When Blake Allen, PTA from St. Simeon’s in OK, experienced a neurological event that resulted in loss of function on her right side, her entire world changed in a moment. Through this life-changing experience and her journey through rehabilitation, she attained an unanticipated capacity to serve others through example and inspiration.
In conversation, Blake shared how her empathy equips her to relate to her patients’ fear, frustration, or weariness when a medical event like a fall or onset of a new condition alter how they function in daily life. She uses her personal experience as a relatable example of the power of therapy, and how dedication to treatment sessions “really works”, even if it is a slow race to the new normal.
Through Blake’s story, clinicians are inspired to embrace the power of empathy with each patient we encounter. Though we may not have the same experience as Blake or our patients, we are equipped with the ability to imagine what our patients may be thinking or feeling. We have the opportunity for conversations to seek understanding and guidance in developing patient-centered goals and encouragement. Each interaction impacts those in our care. As Blake puts it, “we are the friendly face that the patient gets to see every day.”
Thank you, Blake, for sharing your incredible resiliency, recovery, and the important reminder that our care matters. You serve as an inspiration to us all!
This month’s Clinician Who Inspires is Catherine Shafer, Champion Level I Therapist, COTAand Therapy Coordinator at Thunder Care and Rehab.
Catherine shares her primary motivation as a therapist is the joy her patients bring her. She recalled a recent day where she walked into her patient’s room to find him excitedly awaiting her arrival for their therapy session, stating that he was ready to get better. Beyond the enthusiasm and progress of her patients, Catherine also recalled the many stories, learning experiences, and wisdom that her patients have bestowed upon her during her time as a therapist. Catherine smiled as she stated, “sometimes I wonder whose therapy session it really was.”
When she’s not learning from the nuggets of wisdom she receives from her patients, she’s engaging with her peers, searching Reliant University, and logging into the Lunch and Learn trainings to grow clinically and foster her purpose. She encourages all therapists to do the same to refresh knowledge and remind us why we do what we do every day.
Catherine looks forward to the spring season with opportunities for fun gardening activities with her patients, continued relationship building with her interdisciplinary team, and more invaluable nuggets of elderly wisdom. Catherine, thank you for sharing your passion in what you do. Your dedication to Care Matters inspires us all!
In this month’s Clinicians Who Inspire series, we interviewed Alex Johnson, PTA, Director of Rehabilitation, and Champion Level I Therapist at Jolley Acres Healthcare. Alex believes in keeping the interdisciplinary team and patients excited in order to achieve the best outcomes. He and the team at Jolley Acres often use PC gaming platforms to help keep patients engaged while working on difficult tasks. With the gaming platform, Alex explained that it provides challenging and dynamic activities such as weight shifting, single limb support, bending, and rotating. A favorite, Elf on the Slope, allows patients to work on dynamic sitting or standing balance while navigating “Buddy the Elf” through ski slopes on an action-packed adventure. Alex emphasized the importance of the intensity of each treatment session, explaining that it’s the therapist’s role to ensure the patient is getting “the most value” from each treatment session.
Alex spoke of using the abundance of resources provided by Reliant. He encouraged other therapists to use programs such as Reliant’s Clinical Advancement Ladder to grow their expertise as a therapist in the field. Alex also promoted the use of group therapy sessions ranging from full body workouts to address global strengthening needs to carnival games in which the patients encourage each other to complete activities such as ball toss and bowling. Thank you, Alex, for being a Clinician Who Inspires!
This month’s Clinician Who Inspires is Jennifer Saldaña, Therapy Coordinator, and rising Champion Level I SLP. Jennifer believes providing personalized care and being a constant learner helps her to thrive as a clinician.
When providing treatment, Jennifer focuses on what motivates the patient. She gave an example of a patient who was an avid gardener. Jennifer made sure to keep a plant in her office so the patient could speak to the plants as they targeted speech and language goals together.
She has also provided training and encouraged housekeeping staff to browse through residents’ memory books with them and to engage in conversations with the patient while they are tidying their rooms. Along with improving socialization opportunities and carryover, she finds that staff enjoy these interactions and appreciate learning effective, individualized methods to communicate with residents.
