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Today I am glad to have another friend and colleague on the blog to discuss his experiences of working in a spinal cord rehab unit. I think you will really enjoy some of his thoughts regarding faith and work in this setting.
Where do you work? Describe the patient population in which you work?
I work at the Charlie Norwood VA Medical Center in Augusta Ga. and my clinic focuses on veterans with acute and chronic spinal cord injuries. They come to me for assessment of needs and we also perform intensive rehab and education to the patients and their families because these types of acute injuries come with significant life-altering changes. An additional aspect of my clinic work is that we have the ability to follow these patients for the life of their injury providing both outpatient and inpatient care as needed.
What do you enjoy about working in your field of PT?
One of the most enjoyable aspects of my field is the fact that I get to serve our US veteran population. Being able to do this is particularly important to me because I am a veteran myself and have been deployed oversees in defense of our country. So, I have a very deep understanding of what so many of these men and women have gone through and the challenges they face. Working with veterans as a veteran gives me a unique perspective to encourage and care for my patients. The other thing I enjoy about working in the VA spinal cord unit is the teaching of new skills and provision of new equipment to reshape, define, and improve my patient's "new normal." Finally, I enjoy the opportunity to encourage and equip them to become independent despite their injury.
What are some of the unique physical, emotional, or spiritual challenges of working in your field PT?
Physically, my job is a very hands on challenging job because I work with patients who at times are completely dependent on my and my rehab colleagues others to move and position them. I also have to spend time teaching family member how to properly move and position the patient. So at times there are definite physical demands. Emotionally, my field of work has both highs and lows. Teaching a patient to transfer independently, recovering movement of their arms and legs, or just learning to drive a wheelchair can be a positive emotional experience that brings about celebration. But, my job can also be devastating emotionally at times because of my patient's co-morbidities, their high risk of infection, and just the interpersonal strain their injuries place on the patients themselves and their families. Spiritually, however, my field of work provides an open door to inject hope into my patients lives daily. It's easier to start a conversation about God, His love, and spiritual healing when you've hit rock bottom. That being said, many patients deal with bitterness and anger as they transition through their injuries which leads to many difficult conversations.
How does you faith impact your work and how you view you patient interactions?
Each person I interact with I try to ask what God's purpose is for their situation, then I pray God helps me to speak that truth to them in our treatment times together.
Briefly describe a story in which you really felt like you ministered to a patient.
I currently have a patient, Mr. H, who recently was faced with the decision to undergo additional surgery. There was a possibility of this surgery causing additional paralysis. I had the chance to encourage him and remind him that we are all under God's control, and on his timeline. There isn't a hair on our heads unaccounted for by Him, so we need to pray and trust God with the faith He grants us to have in these situations. He agreed and went ahead with the surgery. Mr. H's fear was gone from that time on and I am pleased to say the surgery went well. Praise God!