Atlanta, GA,
09:00 AM

Recreation Therapy Manager Explains Why She Loves Her Job

Q&A interview with Kelly Edens, CTRS, manager of Shepherd Center's Recreation Therapy Program.

Kelly Edens, CTRS, recreation therapy manager, always wanted to work at Shepherd Center, but never imagined she’d start her career at the hospital. Over the span of 14 years, she has worked in various Recreation Therapy positions before becoming the program’s manager in 2008.

Q: Shepherd Center has the largest Recreation Therapy Program compared to other rehabilitation hospitals of its kind. Why is this aspect of care so important to Shepherd patients?

A: This aspect of care is so important because it puts all of the pieces of the puzzle together. Each discipline works a different piece to assist the patients to become as independent as possible. While we do contribute to a patient’s care, I really believe in the value of our community reintegration program in which patients and families experience life in a realistic setting. By participating in “real” situations here, they are not trying it for the first time at home and thus are better prepared.

Q: Patients meet with recreation therapists while they are at Shepherd, but also have access to them after they leave. Explain that process.

A: All inpatients have a primary recreation therapist they see weekly to discuss issues like accessibility, problem-solving, assertiveness, their rights under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and community reintegration. We have seven specialists who also work with patients one-on-one, as well as in a group setting, to work on functional leisure skills to achieve their long-term goals. Day Program (Shepherd Center’s outpatient program) patients continue with this system. Any community member is welcome to contact us and get information or hands-on instruction on any leisure counseling or skill. We have many community events and trips we offer throughout the year. Anyone with a disability is able to participate to get a taste of what they may be interested in pursuing in the future. We have 11 adaptive sports teams that compete and travel all over the world, which brings many great peer support opportunities, as well, for patients and community members.  

Q: What is the best part of your job?

A: The best part about my job is working with a patient or community member who sees how much more fulfilling life can be with their disability, and helping people find a new passion for something that motivates them to live life! As a leader of our Adventure Skills Workshop, I get to meet many people and see participants experience life outside of their wheelchair, which is many times a new beginning for them. There is so much one can do, and many people do not know it until it is shown to them. Watching someone get up on a water ski, shoot a deer, or do something as simple as playing cards is huge and gives them a smile you will never forget! 

Experience: Kelly started her career at Shepherd Center in 2000, working in various recreation therapy positions. She became the manager of the department in 2008.

College: Georgia Southern University (bachelor of science degree)

Random Facts:

  • Kelly loves to spend time with her family – daughters Charlotte and Madelyn and husband Matt Edens, who also works at Shepherd Center.
  • The beach is one of her favorite places to go.
  • Mexican food with a margarita is her ideal meal.
  • Born in Pittsburgh, Kelly’s family moved around a lot until she was 13; they moved to Georgia where she has lived ever since.

Interviewed by Sara Baxter
Photos by Gary Meek

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.