For residents who enjoy group therapy, Jennifer works with other disciplines to collaborate and provide multifaceted activities. Recently, she worked with OT. They utilized balance balls for an exciting cardio-drumming exercise where she implemented verbal recall tasks and music-based conversation starters. Her favorite holiday season group activity is sending out cards to loved ones. Residents have even opted to send cards to staff members who have retired and are no longer working at the facility. This exchange has proven heart-warming to both the senders and recipients.
Jennifer values learning and recommends Aging Process: What is Happening to the Body and What Does it Mean?located in Reliant University. She appreciated the comprehensive examination of the normal aging process and has applied this knowledge to improve patient health literacy with healthy aging education. She also encourages clinicians to discuss different perspectives and to always continue to learn from each other.
Thank you, Jennifer, for sharing your personal contributions and innovative ideas and also for your dedication to providing patient-specific, meaningful care.
This month’s Clinician Who Inspires is Nicole Burrough, Champion Level II Therapist, DOR and COTA at Yazoo City Rehabilitation and Healthcare Center. In conversation, Nicole shared her biggest takeaway in her time as a therapist and DOR is that teamwork is the key to success. She discussed her belief that effective communication, a “willingness to help attitude”, and being receptive to others’ input contributes to positive relationships with the other professionals on her team. This, ultimately, fosters a great team that is able to produce great outcomes.
With this communication and receptivity, Nicole’s team frequently implements group therapy sessions that incorporate training of multiple skills at one time. They are currently planning a pumpkin painting group that will address balance, gross and fine motor coordination, and sequencing all at once! Nicole shared that these groups are important in providing encouragement and motivation to the residents at their facility.
Finally, Nicole discussed the importance of educating other healthcare professionals on the benefit of therapists in SNFs. This education not only demonstrates the value of each therapy discipline, but also provides increased opportunities to ensure each resident meets their maximal level of functional independence.
Nicole, thank you for sharing your team player attitude! Your dedication to Care Matters inspires us all!
Shelby Drolshagen, PTA/DOR at Logan County Senior Living makes putting the “FUN” in function a priority. She believes that if therapy is enjoyable, patients don’t notice how hard they are working. She is constantly thinking of ways to bring creative, exciting treatment approaches to her therapy sessions both individually and in group settings. Some of her favorite activities include wheelchair races, obstacle courses, corn hole, and activities related to Reliant’s A Year of Wellness topics. Shelby recently led a group session where patients made signage/labels for the facility; patient feedback was how much they enjoyed this purposeful activity and are eager to do a similar group activity again.
Shelby has obtained Champion Level I on Reliant’s Clinical Advancement Ladder and is working towards completing the educational courses required to achieve a Champion Level II designation in Dementia Care. Recently, she completed the course “Understanding Dementia in the Geriatric Population” where she learned about the importance of considering food options and addressing poor intake as residents with dementia may experience a change in taste as well as food preferences.
As DOR, Shelby strives to inspire her team to be their best and loves to bounce ideas off each of her peers to innovate new treatment ideas and activities. Another part of her role is to be a sounding board and create solutions when needed. Shelby believes that communication is key in team interactions and brings a non-biased opinion to help mediate concerns. Her favorite role is working with the residents at Logan County Senior Living and watching them thrive.
Shelby, thank you for demonstrating how much Care Matters and for being a clinician who inspires daily. Your unwavering dedication to your team and your patients inspires us all.
This month, our Clinician Who Inspires is John Smith, Champion Level I Therapist, DOR and SLP at Diversicare of Tupelo. John enjoys cultivating a supportive atmosphere for the therapy team to excel in enhancing patient outcomes and attaining a rewarding professional journey. One of the biggest tips John shared is the importance of therapists finding their niche. He believes therapists excel in their careers and make a big impact on improving patients’ lives and functional outcomes when following their clinical interests and striving to enhance their knowledge and skills. John reports he isn’t the only one encouraging his team to embrace lifelong learning. Each member of the Tupelo team encourages and pushes each other to achieve their personal goals as well as goals for the whole team. As an example, John and the Tupelo team have begun climbing Reliant’s Clinical Advancement Ladder – a majority already achieving Champion Level I Therapist.
