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I am excited today to have my friend and colleague Matthew Bounds on the Blog! He shares some of his thoughts and experiences about the role of his faith working in a spinal cord rehab unit. You will not be disappointed!
Where do you work and describe the patient population in which you work?
I work at the Charlie Norwood VA Medical Center Augusta Ga. My focus of physical therapy is with US veterans who have sustained acute spinal cord injuries. I perform assessments of needs through evaluation and also provide treatment through intensive rehab sessions. Me and my team will then follow these patients for the life of their injury by providing both outpatient and inpatient care as the patient needs.
2. What do you enjoy about working in your field of PT?
The thing that I enjoy most about my job is the fact that I have the opportunity to serve the US veteran population. This is especially important to me because I am also a veteran and have served overseas in defense of our country. I enjoy interacting with and treating these patients because I can relate to so many of their experiences and I think that common bond enables me to build good rapport and enhance their treatment outcome. I like my job because I enjoy teaching new skills to these patients in order to reshape and redefine their new normal and I love the opportunities I have to encourage my patients to become as independent as possible despite incurring an injury that transforms their life.
3. What are some of the unique physical, emotional, or spiritual challenges of working in your field PT?
Physically, my job is very hands on and challenging because I work with patients, who at times, are completely dependent on me and my rehab colleagues to move and position them. My field of work can be demanding because I also teach and demonstrate transfer and positioning techniques to family members or caregivers of my patients. So there is an element of physical demand to my job. Emotionally, my field of PT can have both highs and lows. When a patient of mine learns to transfer independently, recover movement of their arms and legs, or just learns to drive a wheelchair, it is a very positive emotional experience. But this job can also be devastating when my patients are limited and struggling due to a multitude of co-morbidities, their high risk of infection, and the interpersonal strain their injuries place on the patients and their families. Spiritually, though, my job offers an open door to inject hope into my patient’s lives every day. 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 leaves to more difficult conversations.
4. How does your faith impact your work and how you view your patient interactions?
My faith definitely impacts my approach to patients who have had a spinal cord injury. For each person I interact with, I try to ask what God's purpose is for their situation. Then, I pray that God helps me inject those truths in our conversations during treatment sessions.
5. Briefly describe a story in which you really felt like you ministered to a patient.
I recently had a patient, Mr. H, who recently was faced with the decision to undergo additional surgery. There was a possibility of the procedure 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. I told him that there isn't a hair on our heads unaccounted for by Him, so we need to pray and trust God with the faith that He grants us in these situations. He agreed and went ahead with the surgery. His fear was gone from that time on and I am pleased to say the surgery went well. Praise God!