Clinicians Who Inspire – January 2023 – Karla Ashley

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!

Clinicians Who Inspire – December 2022 – Hensen Keetch

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! 

Clinicians Who Inspire – November 2022 Kristin Jacobson-Messner

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! 

Clinicians Who Inspire – October 2022 Laura Redd, COTA

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! 

Clinicians Who Inspire – October 2022 Daisy Franklin, PT

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!

Clinicians Who Inspire – August 2022 Cheri Shefler, SLP/DOR

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!

Clinicians Who Inspire – July 2022 Lynne Steeber

Clinicians Who Inspire

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.  

Clinicians Who Inspire – June 2022 Alaynna Hebert Savoy

Through the Clinicians Who Inspire series, we continue to share motivation, creativity, and inspiration from clinicians in the field. This month we spoke with Alaynna Hebert Savoy, Director of Rehabilitation/PTA/Champion Level II therapist at New Iberia Manor South. Alaynna loves to incorporate music into therapy interventions. She explained interventions aren’t always going to be textbook. “You have to throw in fun stuff to keep your patient’s interest. Be flexible and creative.” Alaynna loves to work on dynamic reaching through dancing whether seated in a chair or in standing. She reports dancing to music always puts a smile on her patients’ faces. Alaynna also incorporates music in group interventions using a therapy ball to play “hot potato”. When the music stops, the person holding the ball has to do individualized exercises such as leg kicks or sit to stands. Her patients like group because it’s something different from individual therapy sessions. Alaynna also talked about the importance of positivity. She said “I try to make sure I’m happy. They don’t need to see someone with a sad face, they need to see me with a smiling face.” Thank you, Alaynna, for being creative, putting smiles on your patients’ faces, and inspiring your therapy peers.

Clinicians Who Inspire – May 2022 Halen Coker

Through the Clinicians Who Inspire series, we continue to share motivation, creativity, and inspiration from clinicians in the field. This month we spoke with Halen Coker, DOR/SLP/Champion Level I Therapist at Pierremont Healthcare Center in Louisiana. Halen loves the added opportunities to communicate with family and caregivers in her role as DOR. As an SLP, she continues to expand her clinical skills by completing CEUs offered in Reliant University. She especially appreciates those courses targeting dysphagia and dementia. To target communication skills, Halen often plays various resident-preferred board and card games in a group setting. Recently, her focus has been on residents experiencing weight loss. She is working with the interdisciplinary team to brainstorm and utilize strategies to enhance the dining experience and improve mealtime intake. Halen attributes the positive vibes in the gym to the amazing team of clinicians she works with and their close collaboration. Not only do they continue to make the gym a fun and active place to be, but they also work to spread that positivity throughout the facility. She states, “this is their home, we have to make it happy.” Thank you, Halen and team, for being clinicians who inspire each other, your patients, and all your therapy peers!

Clinicians Who Inspire – April 2022 Alyssa Stead

Through the Clinicians Who Inspire series, we continue to share motivation, creativity, and inspiration from clinicians in the field. This month, we spoke with Alyssa Stead, COTA/DOR and Champion Level II therapist from Avalon Care Center Sonora. Alyssa shared that though there have been challenges over the past two years, a shifted mindset has allowed the therapy team and residents something to look forward to.

As residents within the dementia unit were isolated from typical routines and interactions during the pandemic per federal guidance, Alyssa and her team took the initiative to create opportunities for meaningful participation. They obtained information about their residents’ interests and created kits that included materials for activities according to those interests. Through participation in these activity kits, Alyssa saw not only satisfaction from the residents, but also a decrease in some of the potential challenging behaviors that presented on their dementia unit. This successful intervention was something that both the residents and therapists could be excited about.

Even as the residents begin to regain a sense of normalcy, these activity kits remain relevant and beneficial. Alyssa Stead, COTA/DOR shared a quote that has always stuck with her, “People don’t care how much you know, until they know how much you care.” Taking the time to learn what is meaningful and motivating to a resident can go a long way in showing that you care.

Thank you, Alyssa and team at Avalon Care Center Sonora, for shifting your mindset and exemplifying Care Matters!