John also shared that attending July’s Lunch and Learn, Interdisciplinary Fall Prevention Across the Continuum of Care, was very beneficial for the therapy team and residents in their facility. He shares that by recognizing the importance of speech therapy in fall prevention and safety awareness, the team is able to address fall prevention more holistically resulting in reduced falls and an improved quality of life for their residents. John now works hand in hand with the physical and occupational therapy teams utilizing interdisciplinary groups and co-treatment. John enjoys creating real life situations for those patients who are at-risk for falls to problem solve through.
The team also enjoys coordinating other interdisciplinary groups, including obstacle courses with challenges to maneuver wheelchairs and walkers around, addressing multiple functional areas at once. John revealed a major benefit to interdisciplinary groups has been the real-time communication between disciplines, sharing insights, and collaborating on care to ensure the group session is holistic with all areas are being addressed.
Thank you, John and the Tupelo Team, for demonstrating your dedication to providing the best care possible!
This month, our Clinician Who Inspires is Krista LaFollette, Champion Level I Therapist, DOR and COTA at Southern Hills Specialty Care. Krista shared her belief that authentic engagement with others is key to success as a team member in the skilled nursing facility. Whether that consists of a friendly hello to a resident, small talk with nursing staff, or sharing a smile with someone in the kitchen, Krista believes that being personable and recognizing others facilitates an open dialogue that will lead to positive outcomes.
Krista reflected on some of the lessons she has learned over her years as a therapist and DOR, including the importance of being willing to learn and ask questions. She shared that though she is confident in her skills as a clinician, she recognizes that having an open mind to the varying needs of each resident, across a wide range of diagnoses, is crucial in providing patient-specific, best in practice care. “We can’t know every diagnosis, or how it will affect each patient, but we can always continue to learn as we go.”
One of the things that Krista has learned from her residents is that creative treatment interventions can not only be effective, but also fun. Krista and her team make an effort to incorporate holiday preparation and celebration into their therapy sessions to keep spirits high while simultaneously working on functional goal targets. Holiday door decorating with wrapping paper, cut out letters, or creating paper chains to countdown the special day, are just a couple of examples.
Krista’s care for others, both teammates and residents, was evident in her shared insights. Thank you for your care, Krista—it is an inspiration to us all!
This month’s Clinician Who Inspires is Colby Millen, DOR and PTA at Forest Haven Nursing Home. Colby spoke quite a bit about taking a comprehensive approach to patient care. He and the therapy team use innovative thinking to foster successful patient outcomes. Colby elaborated about a particular patient who had trouble stopping while ambulating, walking directly into walls in front of him. This is where creative thinking was utilized. A remote-controlled car was placed at the end of the hallway. The patient was told that if he stopped before the car, not running into it, then it would be his turn with the remote. The continuation of this person-centered approach worked, and the patient’s family was stunned by the success.
In addition, Colby credits interdisciplinary collaboration as a major asset to patient care planning. An example of this is the Fall Team at his facility. During root cause analysis discussions regarding a resident who was falling frequently, Colby remembers reaching out to the clinical team for any additional guidance. One of the suggestions was to “go back to the basics.” Colby and the team implemented the patient’s favorite music and prior occupation into skilled therapy sessions. They were amazed that “going back to the basics” proved to be the intervention that was successful. Interdisciplinary collaboration also shines in group therapy at Forest Haven Nursing Home.
Colby spoke about the good relationship between the therapy team and nursing at his facility. He said therapy and nursing share in-depth discussions about any patient changes and difficulties. He stressed the importance of bringing concerns immediately to nursing so they can act quickly and vice versa with nursing communicating with therapy.
Finally, Colby spoke about attending this month’s Lunch and Learn webinar. The presenter said something that really resonated with Colby, “What you do for me, you take from me.” Colby used the example of a patient who can transfer out of bed on their own but needs a little more time. If care staff helps this patient instead of allowing the patient to do this on their own, potentially, the resident could eventually lose that skill and ability. Colby, your thoroughness, critical thinking, and care for not just your patients, but also the therapy team and nursing staff, is an inspiration to us all! Thank you for being a Clinician Who Inspires!
Our Clinician Who Inspires this month is Sylvia Calhoun-Daniel, Champion Level I Therapist, Speech-Language Pathologist and Director of Rehab at New Iberia Manor North. Sylvia believes that balance is the key to being a successful clinician and rehab director. She finds her work to be incredibly rewarding and attributes her ability to strike a balance with her job duties to the exceptional team she works with.
