She has worked with many patients from a variety of ages and illnesses while interning for three months at both Genesis Medical Center in Davenport, Iowa, and the mental health unit at Marquette General Hospital in Marquette, Michigan. She works with patients at the Paynesville Hospital in the afternoons and the Belgrade Nursing Home in the mornings. "I wanted to be closer to family and friends," Peterson said, "and I liked the atmosphere here. People are open and friendly, and I'm able to see a variety of patients."
In her duties as an occupational therapist, she helps injured people, stroke and heart attack victims, as well as many others relearn basic living skills to preserve their independence after an accident or illness.
As an occupational therapist, Peterson works with ADL's, or activities of daily living, such as dressing, grooming, and proper hygiene, which many people, after a serious illness or accident, have lost the ability to do. Peterson works with them to relearn these activities, often with the use of adaptive equipment, helping them gain back their independence as soon as possible.
There are various types of adaptive equipment that Peterson teaches patients to use to meet their own particular needs; such as a "reacher," a long handled shoe horn, and a stocking aid. These particular items are helpful to patients who have trouble bending down. A "reacher" is a long mechanical reaching device the patient can work from the handle. The stocking aid, a tubular device the stocking fits over, allowing the patient to insert their foot, is often of particular help to elderly people.
Another area Peterson works with her patients on is their cognitive and visual/perceptual abilities. After a head injury, stroke, or other illness, a patient may have trouble with their memory, or with differentiating between certain things, such as seeing a white dishcloth in a white sink. Peterson teaches them to live independently with these setbacks by using bright colored tape on the stairs, visual reminders such as a note by the refrigerator, or helping them reorganize their house.
In some cases, Peterson not only works with patient's physically, but also with their attitudes and outlook of their particular situation. Peterson has worked with some patients who feel the exercises are childish or a waste of their time. One patient felt disgusted when she was asked to put together and match a block design. "We have to push them to a point," Peterson said, "but we also have to realize when they're at their limit."
"I like having that one to one relationship with a patient," she commented. "I'm still adjusting," she said. "I'm working on getting all the forms down. Every facility operates differently, but it's easy to go up to staff members here and ask questions. They're very open."
Peterson is currently attending work-shops and plans to become certified in hand therapy within a year, which would allow her to see more outpatients with hand injuries who currently have to travel to St. Cloud or Willmar for this type of treatment.
Peterson is enjoying her duties as occupational therapist, and looks forward to working with each new patient.
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