Program Connects OT, PT Students with People Recovering from Neurologic Disorders

Program Connects OT, PT Students with People Recovering from Neurologic Disorders

Weekends spent in rehabilitation hospitals can seem long.

Heather Knight, DPT’08, assistant professor of physical therapy and coordinator of Creighton’s Neurologic Physical Therapy Residency Program, saw a way to alleviate patient tedium while answering student requests for direct interaction with patients.

After she partnered with Lou Jensen, OTD’09, associate professor of occupational therapy, the For and With Others: Inpatient Weekend Engagement Program was born.

“I had some physical therapy students who were looking for more opportunities to interact with people with neurologic health conditions,” Knight says.

The program, which matches physical therapy and occupational therapy students with people recovering from neurologic disorders, came to CHI Health Immanuel Rehabilitation Institute. As it enters its third year, there is evidence the program is well received.

“A patient satisfaction study found a significant difference in the area of boredom and loneliness between patients who participated in the program and those who did not,” Knight says.

Stephanie Anasi, BS’15, OTD’19, occupational therapy neurology fellow at the institute, says the program gives Creighton’s occupational therapy and physical therapy students early experience in caring for patients with neurological deficits.

“When I was a student, we would talk about these patients and their different conditions, but we didn’t truly see them until later on when we went out to do fieldwork,” she says. “This program gives students the opportunity to see, interact and maybe come to some understanding working with patients with these diagnoses before going out on fieldwork.”

The program pairs OT and PT student volunteers in teams of two who socialize with selected patients on Sundays. Not yet licensed professionals, they do not provide treatment or clinical services.

What the students provide, says Sharon Malick, is “an engagement opportunity for our patients — interaction and socialization opportunities.”

Malick, who is supervisor of inpatient rehab therapies at the institute, says the students might chat with patients, work on a puzzle, play a game or engage in other social activities.

The program began in spring 2018. All told, it has supported a new group of 16 students every six months for nearly three years.

“It’s an opportunity for students to gain awareness of the challenges, and the abilities, of patients dealing with neurological deficits,” Malick says. “It gives them a chance to learn a little bit more, earlier, and hopefully build confidence when they start providing treatment on their full-time clinical affiliations.”