Sylvia reflected on lessons learned over the past 3 years, including how therapy and nursing worked together to ensure resident wellness remained top priority. She witnessed physical therapy walking patients to have their weights taken, morning therapy groups focusing on oral hygiene, and other examples of interprofessional collaboration while targeting therapy goals. She states, “Covid taught us that we really need each other” and credits teamwork to having such a close-knit staff.
One of Sylvia’s favorite treatment interventions is the SLP Lunch Date she holds with her patients when they are mastering swallowing techniques or have had a diet upgrade. These celebratory lunches are held in the gym, where she invites the resident’s loved ones to join them for a meal. This is not only an opportunity to provide therapeutic trials but also a purposeful time for Sylvia to provide caregiver education and safe swallowing strategy training. She goes above and beyond to make the lunch extra special, whether it’s with a slushy from Sonic that one resident was craving or a specially requested pasta dish from a daughter.
Sylvia’s message to other clinicians is simple: find balance and value each other. Thank you, Sylvia, for helping keep morale high and fostering an excellent team dynamic. Your unwavering dedication is an inspiration
This month we had the privilege of speaking with Rhiannon Haynes, COTA and DOR, Champion Level I, at Envive Healthcare of Hartford City, to share some insight and inspiration from clinicians in the field. As we discussed treatment interventions and interdisciplinary communication, it was evident that Rhiannon brings “good vibes only” everywhere she goes.
Rhiannon encourages therapists to have no fear in thinking outside the box, trying new things, and reaching out to colleagues when it comes to providing the best treatment for residents. She shared the importance of humor, positivity, and patient-centered goals to motivate residents to not only participate, but also enjoy their therapy sessions. Recently, the therapists at Hartford City have incorporated the use of ‘Alexa’ in their therapy gym. Whether it be to play music during exercise, practice communication skills with Q&A, or to catch up on the week’s weather forecast, it has proven to bring something extra to therapy. Rhiannon also shared that holiday groups to create crafts and door decorations help brighten the halls of their community.
The staff at Rhiannon’s facility share the common goal of being there for one another so that ultimately, they can be their best for their residents. She spoke of the interdisciplinary team as a “family unit” that values each person’s role in overall cohesion and communication. “We all talk to one another with openness and common respect. We treat each other how we want to be treated, and that makes it easy for good vibes.”
Rhiannon- thank you for sharing your good vibes with your residents, your “family unit”, and your therapy peers! You are an inspiration, and your care matters!
Richa Kohli, PT has worked in several different settings and with various patient populations. For the last 7 years, Richa has worked solely with geriatrics which is unequivocally her favorite. When it comes to providing physical therapy (PT) to geriatrics, Richa states it’s all about “being patient.” Richa, who also has a Master’s Degree in Clinical Psychology, says that when she intently listens to her patients they reciprocate and are more prone to listen to what she has to tell them in relation to PT. Richa also spoke of how important it is to make treatment personal and to take into consideration what the patient wants to do. Embracing what your patient needs or wants helps to avoid treatment becoming mundane.
Richa talked greatly about the fun group activities that her team is a part of. They partner twice a week with activities for group and find that this interdisciplinary approach allows for better coordination and participation.
As the sole PT in her facility, Richa doesn’t miss a chance to encourage her peer therapists to broaden their knowledge base. Richa enjoys taking courses on Reliant U and reviewing journal articles to grow her skill set and equip herself with knowledge to provide evidence-based treatment.
Richa, thank you for all you do for your residents and fellow therapists. Thank you for reminding us to always listen empathetically and continue to learn and grow daily to positively impact our patients’ lives. You are an inspiration and your care matters!
Through the Clinicians Who Inspire series, we continue to share motivation, creativity, and inspiration from clinicians in the field. This month we spoke with Dana Marsh, Champion Level I Therapist, Speech-Language Pathologist and Director of Rehab at Spring Valley Care Center. Dana states, “You’re never going to regret being kind.” Her favorite part of working in long-term care is being able to utilize her speech pathology skillset to improve outcomes with the added bonus of incorporating small acts of kindness that make a huge difference in patients’ lives.
