Nicole Scheiman: Educating Community Members and Professionals
Nicole Scheiman, MHS, OTR/L, CLT, CKTP, CEES
As an OT Champion, Nicole has made a point of educating others about the profession. For example, she shares information on Occupational Therapy, back safety, and ergonomics with new employees during their orientation at Florida Hospital DeLand, where she is the Rehabilitation Services Coordinator and an Occupational Therapist. The following is a list of additional ways she promoted the profession in 2010:
- Presented lymphedema/venous insufficiency at her hospital’s Healthy Leg Day event.
- Presented on how OT can address diabetic edemas to a diabetes support group.
- Presented on adaptive equipment/durable medical equipment, lymphedema/venous insufficiency, falls prevention, and the Saebo Arm Training program to the residents of two local assisted living facilities.
- Met with two new oncologists at the hospital to educate them on OT’s role in cancer rehab and lymphedema. Also addressed this topic at her hospital’s “Grand Rounds” continuing medical education meeting.
- Participated in “Ask an Expert” at a local durable medical equipment company’s yearly Breast Cancer Tea event.
- Presented on Occupational Therapy and patient transporting safety to teens participating in her hospital’s Teenage Volunteer program.
- Completed quarterly marketing to physicians to keep local medical community updated on Occupational Therapy’s continued rehab training and advancements.
- Assisted with creating a page on the hospital’s Web site to promote Occupational Therapy and the specialized services offered.
- Participated in a local Senior Expo Fair representing the rehab department.
- Participated in the DeLand Car Fit Event, cosponsored by AAA and AOTA, to increase awareness of adaptive devices to increase driving safety for seniors.
- Attended a physician visit with a patient to educate the physician on what Occupational Therapy can do to treat lymphedema.
- Presented on office ergonomics to the local Department of Transportation.
- Mentored observation and intern students.
- Presented on the Ergonomics of Sleep to her hospital’s sleep apnea support group.
- Presented on occupational therapy to an aphasia support group.
- Presented on OT’s role in breast cancer rehab to a breast cancer support group.
Nicole says that the hospital’s marketing department maintains a speakers’ bureau, so other groups, whether in the hospital or the community, typically initiate contact and ask for a presentation on a particular topic. Her director, a physical therapist, actively participates on community boards and is very involved in the hospital, which expands the awareness of and opportunities for occupational therapy involvement. Together, they determine topics based on consumer interest. Often, promotion of OT is initiated because they foresee that knowledge of how OT can treat a particular condition is not known by other members of the medical community, so they proactively provide this information. Nicole also makes cold calls to support groups asking if they would like her to present to their members (conversely, sometimes patients who belong to a support group will ask her to present to them). As a hospital representative, Nicole has all of her activities approved through her director before agreeing to present. There is time provided in her schedule to allow for these promotional services as her hospital supports and values the importance of community education. Nicole has found that the most time consuming part is creating the first presentation. Once this is done, she just needs to update it from time to time. Nicole feels fortunate that she is supported in these endeavors as it allows her passion for the profession to be expressed to others, ultimately benefitting patients/clients.
After a presentation has been scheduled, Nicole makes a point to tell her current patients about it, and she sends her past patients letters notifying them of events. She also sends yearly updates to patients regarding events that may be of interest to them, and she puts flyers about events in the department lobby. The cost of these supplies is supported by her rehabilitation department.
Of course when Nicole presents externally, the hosting facilities do the marketing for her. In these cases she generally speaks to groups that are already formed and have a common interest (e.g., support groups). Sometimes she includes small giveaways like pens or tape measures, and occasionally she will raffle an item of interest (adaptive equipment, for example) to boost attendance. She often contacts supply companies for sample items to so individuals at presentations can try them out.
To determine whether a presentation has been effective, Nicole provides a feedback form that asks participants whether the information met their needs and gives them the opportunity to provide anonymous comments. She also asks them to indicate other areas about which they would like further knowledge, then she follows up on those topics. A more qualitative way for her to measure interest in the topic is by how many people stay after the presentation to ask questions, or contact her later to follow up.
Nicole emphasizes that it is important for occupational therapy practitioners to see their value in nontraditional areas as well; for example, she points out that one might not automatically think an occupational therapist would have anything to present on sleep apnea, but in fact the ergonomics of sleep is “one of those missed activities of daily living that is so important to our daytime tasks.” She adds, “it is important that we as occupational therapists remain innovative to keep up with the needs of those we serve.”