It’s said that many hands make light work. At. St. Elizabeth Healthcare Hand Therapy, many highly-trained, passionately dedicated professionals make rewarding work.
Hand Therapy specialists treat and rehabilitate upper limbs, including the hand, wrist, elbow and shoulder. Ricki Collins, one of the registered and licensed occupational therapists and certified hand therapists (CHTs) at St. Elizabeth Healthcare, said the degree of specialization is part of what makes the career so rewarding.
“Because it’s smaller and so specialized, you know you’re making someone so much better,” she said. “You get to be such a big part of their outcomes.
“And the hand is just really cool. It’s an amazing structure to work with.”
At St. Elizabeth Healthcare, hand therapy treatments include customized splinting, range-of motion exercises, strengthening, work simulation, electro and thermal modalities and management of pain, swelling and scarring. CHTs work with patients with conditions ranging from fractures and cuts to carpal tunnel and arthritis, among others.
There are fewer than 6,000 CHTs in the United States, per the Hand Therapy Certification Commission.
“The smallness is nice. It’s easy to keep up-to-date with everything. And we all kind of know each other,” Collins said.
St. Elizabeth Healthcare’s CHT staff includes:
Meg Robinson, who attended Ohio State with Collins and is organizer of the annual Crosstown Splint-Off competition among occupational and physical therapy students at the University of Cincinnati, Xavier University and Mount St. Joseph University.
Lauren Bosse, who in addition to her work at St. Elizabeth practices equine therapy at Safe Haven Farms in Ohio’s Butler County, helping individuals with physical, emotional and learning disabilities.
Marie Fightmaster, senior staff therapist and another OSU alumna who coordinates clinical education for OT students with St. Elizabeth Hand Therapy.
David Grome, another senior staff therapist who helped design and initiate the Hand Therapy department at St. Elizabeth.
Julie Heitz, who established the Hand Center at the Orthopaedic Institute of Dayton.
Donna Hoffman, who came to hand therapy from a background in physical therapy and helped start the Total Joint Program at Deaconness Hospital.
As for Collins, she came to hand therapy from the occupational therapy side, which about 85 percent of hand therapists do. She worked in burn therapy and at major hospitals in Boston and Philadelphia before coming to St. Elizabeth, where she’s found her own passion: helping musicians.
Collins, a member of the Performing Arts Medicine Association (PAMA), works with music students and other musicians to prevent and rehabilitate performance-related injuries.
Collins, who began playing piano at age 9 in New York and recently took it up again at UC’s College-Conservatory of Music, knows musicians and her business. But she also knows her limitations, she said.
“I can’t teach technique for every instrument out there,” said Collins, who shoots in-the-round video of musician clients and consults CCM experts as needed. “I’m not going to instruct a violinist how to play.
“But I can watch them play and see the muscle groups involved and see what might need work, whether it’s playing habits or posture or technique.”
And like the whole staff at St. Elizabeth, she’s always ready to lend a hand.