Clinicians Who Inspire – March 2022 Yvette Aquino-Luna

Through the Clinicians Who Inspire series, we continue to share motivation, creativity, and inspiration from clinicians in the field. This month, we spoke with Yvette Aquino-Luna, Champion Level II therapist, OTA/DOR at Murrieta Health and Rehab.  Yvette shared that there have been a lot of changes for her team over the past few years. Through the many changes, she has seen the team grow, becoming like a cohesive family.  While continuing to provide excellent patient care, they have learned more about each other, and have even volunteered to learn aspects of the DOR role.  She said, “I honestly couldn’t do this job without the team we have here!”  

Last year, they won several awards, receiving Visa gift cards as prizes. Yvette used them to purchase an escape room, team building activity.  She said the team enjoyed the activity so much that they are planning to do something else in the spring, perhaps an obstacle ropes course.  She noted, learning to communicate “makes a big difference when time gets tough.”

Yvette expressed that “teams need to feel appreciated.”  She has accomplished this by obtaining lunch donations from local restaurants during spirit weeks. Yvette says, “they take care of the patients, so I try to take care of them.”  Her advice for any team is to get to know your co-workers as we often “spend more time here at work than we do with our own families.”  Thank you, Yvette and team at Murrieta Health and Rehab, for remaining positive and adapting to help each other flourish.

Clinicians Who Inspire – February 2022 Kale Hintz

Through the Clinicians Who Inspire series, we continue to share motivation, creativity, and inspiration from clinicians in the field. This month, we spoke with Kale Hintz, Mentor Therapist and PTA/DOR at Premier Estates of Kenesaw.  Kale says that the biggest tip he can share with fellow clinicians working during the COVID-19 pandemic is flexibility. From staffing challenges, patients and colleagues testing positive for COVID, to evolving procedural changes, being flexible and having a good team with you are key components to success. Kale reports that having a positive attitude has given his team the ability to make everything run smoothly for their patients and other staff members despite a high number of variables and obstacles. Thank you, Kale and team at Premier Estates of Kenesaw, for remaining upbeat and adapting as needed in order to help your patients and each other flourish.

Clinicians Who Inspire – January 2022 Cindy Akins

Through the Clinicians Who Inspire series, we continue to share motivation, creativity, and inspiration from clinicians in the field. We spoke with Cindy Akins, Champion Level II Therapist and COTA/DOR. Cindy shared that effective time management, collaboration, and creativity have helped to maintain positive morale and success in her facilities.

Cindy spoke about some of the processes she uses to organize her time between the facilities where she provides care, highlighting the benefits of good organization in managing time while maintaining a positive attitude. She spoke to the importance of recognizing the impact of what we do as therapists: serve the needs of others, as a catalyst to motivate her to always keep keeping on.

Cindy also shared some innovative ideas for group therapy that have allowed residents to participate in functional, everyday activities that they enjoy. With facility and community collaboration, her facility was able to set up a fishing tournament for their residents using stocked water tanks, fishing poles, and therapeutic interventions. “We’re always trying to find activities that are functional, that will keep residents doing the things that they like.” This activity was such a hit that it is going to become an annual, community event. Cindy emphasized that therapeutic events like these become possible with the teamwork of all players on the interdisciplinary team.

Thank you, Cindy Akins, Champion Level II Therapist and COTA/DOR, for sharing your positivity and inspiration with those in your sphere of influence. You are making a difference!

Clinicians Who Inspire: September 2021 Melissa Huggins

Through the Clinicians Who Inspire series, we continue to share motivation, creativity, and inspiration from clinicians in the field. This month we spoke with Melissa Huggins, Champion Level II Therapist, PTA, and Director of Rehabilitation at Panora Specialty Care in Iowa.  Melissa states that dealing with the effects of COVID-19 really forced her to think outside the box.  She mentioned the need for creativity in therapy interventions to help encourage participation in sessions.  Melissa and her team like to use Reliant resources like A Year of Wellness to help generate creative ideas.  One of Melissa’s favorite activities has been card making with patients during therapy.  The patients worked on their individualized therapy goals in conjunction with making cards for other residents who weren’t getting as much interaction.  A lot of the residents knew of others who might benefit from a little “pick-me-up” card, but if not, the therapy staff assisted in making those connections.  As part of their therapy intervention, the patients were often able to deliver the cards to their resident friends in person.  Melissa reports that these cards made everyone, from the therapy staff to the residents, very happy!  These interactions helped residents who were spending more time in their rooms to socialize and, in some cases, even leave their rooms to connect with other residents.  Melissa also reports that pictures of residents in therapy sessions being featured on social media is seen as a privilege.  One resident even told her, “You’re going to make me a star!”  Not only are your residents STARS to us, Melissa, but you are also as is the entire team at Panora Specialty Care!

