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Posted: 8:25 a.m. Monday, May 20, 2013


Why I Love My Job

Sarah Ricci, OTR, MPH


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Sarah Ricci is director of Rehabilitation, RehabCare, at Kindred Hospital-Atlanta.

Job: Director of Rehabilitation, RehabCare, Kindred Hospital-Atlanta.

What I do: “I have a dual role at Kindred in that I manage the rehab team as well as practice occupational therapy. As an OT, I provide services to those patients who are unable to perform basic self-care activities as a result of disability or disease process. These basic activities are usually ones that a healthy person would not give a second thought to, such as getting dressed, getting out of bed, standing at the sink to brush teeth, etc. “Being in this leadership role, I have the opportunity to drive evidence-based initiatives in my department in order to improve functional outcomes, improve quality for patients and provide an awesome patient experience.”

How I got into this: “I have always found comforting and helping others gratifying. I gained experience helping others through volunteer activities while I was in high school, but I wasn’t sure how that would translate into a career when I started college. “It wasn’t until my academic advisor told me, 'You need to be an occupational therapist,’ that it dawned on me that this was the career for me. After being an OT for 10 years, I remain grateful for his good advice .”

Best part of the job: “I take great pride in being an occupational therapist. I find that this career demands creativity and thinking outside of the box in order to offer solutions to patients’ pain and lack of independence, with basic daily living skills. I get to analyze a problem, then problem solve through it until I’ve figured out what works for an individual. Seeing a patient smile, getting a hug from a patient or even a simple 'thank you for what you do’ goes a long way with me!”

Most challenging part: “When you work in any hospital or health care environment, you are acutely aware of the challenges of the U.S. health care system, no matter where you stand politically. I am glad that my job gives me the opportunity to participate in identifying ways to improve quality, continuity of care and compassion in health care delivery.”

What people don’t know about my job: “Many people make the mistake of assuming that occupational therapy is synonymous with physical therapy. It’s actually a different educational path and different degree altogether. In this setting, occupational therapists identify treatment goals and methods specifically to facilitate a patient toward becoming as independent as possible with ADLs, which stands for activities of daily living.”

What keeps me going: “Patients are very sick when they come to us. Kindred Hospital is a transitional care hospital, which means medically complex patients are referred to us from other hospitals for our expertise in ventilator weaning, wound care and rehab services. Seeing our patients graduate from a state of extreme weakness and disability to being out of bed, weaning from the ventilator and walking down the hallway are successes worth coming back to work for the next day!”

Preparation needed: “ A master’s degree or a doctoral degree are the available educational paths. Both degree routes prepare a graduate to be an entry-level practitioner, however, a baccalaureate degree is a prerequisite for the doctoral degree program. As far as rehab management goes, experience in multiple treatment settings is key."

Salary: The median annual pay for occupational therapists is $77,479 and $95,868 for occupational medicine directors in metro Atlanta, according to salary.com.

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Compiled by John Brieske, Pulse managing editor. Got a health care job that you love? Please send email to jbrieske@ajc.com.

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