which addresses women-specific issues after spinal cord injury. The class is taught by an occupational therapist and a peer supporter once a month and covers fashion, pregnancy, parenting, women’s health, relationships and a few other topics that are directed by the interests of the audience for a given session. Additionally, I assisted with the development and production of a video series titled, “Empowering Women After SCI,” which covers the following topics: office visits, parenting, intimacy, sex positioning, medical care, fashion, pregnancy, labor and delivery, diet and exercise, and dating.

Shannon Schneider, MS OTR/L

What is your role at Shepherd Center?
I am an occupational therapist in the Andrew C. Carlos Multiple Sclerosis Institute.

What is your favorite part of being an occupational therapist?
I love adapting daily tasks so that clients can develop more independence in their lives. As an OT, we are constantly thinking outside of the box to help people get more enjoyment and efficiency with tasks such as dressing, feeding, using their phone, and returning to work or school. I love being able to take any activity that a client is struggling with, break it down into smaller steps and help them tackle it. We might have to try it 100 different ways before it works, but that is the fun part of the job and how you truly develop a rapport with the clients and have some laughs along the way.

What is something most people may not know about occupational therapy?
We love to have fun! Therapy can be very physically and emotionally challenging for clients, but OTs have the unique ability to make our treatments fun, which helps the clients get more out of each session.

What is a career moment you are most proud of at Shepherd Center that was especially meaningful to you?
I had the opportunity to work with a wonderful group of therapists to develop an educational video series about women’s health following spinal cord injury (SCI). The project took about two years to complete, and I learned so much throughout the entire process. I was able to meet and interview several women living their lives to the fullest following SCI. It was inspirational and something that has made an impact on my career as an OT.

Amber Schwartz, MHS, OTR/L, CDRS

What is your role at Shepherd Center?
I am an ABI continuum float occupational therapist. I float across the ABI continuum, including inpatient, Shepherd Pathways outpatient and Day Program, SHARE Military Initiative and the Complex Concussion Clinic. 

What is your favorite part of being an occupational therapist?
The creative freedom that we have to assist our patients in regaining function and the variety of areas we address. We aren’t limited to addressing one body area or even specific deficits. We have the opportunity to take what is meaningful to each patient and help them return to that activity. 

What is something most people may not know about occupational therapy?
Most people don’t know the role of occupational therapy can change from setting to setting and person to person. I might spend a session in the morning working on independence with basic self-care, then in the afternoon help other patients to work towards their goals of driving or getting back to welding. 

What is a career moment you are most proud of at Shepherd Center that was especially meaningful to you?
About five years ago, I worked with a patient 12 years after his accident which left him dependent for all of his care needs for several years. When I met him, he was in his mid-40s and had come such a long way. He was still living with his family but had found a place of his own and a job where driving was essential. He hadn’t driven in 12 years but was determined to gain back the independence that driving would give him. We spent a few months working on skills to prepare for a driving evaluation. At the end of our time together, he passed his evaluation and was able to return to driving with a few restrictions. This allowed him to take the job and move into his own apartment. To say it was life-changing for him is an understatement. Since starting at Shepherd, I regularly worked on the skills for driving, but this experience inspired me to go further with it. I am now a Certified Driving Rehab Specialist and am passionate about working with our patients towards their goals for driving.

 

About Shepherd Center

Shepherd Center, located in Atlanta, Georgia, is a private, not-for-profit hospital specializing in medical treatment, research and rehabilitation for people with spinal cord injury, brain injury, multiple sclerosis, spine and chronic pain, and other neuromuscular conditions. Founded in 1975, Shepherd Center is ranked by U.S. News & World Report among the top 10 rehabilitation hospitals in the nation. In its more than four decades, Shepherd Center has grown from a six-bed rehabilitation unit to a world-renowned, 152-bed hospital that treats more than 935 inpatients, 541 day program patients and more than 7,300 outpatients each year.