Clinicians Who Inspire: August 2021 Shannon Rasmussen

Through the Clinicians Who Inspire series, we continue to share motivation, creativity, and inspiration from clinicians in the field. This month we spoke with Shannon Rasmussen, Champion Level II Therapist, and SLP at Pecan Tree Rehabilitation & Healthcare in Texas. Shannon states that working through the pandemic was the most trying time of her SLP career.  What kept her encouraged during those times is the advice she now gives other clinicians, “remember why you became a therapist.” Shannon stresses the importance of staying focused on remembering that we are in our field of work to help others. This focus is what motivated her to use her vocation to provide a positive, meaningful impact during the pandemic. When social isolation became a reality in her facility, Shannon decided to tackle a very real consequence of isolation- weight loss. She met with the dietary manager, and together they initiated a snack cart, filled with a variety of the residents’ favorite snacks. This cart would make its rounds at the facility and provide a real pick-me-up (and additional calories) to the residents spending increased time in their rooms. As in many facilities, another area of concern was the loss of communal meals. Shannon recognized that residents spending increased time in bed could negatively impact their cognitive and communication skills. She worked with the IDT to ensure residents were up and enjoying mealtimes. She even facilitated roommates enjoying socially distanced meals together while seated and facing each other to promote mealtime conversations and socialization. These seemingly straightforward strategies are just a couple of examples of Shannon and her IDT communicating, brainstorming, and working together to bring back some sense of normalcy during demanding times and a reminder to us to focus on our calling to provide patient-centered care. Thank you, Shannon, and team, for being clinicians who inspire each other, your patients, and all of your therapy peers! Keep up the amazing work you do each and every day!

Condensed Version:

Through the Clinicians Who Inspire series, we continue to share motivation, creativity, and inspiration from clinicians in the field. This month we spoke with Shannon Rasmussen, Champion Level II Therapist, and SLP at Pecan Tree Rehabilitation & Healthcare in Texas.  What kept her encouraged during trying times is the advice she now gives other clinicians, “remember why you became a therapist.”  When social isolation became a reality in her facility, Shannon decided to tackle a very real consequence of isolation- weight loss. Together with the dietary manager, they initiated a snack cart, filled with a variety of the residents’ favorite snacks. Another area of concern was the loss of communal meals. She facilitated roommates enjoying socially distanced meals together while seated and facing each other to promote mealtime conversations. These are just some examples of Shannon and her IDT working together to bring back some sense of normalcy during demanding times and a reminder to us to focus on our calling to provide patient-centered care. Thank you, Shannon, and team, for being clinicians who inspire each other, your patients, and all of your therapy peers! Keep up the amazing work you do each and every day! #CareMatters

Clinicians Who Inspire: July 2021 Danielle Grove

Through the Clinicians Who Inspire series, we continue to share motivation, creativity, and inspiration from clinicians in the field. This month we spoke with Danielle Grove, Mentor Therapist, COTA and Director of Rehab at University Park Nursing and Rehab in Iowa. Danielle credits her facility’s ability to maintain positive morale throughout the pandemic to continual communication with an interdisciplinary team approach. She shared the impact of therapy education and training with nursing staff on repositioning, swallowing, and ADL completion; allowing continual care and success even when restrictions were put in place to mitigate risks of transmission. “Without all of us working together, we wouldn’t be able to come together to be successful and positive for our patients”. Danielle also shared her team’s focus on promoting positivity throughout their building and community with patient-centered groups and celebrations. She recommends use of Reliant’s “A Year of Wellness” program, collaboration with Activities and Marketing departments within the facility, and collaboration with patients to identify fun ideas and opportunities to gather for a therapeutic activity that may also serve as a bright spot in your patients’ day. Through Danielle and her team’s efforts, they’ve seen a change in not only their building’s morale, but also their reputation in the community. Thank you, Danielle and team, for being clinicians who inspire each other, your patients, and all of your therapy peers! Keep up the amazing work you do each and every day!