OT Month Spotlight: Paula Bonsall and Michelle Marshina

Happy OT Month! In honor of our 100th anniversary as a profession, we continue our series 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 caught up with the OT OGs on the 4th floor brain injury unit, Paula Bonsall, the OT team leader, and Michelle Marshina, the rehab manager.

Jacquelyn Fox (JF): How long have you been at Magee and what unit did you start on?

Paula Bonsall (PB): It will 21 years at the end of July. I started on the SCI unit and was there for a long time.

Michelle Marshina (MM): I have been at Magee for 23 years. Magee developed a contract with Methodist Hospital to start a satellite unit. I was hired to start up the OT consultation service for the acute care portion of that program.

JF: What made you decide to pursue occupational therapy?

PB: During my junior year in college, I wanted to switch my major to special education.  This would have extended my time in college and with mounting debt, I decided not to make the switch. After graduating from Cabrini with a B.A. in Communications, I worked in the PR department for Independence Blue Cross for a very short time and then worked in construction contracting for the national government.  I felt that I needed to do something that would make a greater impact.  I reverted back to my initial thoughts of becoming a special education teacher. However, the field was flooded. On a random conversation with an acquaintance, she mentioned occupational therapy. The rest is history.

JF: Do you have any favorite memories of working with staff at Magee?

MM: Meeting Dr. Staas (former President and Medical Director) for the first time. He welcomed me to the Magee family and from the moment we met, he always said “Hello, Michelle.”  Dr. Staas knew everyone’s name in the whole organization, and he always greeted you by name. He was and is a gentleman.

JF: What is one of your favorite patient memories as an OT at Magee?

PB: One of my memorable moments was modifying a power wheelchair for one of my first patients. It was just the two of us in the 2nd floor therapy gym; everyone had left. It was a great bonding moment with a patient who I will never forget, and the first moment that I knew I could make it here. I was so happy that I was an OT!! I still have the Polaroid picture of him.

JF: How have you seen OT change at Magee over the years that you have been here?

PB: The change in and growth of evidence-based practice and treatment modalities to increase function has been incredible. In the end, OT at Magee has always stayed true to increasing patients’ independence in everyday life, regardless of changes.

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

Michelle Marshina

MM: I am excited about the opportunities that the future holds for Magee. I think that OTs are trained to be mentally flexible, and this skill will continue to be essential as health care and payment systems continue to evolve. I think Magee will continue to be an organization that appreciates the value that occupational therapy brings to each of the programs.

JF: What recommendations would you give to newer therapists?

MM: Join POTA and AOTA, and don’t take these organizations for granted. We need members to have leverage. These organizations advocate for our profession at the state and national level. Without members, we will not have a voice in legislative issues.

JF: Which of your Magee colleagues have had a strong influence on your practice and time at Magee? 

PB: Some “older” colleagues that come to mind automatically are Alicia Hanta, Maryann Palmero, Dina Mastrogivanni, Jim Smith, Marygrace Mangine, Michelle Marshina, Nikki Walsh, Sheila Wilson, Amy McClain, Bob Ferri, Margie Roos (PT), Colleen Johnson (PT), Mark DeWane (PT), Deb Kucera (PT), Amy Bratta (PT), Lisa Gordon (case manager), Gail Revere (case manager), Barbara Billups (SP), Kelly Williams (PhD and program director), Lane Brown (PhD and program director), Mary Schmidt (SCI program director), Todd Lewis (PhD), Dr. Dan Weinstein, Dr. William Staas, Dr. Barbara Browne, Dr. Jeanne Doherty, and Dr. Brian Kucer.

Regardless of profession, they educated and guided me, gave me opportunities, supported me, had confidence in  me, and worked side-by-side with me on difficult cases. They all have demonstrated commitment to the Magee mission, excellence in their profession, and an ability to make positive impacts on the rehabilitation process and practice.

Lastly, for all my past and current teams, each colleague makes an impact on the work that our programs provide by their hard work on a daily basis. That does not go unnoticed by me, their pursuit of education and program development, and their delivery of quality care in a challenging health care environment. I am grateful to work with colleagues that are so dedicated to their clients and the mission of Magee as much as I am.  In the end, that is what keeps me here! 

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

Top photo: Paula Bonsall with former patient Brian Propp

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