In honor of Occupational Therapy Month, we interviewed some of the wonderful Sheltering Arms Occupational Therapists. Kay Baber, MSOTR/L works in the outpatient setting at the Sheltering Arms Bon Air Center. Look for another interview coming soon!
1. Why did you choose the profession of occupational therapy?
I had participated in some aptitude testing when I was in college trying to decide what I wanted to do when I “grew up,” and occupational therapist was at the top of the list. However, I had never heard of this career and when I asked the counselor, she didn’t know either. So, I ended up teaching high school for over 15 years. I didn’t enjoy what I was doing, so I went to the school library’s career corner and looked up Occupational Therapy. I think I was actually drooling as I read the job duties/description! I called Sheltering Arms and volunteered (over 25 years ago) in the OT department, just to make sure that the job actually matched the written description. I LOVE what I do and look forward every day to working with my patients! I chose this profession because I love making a positive change in people’s lives. But I also chose to be an OT because there are so many opportunities. There are many fields in which I can choose to work as an OT, not just adult physical rehab. I chose physical rehab because I enjoy problem-solving and analyzing tasks to identify the components making it difficult for my patients to succeed. I like that I have the ability here at Sheltering Arms to use the latest technology to help someone regain use of his/her arm. I like being a part of a team approach. When working with patients as an OT, I am never bored. The positive feedback that I searched for when teaching is evident every day when I see patients meet their goals.
2. What does your typical day look like?
A typical day for me might include patients who have had a stroke or brain injury, someone with multiple sclerosis, and someone with hand/upper extremity pain. What keeps me doing what I do are actually the atypical days that might include someone with an upper extremity amputation, or someone with a psychiatric diagnosis who needs strategies to live independently.
3. How do you keep your patients motivated when they are having a tough time?
When my patients are having a tough time staying motivated, there are many strategies I might use. I have had a lot of life experiences, and I have my share of aches and pains, so it is easy for me to empathize with my patients. But sometimes my patients need the ‘drill sergeant’ approach, or they need more structure, or they may simply need more information about their diagnosis and recovery process. You have to know your patients and tailor your interventions to meet their needs, emotional as well as physical and mental.
4. What keeps you interested in and excited about the field of OT?
There is so much going on in the field of OT to keep me interested and excited about what I do. I am always excited about being a clinical educator. I enjoy helping students apply what they have learned in the classroom to real people with real issues. There is new research and technology that, when applied, helps patients resume more normal, productive lives. I love meeting so many people who have sustained profound challenges in their lives and continue to struggle daily against those challenges, yet they keep a positive attitude. I learn so much from my patients! I also love being an OT because every day is different, every patient is different. Even the same problem will have different solutions, and I love the challenge of finding that solution that will work.
5. Why do you enjoy working at Sheltering Arms?
The greatest thing about working at Sheltering Arms is the people! I feel like Sheltering Arms is my second family. First is the dedication of the staff. From the front desk people to nursing and therapy staff, all of us are committed to helping each patient meet his/her goals to be as independent as possible. Many staff members also give extra time to participate in support groups, present at workshops, and volunteer to assist in after-hours programs and activities. Everyone at Sheltering Arms is part of a team focused on meeting our patients’ needs, and this motivates me to do my best each day. The other ‘people’ at Sheltering Arms are our patients. I think we have the greatest people in the world who come to us for help. Working together to meet their needs is why I enjoy doing what I do.