By Dana Manadel
This June, I will begin my 30th year of practice as a physical therapist. My path to choosing and training for this profession began while I was a student at SUNY Binghamton, majoring in English and General Literature. While attending college, I was employed at Broome Developmental Center as a Mental Hygiene Therapy Aide (a NYS grade 7 employee.) I worked the swing and night shifts in order to attend classes during the day.
As a Mental Hygiene Therapy Aide, my responsibilities were as a direct care staff member on a living unit with 24 adults, most of whom had never resided outside of a state institution. Personal care of the residents, assisting with dining, dispensing medication, cleaning the unit, and record keeping were my primary responsibilities.
During my employment, I worked with a young man that had Cerebral Palsy and spent most of his day in his wheelchair. He appeared to have decent arm strength, and could even stand for short periods of time with the assistance of a handrail. I felt that with the assistance of a walker, he could take some steps, transfer in and out of his wheelchair more independently, and walk for short distances. I searched the unit and located a walker. I set up the individual with the walker, and encouraged him to stand and take a few steps. While in this process, the charge nurse on the unit witnessed this activity and became infuriated. She berated me for overstepping my boundaries, performing activities beyond my pay grade, and ignoring my responsibilities on the unit. The walker promptly disappeared and attempts at independent transfers, standing, and walking with this individual were abandoned.
A few days later, the physical therapist at the Developmental Center visited our unit. She performed an assessment with the same individual I had been working with, and announced to the unit staff that she would like to try a walker to see if he could stand, transfer, and walk with the assistance of this device. The very same charge nurse and other staff on the unit ran to find the walker I had been using and provided it immediately to the PT. At this moment, I decided that I wanted two initials after my name, P and T. I am very grateful to have had this experience that launched me down this career path.