DVIDS – News – Occupational Therapists ensure empowerment of everyone in need at NHB

What happens when holistic healthcare is combined with empowering education?

With April designated as Occupation Therapy Month, merging those two concepts helps describe OT and this year’s theme of ‘empowering everyday living.’

Occupational Therapists readily assert they are the answer to many a patient’s hopes for normalcy in regaining their independence, strength, reduce pain and regain range of motion and function.

They help patients overcome such health and wellness concerns as orthopedic recovery, geriatric rehabilitation, and stroke management. Even just being able to go fishing or play with grandkids.

“We help remediate injuries and overcome injuries in all walks of life. We help a person engage in activities of daily living, such as grooming, hygiene, and just life in general, by improving their strength, providing adaptive equipment, and/or implementing alternative methods to achieve their goals,” said Ms. Teri Nyblom, NHB certified occupational therapist assistant.

OT is different from Occupational Health, the discipline which ensures there’s a safe and healthful work environment for all Navy and DoD personnel. OT is also distinctive from Physical Therapy, which primarily focuses on rehabilitating impairment/disabilities and promoting a patient’s physical mobility, movement and functional ability. OT and PT do overlap in that both focus on injury recovery and using education to help patients achieve their goal.

“PT gets a person up and walking, strengthens muscles and helps overcome an injury. But OT helps someone regain their ability to be independent. Say someone had a stroke. We would teach them how to dress, bathe, or be able to eat on their own again,” Nyblom said.

“Our overall goal is to increase functional performance in a holistic manner,” added Lt. Cmdr. Joseph Kidd, NHB PT/OT department head, occupational therapist and certified hand therapist. “We primarily see post-operative patients and those with chronic wear-and-tear type conditions.”

The most common injuries seen at NHB’s OT clinic tend to be associated with the wrist, hand and forearm, such as arthritis, tendonitis, osteoarthritis issues, along with lacerated tendons, fractures, carpal tunnel syndrome, and lateral epicondylitis and medial epicondylitis – commonly referred to as tennis elbow and golfers elbow.

“As an example, someone with arthritis on their upper extremities, there’s protective bracing used, strengthening and stretching for lost range of motion. We do a lot of education, especially if it’s rheumatoid arthritis [which causes pain, swelling, stiffness and loss of joint function] or osteoarthritis [considered most common arthritis form, due to loss of protective cartilage to cushion bones]. Each are treated differently. Education is the biggest piece, such as going over when to strengthen and not to strengthen,” Kidd stressed.

Kidd and Nylon acknowledge that their biggest challenge at times is getting a patient to buy in to the crucial importance of education in the process and realize their own improvement in health and wellness is based as much on their own self as is it on OT support.

“It’s takes effort on any patient’s behalf,” Nyblom said. “We can give them the tools, but someone condition is just not going to get fixed by us when they come in for an appointment.”

“There are usually no instant fixes. Take lateral epicondylitis of the elbow. People with that specific condition come in and say, “my elbow is hurting.” The first thing we tell them to do is wear a wrist brace. They wonder, why am I wearing a wrist brace if my elbow is hurting? It goes back to education and letting them know that the muscles and tendons involved are controlled by the extension of the wrist so we have to immobilize the wrist and not the elbow to make an impact,” explained Kidd.

“A lot of OT is actually tapping into a patient’s motivation,” Kidd continued. “A patient usually doesn’t come in and say, “I want a little more motion or a little more strength.” They’re not that mechanistic. But they will state that they want to play with their grandkids. Or if active duty, will say they got to be able to get back to doing pushups and pull-ups. Whatever their goal might be that’s driving their motivation, everything else will follow. We can find a way to get them where they want to be.”

For Kidd, a Saginaw, Michigan native, his background with a bachelor’s degree in psychology, dovetailed perfectly into his chosen career in OT for approximately 12 years.

“I found I could help others and use the skills I already had. When I joined we were doing a lot of post-blast and battle injury care at Naval Medical Center San Diego. When someone was that badly injured, just brushing their teeth was a big goal. Or overcoming a hurdle like putting their socks on, which might take 15 minutes, but they did it. They start to gain back some of their control over their life. That’s our commitment. OT is helping people to regain their control after they lost it,” said Kidd.

Nyblom was drawn to become an occupational therapist from her days as a para-educator in Puyallup school district working with special needs children.

“We would take the kids to OT once a week. It was my favorite part of the week. The kids loved it. They would come in scared and walk out smiling, ear-to-ear. I wanted to do that. I have since worked with seniors, industrial rehabilitation, in-home, and other settings with acute care. Being here is my favorite. I get to serve those who serve our country. This is my way of giving back and saying thanks,” Nyblom said.

Date Taken: 04.26.2022
Date Posted: 04.26.2022 17:36
Story ID: 419380
Location: BREMERTON, WA, US 
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