Dana holds regular morning groups (pictured here) where patients are guided through skilled prompting, modeling, and use of compensatory strategies to share current events, games, snacks, and coffee while targeting their speech and language goals.
Dana values student internships at her facility from local universities. She enjoys the mentorship opportunities it presents and has even gained additional team members from these placements. Her biggest piece of advice to her clinical colleagues is to work together with all the various departments in the facility. She feels that working together with all departments ensure that everyone feels valued and unified in the overall goal to ensure that patients are receiving the best care. Thank you, Dana, for sharing your passion and creativity with your patients, interdisciplinary team, and therapy peers!
Through the Clinicians Who Inspire series, we continue to share motivation, creativity, and inspiration from clinicians in the field. This month we spoke with Karla Ashley, Champion Level I Therapist, occupational therapist and Director of Rehab at Vicksburg Convalescent Home. Through facilitation of resident opportunities for social interaction and participation in activities that stimulate the mind, body and spirit, Karla finds meaning in her every day as a therapist in the skilled nursing facility.
During the interview, Karla discussed some of the fun group therapy activity ideas they have implemented recently at their facility. Dancing groups, indoor/outdoor gardening activities, and an annual Mardi Gras parade—complete with beads, masks, pies, and a king and queen, are just a few of the examples provided. She shared the many benefits and positive outcomes they’ve seen through these groups, including improved balance, coordination, cognition, and morale amongst participants.
Karla shared that though she has worked in various settings throughout her 30-year career, she loves working in the skilled nursing facility setting. “The residents become your family. You’re there with them through it all. Even those that come and go; they come back to us when they need it. They come to love and respect us as much as we love and respect their needs.” Thank you, Karla, for sharing your passion and creativity with your patients, interdisciplinary team, and therapy peers!
Through the Clinicians Who Inspire series, we continue to share motivation, creativity, and inspiration from clinicians in the field. This month we spoke with Hensen Keetch, Champion Level II therapist and physical therapist at Canyon Rim Care Center. Through creativity and recognizing each patient’s individuality, he continues to have an impact in meaningful ways.
During the interview with Hensen, it was noted that he has a deep understanding of person-centered care and brings that into his daily treatment interventions. During group activities, Hensen and the other group participants learned that one patient previously played basketball overseas and another patient was the scorekeeper for the local NBA team. These discoveries led to additional activities, discussions, and connections within groups. He also shared an example of a patient who was a former high school soccer player. With this knowledge, the team intertwined soccer into treatment; what better way to challenge balance than with passion for the game?
Hensen knows that interdisciplinary team communication and education are keys to patient success. As an advocate for fall prevention and intervention, he meets with the nursing staff to discuss individualized strategies and plans for fall reduction and recovery after every reported fall.
Hensen, thank you being a clinician who inspires your patients, the interdisciplinary team, and your therapy peers!
Through the Clinicians Who Inspire series, we continue to share motivation, creativity, and inspiration from clinicians in the field. This month we spoke with Kristin Jacobson-Messner, Champion Level I Therapist, SLP and Director of Rehab at Avalon Health Care in Madera. Through her creativity and positive outlook, she continues to have an impact in meaningful ways.
Through creating colorful, personalized memory books; incorporating seasonal treats during dysphagia treatments (e.g., pumpkin pie), or decorating the gym, Kristin strives to keep her interventions person-centered. She also credits the entire team at the facility for having a united attitude when it comes to caring for the residents. Oftentimes, the activities team will collaborate and work with the rehab team to continue with tasks and exercises residents have achieved in therapy, helping to carryover functional gains and compensatory strategies.
For personal growth in her field, Kristin really enjoys participating in CEUs offered through Reliant U. Her favorites are those focused on dysphagia.
Thank you, Kristin and team, for fostering friendships, teamwork, creativity and innovation; and for being clinicians who inspire each other, your patients, and all your therapy peers!
Through the Clinicians Who Inspire series, we continue to share motivation, creativity, and inspiration from clinicians in the field. This month we spoke with Laura Redd, COTA/Director of Rehabilitation and Champion Level II therapist at Huntsville Health Care Center. During the interview, she explained that she has always worked in skilled nursing. She was originally employed as a CNA, then worked as a rehabilitation tech for seven years before becoming a COTA and then Director of Rehabilitation. Her unique background has provided insight into how to bridge the gap of communication between therapy and nursing.
