Why I Love My Job: Wendy Forman, PT

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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.

Job: ICU early mobility project leader at WellStar Kennestone Hospital.

What I do: "I have been leading a multidisciplinary task force for the past year that has developed and implemented an early mobility program in the ICUs at Kennestone Hospital. I, along with a critical care nurse and a mobility tech, mobilize critically ill patients both on and off ventilators. We get people up and even walking on life support in the effort to minimize the physical and emotional effects of critical illness, to improve patient outcomes and reduce length-of-stay costs to the system."

How I got into this: "I have been a physical therapist for 15 years, the first nine of which were primarily in outpatient orthopedic and private practice ownership. I found that I wasn't as satisfied as I wanted to be, and needed to find a change. I did some contract work, which introduced me to acute care therapy.  Six years ago when I started at WellStar, I always had a feeling that we could be doing more for these intubated and sedated patients as they lay there getting weaker. But I did not know enough at that point in time to know what questions to ask, or what medical stability truly was. When the opportunity arose to become involved in this project, I immediately knew that it was my calling."

Best part of the job: "The stories I get to be a part of every day. Watching someone go from fighting for their life to regaining their function is an exciting and fulfilling experience. Not only the impact that our care has on the patients, but on their families as well. The hugs that I get to share with appreciative loved ones when they gain a glimmer of hope that recovery is feasible is a heartwarming event."

Most challenging part: "We are taking care of very sick individuals. They must be medically stable and able to participate in individual therapy sessions, but unfortunate events do sometimes still happen when we aren't working with them. I have had to say goodbye to some wonderful individuals as they lost their fight. That will never get any easier."

What people don't know: "My job is a ton of fun!  It is back-breaking, sometimes stressful and, yes, even sometimes messy. But I have never had a day at the hospital without joy and laughter. We like to go beyond just the physical recovery and do things that help lift spirits as well. Balloons, magazines, cards and even a banana milkshake for one lady that craved it the entire time she was on the ventilator. I think knowing that we promised her one may have made a bit of a difference in her pushing herself just a little bit further each session when she was tired."

What keeps me going: "Beyond the thought of knowing that we are improving lives, what keeps me going personally is my wonderful family. I have two little girls that I hope to set a strong example for. And I have an amazing husband who understands the demand of my work."

Preparation needed: "The education for a physical therapist is now at the doctoral level. This has changed through the years, and I am currently receiving my transitional doctor of physical therapy degree. Further continuing education specializing in ICU care is a must for therapists wanting to get involved with this population."

Salary: The median annual salary for physical therapists in metro Atlanta is $76,072, according to salary.com. The median pay for U.S. medical managers and executives was $96,030 in 2011, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics Occupational Employment and Wages.