Atlanta, GA,
09:30 AM

Occupational Therapist Talks about Working with Shepherd Center's Youngest Patients

Patty Antcliff, MOTR/L, an SCI occupational therapist on the adolescent team, reflects on teamwork, tough love and the healing power of laughter.

Patty Antcliff joined the Shepherd Center staff in 2012 and works with adolescent patients. She also speaks to teachers and students when Shepherd Center patients return to school.

Q: What do you remember about your first day at Shepherd Center?

A: I remember thinking that I must have joined a secret society of knowledge! I had done a lot of research at my previous job. Then I get here, and it just seemed like everyone already knew the answers to everything! There’s just an incredible level of knowledge and expertise here.

Q: What makes Shepherd Center’s occupational therapy approach unique?

A: There’s definitely a more holistic approach to care. It’s not, “Come in to the gym, do your thing, go home.” It’s caring for the whole person. It’s preparing patients for what comes after they return home. It’s providing them with adaptive equipment. We involve the entire family throughout the process. The team-based approach is also something you don’t see everywhere. You have a consistent nurse, doctor, PCT, OT, PT, TR, teacher, counselor and case manager all working together. You know your fellow patients. You’re all in this together. That culture doesn’t exist in every hospital.

Q: What do you talk about when you meet with a young patient for the first time?

A: Some kids are shy. Most of them are understandably anxious. So, it’s all about building relationships and trust. Letting them know, “We’re on your side. We’re here for you.” It’s creating a culture where kids will feel comfortable. Part of that culture is definitely humor! There’s a lot of pranking that happens on our floor – filling up someone’s office with balloons, wrapping a car in plastic wrap. Nothing keeps spirits up like laughter.

Q: You also speak at schools as part of Shepherd Center’s “No Obstacles” program. What are those talks about?

A: Those talks happen whenever a patient is returning for their first day back at school. The patient chooses whom I talk with: It might be just their teachers, it might be a classroom or it could be the entire school. The point is to help with their transition, but it’s also a great opportunity to talk about injury prevention with young people. And it gives me a chance to see the school, make sure things are accessible, and answer any questions that teachers or administrators have about the student’s re-entry to school.



James Madison University (Va.)


B.S. in Health Sciences, Minor in Special Education (non-teaching) and Master of Occupational Therapy


  • Antcliff says she’s best known at work for tough love. “I’m kind of like a mom to my patients. I love you, but I’m going to push you, too!”
  • When she’s not at work, Antcliff is most likely to be found outdoors. Boating, kayaking, tennis and golf are some of her favorites.
  • Antcliff has a “distinctive” scream. At Shepherd Center’s annual Haunted Gym, she is strategically placed to scare with an unseen screech.
  • During summer breaks in college, she was an au pair in Italy for a family with four kids. “I can’t believe my parents let me do that,” she says with a laugh. “But it sparked my love for traveling!”

Interviewed by Phillip Jordan
Photos by Louie Favorite

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.