Laura is passionate about ensuring patients have as many opportunities as possible for out-of-bed engagement. As a Champion Level II therapist, she provided education to nursing staff concerning the need for residents to be out of bed, not only for therapy, but also for meals and activities as the research supports out of bed activities improve overall wellbeing and quality of life. Her presentation was used to develop a resource for Reliant about the benefits of social interaction and physical activity, click HERE for a glimpse at this resource. She indicated that once all staff understand that the purpose of the patient being out of bed and engaged is “to maintain their functional level and prevent declines”, it becomes ultimately easier for everyone to work toward that goal.
Laura, thank you for all you do for your residents and nursing teammates, advocating for quality patient care, and for being a clinician who inspires your patients and your peers!
When Daisy Franklin, PT, started her career 17 years ago, she was sure pediatrics was the setting for her. That is, until a friend referred her to a SNF, where she took the job and has been at her current facility now for 15 years. Daisy loves her residents and truly enjoys hearing their life experiences while gaining knowledge from them daily.
As DOR and part of the therapy team, Daisy interacts with all facility staff and says they are like one big family. She and most of her co-workers have been in this facility for 5+ years which supports that feeling of family; they have been through a lot together.
Fun isn’t just reserved for the therapists; Daisy and her co-workers enjoy making therapy fun for the residents too! The residents look forward to the cooking groups hosted by multiple disciplines. Daisy has personally witnessed the benefits group therapy has to offer, including increased socialization and increased peer interaction and support to encourage residents to do their best.
Daisy has achieved Champion Level 1 focusing on wound care. Climbing the Clinical Ladder has allowed her the opportunity to partner with the facility’s wound care physician to address wounds and accelerate the healing process with modalities. After achieving Champion Level 1, Daisy encouraged her peer therapists to pursue their own Clinical Ladder achievements. Daisy hopes to be able to see the whole rehab team ascend the Clinical Ladder and equip them with a plethora of knowledge to treat their patients.
If Daisy had to offer advice to her fellow therapists, she said it would be to practice patience and compassion in conjunction with their professional skills. Daisy, and team, thank you for all do for your residents and fellow therapists. You truly are an inspiration!
Through the Clinicians Who Inspire series, we continue to share motivation, creativity, and inspiration from clinicians in the field. This month we spoke with Cheri Shefler, Champion Level I Therapist, SLP and Director of Rehab at Willow Springs Rehabilitation and Healthcare Center. Cheri points out that it is important to have a positive environment where the therapy team and the facility staff can share a true camaraderie in order to facilitate a team approach in their patients’ care. She enjoys being a positive spirit and cheerleader for her colleagues.
Cheri explains that it is also important to have time together as a team. Food often wins the heart, so ordering lunch in or bringing favorite dishes to a holiday potluck are a few favorite ways they celebrate and grow as a team.
To fill her own cup, Cheri finds it rewarding to supervise and guide newly graduated SLPs in their Clinical Fellowship Year (CFY), especially those with little to no experience in the skilled nursing setting. She enjoys the fresh ideas and activities that the new and upcoming SLPs bring to the table and also guiding them to develop treatment interventions that are appropriate for each of their patients.
As opportunities open back up, Cheri looks forward to engaging team members and residents in Carnival Day! This day involves setting up carnival activities within the rehab gym and encouraging all patients and caregivers to participate in the fun, including group activities like tossing water balloons. Thank you, Cheri and team, for being clinicians who inspire each other, your patients, and all your therapy peers!
Through the Clinicians Who Inspire series, we continue to share motivation, creativity, and inspiration from clinicians in the field. This month we spoke with Lynne Steeber, Champion Level I Therapist, OTR/L and Director of Rehabilitation at Majestic Care of New Haven. Lynne shared that being organized, keeping a goal-oriented mindset, and providing positive feedback to those around her are ways in which she finds success. Lynne touched on what some of the benefits of this communication have looked like at her site, recognizing the importance of being able to work together to identify and meet patient needs to promote their quality of life. She also discussed the importance of open communication and availability to support the facility staff, whether that be to discuss a noted change in a patient, or provide assistance or training, when needed. Thank you, Lynne, for sharing your positive energy with those around you and ensuring that patients receive the care that they need.