THS Health Science students learn from ACC professionals

A member of the PRMC Physical Therapy staff, right, led this group of Tivy Health Sciences students on a tour of the Ambulatory Care Center’s PT facilities including the pool, where it’s easier for some people to exercise in the warm water.

A group of about 40 Tivy High School students from the Health Sciences classes visited the Ambulatory Care Center last week to get first-hand information and advice from the physical therapists who treat patients at the hospital facilities.

The PT staff presented information on speech language pathology, occupational therapy and physical therapy; then took the students in three groups on tours of the ACC facilities.

Presenters were Candace Ibbotson, Kat Akubista and Brianna Day.

This group of THS students will be benefiting from a grant from Peterson Health that is purchasing a “geriatric simulator.” Teacher Sharon Pintsch wrote the grant application; and the Kerrville Public School Foundation fulfilled her request.

This simulator includes wearable pieces for the students to don, to learn what it physically feels like to not walk steadily and upright, or have the use of an arm or knee for balance.

The equipment has been ordered; and they are awaiting delivery.

SLP pathology

At the ACC, Ibbotson began by explaining that in her specialty, staff works with people who have trouble speaking, listening, reading, writing, thinking and swallowing. Any of those could be the result of physical illness or injury.

She began by asking the students if they would agree live without those skills, listing them one by one, and finding the answer was “no” from all of them.

She said she’s heard some new to these specialties say they don’t like the idea of working with children. They just want to work with the elderly. And her response is, “You just lost the interview. If you don’t like children, you won’t like senior citizens.”

Her audience laughed. And Ibbotson added, for the professionals, besides the all-important academics, “personality also counts.”

At Peterson Health, she pointed out Jim LeRoux is supervisor over all parts of outpatient rehab. It’s three disciplines, with an interdisciplinary team

She said SLPs are certified by the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association; have a master’s or doctoral degree in this work; have completed post-graduate clinical work and passed a national exam.

Occupational Therapy

Day told the student audience that this specialty covers the activities of daily living, instrumental activities including sports, cooking and working. She said this kind of rehab focuses on grooming, dressing, showering, bathing and toileting.

It also addresses mobility while addressing all the previous items.

Day said they evaluate and treat patients; and help supervise the Occupational Therapy Assistants, the staff members who can treat patients using prescribed activities, but do not evaluate patients.

She described how a person can become an OT, starting with completing a four-year degree; and while doing that work to be looking for an accredited OT school. She and other presenters warned the high school students that there are few accredited schools compared to the number of applying students each year.

The goal is to complete a masters or doctoral degree program, a total of up to eight years of schooling, plus internships, school-based work and a thesis or doctoral work and passing national board exams, to become an “entry-level practitioner.”

The good news is, a few colleges have combined programs which these students could start in and stay at the same college to progress into a master’s program in this specialty.

Physical Therapy

This specialty involves “movement experts” who optimize quality of life through prescribed exercise, hands-on care and patient education. Those trained in PT evaluate each patient and determine their impairments, functional limitations and potential disabilities.

Treatment may include “gait training,” pain reduction, restoring function, preventing future disabilities, and providing a home exercise program.

“We improve their balance and help prevent future falls and injuries,” Akubista told the students. “It improves their strength and endurance.”

Her list of how to become a PT also included taking national board exams.

The speakers all stressed that this is interdisciplinary work, saying they have to set up a “plan of care,” for patient-centered care, with realistic goals for each patient to eventually return to their former activities.

All three disciplines work together for the patients’ benefit.

One presenter asked the students to raise their hands if they want to work with children (some hands up), then adults (some hands, again), or if they don’t really know yet (again some hands up).

“That’s all right, too. That’s what the training and internships can help you decide,” they were told.

Possible working locations were outlined as hospitals, in-patient rehab, skilled nursing, home health, schools, hospice programs, industrial workplaces, sports teams, and “travel therapy.” Some are both adult and pediatric; some are one or the other, depending on the facility.

Specialties are possible, including wound care, burns, low vision, cardio-pulmonary, geriatrics, orthopedics and clinical electrophysiology.

Ibbotson asked the students their high school class level. All are juniors and seniors.

Than she asked them if they would say why they are taking this health sciences class. Most of the answers were, to help people, to learn and as a preface to other high school studies.

The ACC staff’s response was, “Find what you love to do, and you will have meaningful work. We see results of the team efforts every day.”

Student reaction

A group of the students gave their reactions after the presentations and tours, all juniors, Kathaleen Luangamati, Elena Spinks, Vannesa Mejia, Adriana Mendoza, Holly White and Ashlynn Way.

They said most of the information was not surprising to them, as they talk about everything in class, starting their freshman year. But they didn’t know all the therapies have to work so closely together.

They said the information didn’t change any of their minds about working with children – or not; and in class they have talked mostly about careers, not schools, and they will have to research that, with this added helpful information. They agreed it’s long schooling plus internships, residency and grad school.

Would they come back to Peterson Regional Medical Center for interships? “Yes!”

Rachel Johnston, president of the KPSF, said after the program. “It’s nice to know Peterson realizes the future of health care is at Kerrville ISD.”

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