OT Month Spotlight: Gina Cooke and Sheila Wilson

Happy OT Month! This year, Occupational Therapy celebrates 100 years since the profession was founded. In addition to celebration, this has been a time to recognize and reflect on our history. Did you know that the very first occupational therapists during World War I were known as “the bluebirds” because of their blue uniforms? To learn more about the history of Occupational Therapy, check out www.otcentennial.org . In honor of our centennial anniversary, we are spotlighting Magee’s “OT OGs”, those occupational therapists who have been at Magee for 15 years or more and have helped to shape our OT department to what it is today!

This week, we asked Gina Cooke, the OT team leader on the 5th floor Spinal Cord Injury Unit and Sheila Wilson, the OT team leader on the 3rd floor General Rehab unit to take a trip down memory lane to tell us about their journey as OTs.

Jacquelyn Fox (JF): What is one of your favorite memories as an OT at Magee?

Gina Cooke (GC): One of my most favorite patients had a C6/7 spinal cord injury from a car accident. He was the first patient with whom I formed a really strong bond.  Initially, he was really sick and also had to have flap surgery.  He was here for several months.  At the time, his wife was pregnant.  I took him to Liberty Place to buy her a “push present.”  We worked on him holding a weighted baby doll and attempted to change diapers and hold bottles.  He was allowed to go to Jefferson to see his daughter be born while he was a patient here.  We have kept in touch over the years and just a few weeks ago, he and his daughter stopped in to say hi.  She’s 13 now!

Sheila Wilson (SW): When I started, OT did weekly community outings.  We would plan all week, identify a place to go, and it was always a trip with a purpose, plan the transportation, identify the tools needed to get there, and then go.  We would go to the Reading Terminal and shop. Patients had to use their walkers to maneuver through the crowded areas, identify what they wanted to buy,  maybe we were planning a meal prep activity later in the week so there might have been a shopping list.  This was always a fun trip – we went as an OT and a PT, and we took up to six patients at a time.  Someplace in the hospital are two pictures of me on one of these outings with another patient.  It’s been moved so many times, I don’t know where it ended up, but one was in the lobby and one was on the second floor.  Fun times for staff and patients.

JF: What is your favorite tried and true piece of adaptive equipment and why?

GC: I have to admit that I still love the sock donner. I mean come on: it’s like the Post-It note.  Pure genius.  Oh and the universal cuff. It’s just so…wait for it…universal!

JF: What are you excited about for the future of OT? 

Sheila Wilson, OTD, OTR/L, ATP

SW: As occupational therapy starts our second century, it excites me about where we are and where we are going.  Occupational therapy positively impacts the everyday lives of the people we serve.   We are a science-driven, evidence-based profession that has the opportunity to influence the needs of the health and educational systems.  I have had the opportunity to be involved in organizations at the state and national level, and those experiences inspire me to want to see occupational therapy as a leader now and in the future.  We need to be present when policy-making takes place, approachable when our clients need advocates, and ready to take on leadership roles to impact change at the state and national levels.  I see occupational therapy developing stronger clinicians, better prepared for the changes health care is giving us.

At Magee, I am excited to see an energetic staff of fully engaged clinicians.  We have therapists who are continually seeking knowledge, advanced degrees and certifications, presenting on the state and national levels, and showing the occupational therapy community our commitment to being a science-driven, evidence-based profession.  Occupational therapy at Magee really is where science, creativity, and passion unite.

JF: What advice would you share with newer OTs or students starting out in this profession?

GC: Definitely be active in your state and national organizations: we need our voices to be heard. Listen, observe, and ask questions.

SW: Never be afraid to ask questions, to try something new, or to take on a new challenge. There are so many skilled people in our organization to support you, pick you up if you fall, and to help you reach new places.

To learn more about Occupational Therapy at Magee, click here.

Top photo: Gina Cooke, MS, OTR/L, ATP

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