Q&A with Tori Vinson, OTR, Stroke Coordinator at Southern Indiana Rehab Hospital in New Albany, Indiana
Tori Vinson is an occupational therapist specializing in inpatient rehabilitation and the Saebo Functional Arm Training Program. She graduated cum laude with a BS in occupational therapy and a minor in psychology from Eastern Kentucky University in 1995, and is certified by the National Board Certification of Occupational Therapy. Working as an OT, Tori says she has learned to "be more organized, flexible and not ‘sweat the small stuff'!"
Q: What motivated you to become an occupational therapist?
A: My first observation experience increased my knowledge of how occupational therapy can impact a person's life in returning to his/her primary roles of function. In particular, the experience of observing a small child relearn letters, colors and numbers following a brain tumor was enough for me to see the benefit of the profession. I knew working on areas that many take for granted would be most rewarding in achieving a person's goal of returning to those everyday functional tasks.
Q: Can you describe the facility you work for, Southern Indiana Rehab Hospital?
A: SIRH is a small, freestanding rehabilitation hospital with 60 beds that offers an acute rehab unit, a progressive care unit and outpatient services. It has a unique tri-partnership of Frazier Rehab Institute, Clark Memorial Hospital, and Floyd Memorial Hospital and Health Services. Our mission is to assist physically impaired individuals throughout the region to realize their optimal level of functional independence, productivity, social adjustment and self-esteem.
Our facility incorporates educational programs for all of our patients:
• Our brain injury population has a specific representative to educate them further outside of the individual discipline-specific educational needs.
• Our stroke program consists of stroke education in a three-day a week group, and as a stroke coordinator I provide them with additional meetings outside of treatment for more education.
• The community is included in education through conferences and a free stroke clinic to increase awareness of community programs for any stroke survivor.
• Special services include a Stroke Support Group, Amputee Support Group and Pulmonary Better Breathers Club, which are held at our facility.
• We offer a unique trial program for Saebo orthosis that is beneficial for neurological populations like stroke to regain hand/arm function, even years post-stroke! It is offered in both our inpatient and outpatient areas.
Special services in SIRH outpatient include: Women's Health Program, Vestibular Rehab Program, LSVT-Big Program for Parkinson's, Video-Analysis Program for sports such as walking, running, golf and biking, lower extremity functional electrical stimulation trials using Bioness Ness L300, and Kinesiotaping performed in both inpatient and outpatient.
Q: What's it like working at SIRH?
A: It has a small-town feel as the employees have low turnover rates within the therapy departments and management staff. There is a true sense of teamwork, with all disciplines working together to meet the goal of providing good quality rehab in the best way possible.
Q: When and how did you start at this facility?
A: I was employed in 1995 as an inpatient acute care staff occupational therapist.
Q: Typically, what are your day-to-day responsibilities as the stroke coordinator?
A: As the stroke coordinator, I am responsible for educating our stroke population, managing our stroke clinics, marketing to healthcare facilities/employees in the area and assisting with inpatient/outpatient coverage as needed. I am responsible for maintaining the Saebo program and consulting with all of the staff any fitting or modification needs. I assist as a community liason for any stroke survivor as well, assisting with educational needs and collaborating with physicians for potential services.
Q: What types of patients/diagnoses do you encounter most frequently?
A: Stroke is the primary diagnosis I encounter as the coordinator. However, when covering, any diagnosis is seen such as brain injury, cardiac/pulmonary, orthopedic diagnoses such as multiple fractures, total arthroplasties (knee, hip, shoulder), spinal disorders/surgeries, and neurological conditions other than stroke including Parkinson's, Multiple Scerlosis and spinal cord injuries to name a few.
Q: Can you share a motivational story about your profession?
A: I was taught years ago that if it has been approximately one to two years from the onset of a stroke, it is likely that patients have reached their potential for arm function. Since being Saebo-trained, I have realized that this is not the case and people years post-stroke can still make functional gains with an established program.
Q: Are there other areas of interest for you as an OT, either clinically or educationally, that you plan to pursue?
A: Taking an Advanced Saebo course.
Q: What are the greatest challenges you face as an occupational therapist?
A: Completing the necessary documents required in a timely manner due to most treatments requiring hands-on focus.
Q: What do you like most about your job? What do you dislike most?
A: I like the great co-workers in our facility helping one another in various capacities. I dislike working holidays and weekends.
Q: Are there any research projects you would like to be involved with?
A: I am not currently involved in any research projects, but hope to perform a small study on Saebo effectiveness within our organization.
Q: Do you feel that the role of occupational therapists has changed over recent years?
A: Yes, it has changed for all disciplines across the board. Now, so much is being emphasized by funding sources in getting a person out of acute care so quickly, that we are seeing rehab patients more ill and also being told that length of stay needs to be limited in acute rehab more so than in the past. Outpatient benefits for many are then limited or co-pays are too high for most to afford, so individuals now are not receiving the much needed visits from OT, PT or ST that they once were.
It is a change in how we are able to provide services in some cases, as instead of more time to focus on the rehabilitative phase of increasing strength/ROM/function, we are many times shifting to a more compensatory phase of teaching patients or caregivers to do in other ways through adaptive methods. This is not always the best since individuals do not get the proper time to recover effectively and to their utmost potential, and many do not have a caregiver available as most families have jobs to maintain in order to have healthcare for themselves.
Additionally, funding sources have limited co-treatments to not include minutes with the patient, which was a better, more effective way to treat those individuals that are low level.
Q: What do you feel is of the greatest concern to OTs today?
A: Financial concerns with governmental capping. It is unfortunate that funding sources are imposing limits to improving function.
Q: What is the most rewarding part of your job?
A: Seeing someone move his/her hand for the first time after you have utilized facilitory techniques/modalities to do so.
Q: What is the most important thing you've learned over the course of your career?
A: Be flexible: the schedule usually changes through the day or a patient may not be able to or want to do what you have planned for that particular session. Always have the "Plan B, C & D."
Q: What advice do you have for others thinking of entering occupational therapy?
A: Time management is key! Find a way to plan ahead for having several ideas for working with each patient, an organized daily plan for what needs to be completed i.e. documentation/ordering of equipment, meetings with the team, etc.
Q: How has working as an OT allowed you to grow professionally?
A: I have learned to be more organized, flexible and not "sweat the small stuff!"
Q: If you could sum up your job in one word, what would it be and why?
A: Rewarding! It is always nice to wake up and go to work each day knowing that you will strive to make someone's life more meaningful.
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