Erin Lee, OTR/L is the 2010-2011 HSS Hand Therapy Fellow. Carol Page, PT, DPT, CHT is Senior Director at HSS Rehabilitation and directs the fellowship program. Questions about the program can be directed to Carol at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Carol: Erin, now that you’re approaching the end of the 2010-2011 fellowship program let’s talk about what led you here, your impressions of the program and how you plan to apply what you’ve learned.
Erin: I always had an inclination that I might be interested in hand therapy even from the start of my occupational therapy program in graduate school. I loved the creative aspects of splint making, the hands-on treatment approach and the incredible variety of diagnoses and injuries. I appreciate my background in general rehabilitation and having moved through acute care, inpatient hospital care, and home care which provided me with a solid foundation in rehabilitation. I chose to apply to the fellowship when I knew that hand therapy was my specialty area of interest. I had been working in an outpatient setting but wasn’t getting structured mentorship and training and didn’t have other staff skilled in hand therapy available to problem solve with me. I am so thrilled to have found and been accepted into the Hand Therapy Fellowship program as it was the perfect solution to help me further develop my skills.
Carol: What have been the most valuable aspects of the program for you?
Erin: I love the time I get to spend in hand clinic working with the hand surgery fellows as they evaluate and care for patients. It’s wonderful to be part of a team environment where I can share my skills and make sure that patients’ therapy needs are being addressed. To then get to work with those patients as part of my individual caseload and see the full continuum of care from evaluation to discharge is a wonderful learning experience. The hand therapy staff has been so supportive and committed to helping me get the most out of this experience. I find the mentorship and feedback to be the most valuable part of my time here.
Carol: What is different about being a fellow than working as a therapist in a setting where hand therapy is practiced?
Erin: As a new hand therapist, there is always a lot of self-learning that has to happen in order to best treat your patients and familiarize yourself with treatment options, diagnoses, and current research, but being a fellow allows you to take advantage of a structured educational program with high level lectures, lab time and individual research projects to take your learning to the next level. Time is built into my schedule to work with my mentor and to discuss my treatment plans and caseload, something that typically doesn’t exist when you are working full-time as a therapist.
Carol:Who would you recommend the program to?
Erin: I would recommend the fellowship to someone who has a clear interest in pursuing the specialty of hand therapy and is looking to become a CHT. I think the perfect candidate has to be committed to giving 110% as the clinical and educational work require dedication, commitment and time. Having some experience in hand therapy in an outpatient setting is important, and a strong understanding of upper quadrant anatomy is a huge asset.
Carol: What are your plans after graduation from the fellowship? How do you think you’ll use what you’ve learned in your future career?
Erin: I am excited about discovering what opportunities lie ahead. I look forward to working in an outpatient hand therapy setting, preferably a hospital-based setting where I can apply the skills I have learned here, and to working towards taking the CHT exam as soon as I am eligible. The skills I have formed and resources I have acquired have created a strong foundation upon which I can continue to develop. I look forward to what the next couple of years bring.