Occupational Therapists Find Decades-Long Careers in Massachusetts
Athena Health Care Systems celebrates National Occupational Therapy Month throughout April. Occupational Therapists evaluate and help treat those afflicted with injury, illness, or disability. In conjunction with their patients, they work to develop goals to help the individual recover and maintain the skills and tasks needed for daily living and working. This month we recognize some of the therapists whose actions led to patient success.
MASSACHUSETTS — Athena Health Care Systems is proud to employ dozens of passionate and talented Occupational Therapists across its Massachusetts centers. From the eastern coastline to the hills of western Massachusetts, Occupational Therapists and Certified Occupational Therapy Assistants make it their mission to try and give patients a new chance at life.
Tim Borges is a Certified Occupational Therapy Assistant at The Tremont Rehabilitation and Skilled Care Center in Wareham. This month marks 12 years at the center. He’s been an O.T. for 14 years and worked at The Tremont through a company contract before shifting in-house. His background hasn’t always been in therapy. Before making the switch, the New England Institute of Technology graduate worked for Titleist for two decades and, after leaving that, worked at a copper rolling mill company.
“I wanted to be a nurse… my wife worked at Southcoast [Behavioral Health] Hospital and she said, ‘You should try [occupational therapy]. I think it would work for you.’ I had no clue what it was,” Borges said. “I was kind of afraid to talk to people and be a people person because you work in a factory with a bunch of guys for that many years, it’s a whole different world. When you walk into a nursing home and deal with patients, you have to be a different person which I got better at over the years.”
He said making the switch to his current profession was the best move he’s ever made. Borges often works with those recovering from a stroke and, with all patients, looks at areas including their balance and range of motion. There was one instance where he was able to work with a man who had also been employed at Titleist. The patient’s doctor had informed him he wouldn’t walk again, but Borges knew the type of man the patient was.
“I had heart for him because I know what he did for a living and I didn’t want him to end up here at the age of 60. It was tough, it took a year. He couldn’t even sit at the edge of the bed,” he said. “A year later… he walked out of there and went home with his wife and family and that was the best thing.”
It’s recovery stories like that that have also kept Regina Smith in the industry for nearly 40 years. She too is a Certified Occupational Therapy Assistant at Parsons Hill Rehabilitation & Health Care Center in Worcester. She’s been at Parsons Hill for 19 years of her career and had previously worked at Marlborough Hills Rehabilitation & Health Care Center, another Athena-managed center.
“I like helping people. Improving their quality of life and to help them get back on their feet after a physical disability or some mental problems. I just to try to make them as independent as possible with self-care tasks. I’ve always loved taking care of people, it’s rewarding to me,” she said.
Smith moved to New England in 1970. Born and raised in Alabama, she left the state for C.N.A. training and was later sent to Massachusetts for on-the-job training. She said this is what she likes to do and notes Parsons Hill is like a family.
Part of an Occupational Therapist’s job and the assistants is to help encourage and motivate their patients to want to put in the effort. Smith said that happens by building a rapport with the patient and making sure they know it can be done. Smith says occupational therapy is a good profession to go into because it allows you to be a teacher.
“I’ve learned how to be there for someone, how rewarding it is to me to see someone leave the building and go home with such a happy feeling,” she said. “Just to see how the patient is progressing and having a good communication with the patient… being there when they need me to make sure I can answer questions if they need it.”