Congratulations to Our Newest SPARC Winner!

Kathryn Russell, PT Student, AT Still University, Mesa, AZ — Grad Date: June 2022
Read Her Awesome Essay Below:
A spark in the lives of my patients — a metaphor appreciably open to interpretation. I guess I have asked myself a parallel question but framed in a different way: how will I make a meaningful positive impact on my patients that endures beyond their physical therapy encounter? Now, my education and training, while both instrumental in driving the principles I want to implement in my practice, do not act entirely to answer the question to its fullest, nor should they. My personal objectives that were not taught are the ones I believe make me stand out to patients, and maybe make me a spark in their lives, but it seems selfish to aim to be the spark in someone’s life. That implies that I chose physical therapy for me, rather than for others.

This is why I’ve included my own version of the question, slightly reframed. I don’t seek to be the sole reason someone improves, heals, or has less pain. My goal is instead that each patient discovers the value of taking on that responsibility for themselves even after they are discharged from my care. I’ll acknowledge that’s a cliché goal, and a lofty one at that. If there’s anything my education and training have taught me, though, it’s that the values of our profession have to be intricately weaved into the patient’s existing lifestyle for meaningful and persevering change to take place.

Making those connections with the patient to increase the likelihood of them assuming the responsibility for their own health should always start with education, combines movement, and finally always considers extraneous factors of healing.

I was taught in PT school the value of providing education to the patient, but I’ve always had the most passion about this piece anyway. This is the component I am most excited to write about to share with you, and the one I am always eager to incorporate in the clinic with patients. I’m good at being a student — I guess that’s why I’ve been in school for the last two decades without a break. Only recently, though, did I consider how often I am also offered the opportunity to be the teacher, as well. I take pride in being able to take full advantage of the opportunity to incorporate a dose of education about a patient’s injury/condition and about the body’s role in healing. The thing that makes it stick, and actually drives a patient to assume their health responsibility, is to limit medical jargon, and capitalize on the body’s resilience. This strategy makes it an accessible and positive experience, thus empowering them to want to learn more.

My goal is to act as the constant reminder that knowledge is power, the body is strong, and there is more than one correct way to journey through recovery. I do think this is an area that we have the opportunity to improve upon as a profession due to the current disappointingly standard practice to scare our patients into compliance and use outdated diagnostic terminology that actually enables kinesiophobia.

That brings me to my next key component of influencing an individual’s health responsibility: mixing in movement, and truly using it as medicine (not just because it sounds catchy). My guiding principles for this are nothing new; I did not reinvent the wheel. I aim to find activities the patient already likes to do, combine exercises into daily activities, and remind the patient how the exercise is relevant to them. They’re simple, and they are effective for serving the purpose of creating lasting change.

Education and movement are the two leading values in the profession of physical therapy that most practicing clinicians are aware of and using to some extent. However, if we do not consider the extraneous factors in people’s lives that guide not only their micro-level decision-making but also their healing experience as a whole, then we will fail our patients. Again, I think this is an area where I see room for improvement within our profession, and that I aim to change by at least incorporating it into my practice first. Essentially, I aim to seek out what else can we offer to patients to facilitate their healing. We must consider all the senses that are stimulated when a patient comes into the practice. What is the surrounding, what is the simplicity of accessing the clinic, what is the language that is used by the front office staff? Do these things create an atmosphere of healing? We cannot expect patients to heal in a vacuum of reality. If a patient doesn’t feel at ease, if they had difficulty finding the area or dealing with technology, or if they feel rushed or patronized, it will lend to their perception of their physical therapy experience. Whether we like it or not, we all subconsciously contribute to the narrative that drives our healing, positive or negative. So, it is a responsibility to consider everything that adds to that narrative.

The healing experience is different for everyone and I believe it is my responsibility as a physical therapist to adapt my treatment strategy to serve each patient best using these three core pillars. Understanding this at an individual level is the most effective way to create that spark that instills the health responsibility that contributes to lasting change. The physical therapist is a pawn in leading the patient to understand their healing, not the individual who cures them. All I am doing as their physical therapist is providing them the knowledge and direction to make informed decisions regarding their movement and self-care, and providing the space that facilitates their healing. I want my patients to see their whole physical therapy experience as the spark that ignited a passion for being the expert of their body — healing it, learning it, listening to it.

Special Focus Facility Graduation

By Paul Emerson L. Baloy OTD, OTR/L, DOR, The Hills Post Acute, Santa Ana, CA
The Hills Post Acute was officially removed from the Special Focus Facility List as of January 14, 2022, as a result of improved compliance with federal regulations as documented in the findings from the recent recertification surveys and complaint investigations.

Special Focus Facilities are nursing facilities that have a not-so-good history of past surveys that were identified by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services and were given an opportunity to improve their systems to better the care of the vulnerable elderly entrusted to them.

The Hills Post Acute had to successfully complete two intensive and comprehensive successive surveys. The building under the previous owner and management has been riddled with multiple complaints and poor past survey outcomes, placing the facility on that special focus list last year.

Our new management team was entrusted with this enormous and critical undertaking and, with the help of our cluster partners and resources, devised strategic plans to address problem areas and came up with multiple dynamic systems to cope with the complex and evolving needs of the building.

With the unwavering support and continued dedication of the facility staff to patient care, we finally graduated from that list, completing two successive surveys in record time with a remarkably low number of deficiencies.

This is a true testament to all our collaborative work toward a common vision of bettering the care of our residents:
This is such a huge win! A win that reflects the staff’s everyday effort and trust in our systems.
This is our story. This is our success.
A chapter in our lives that will be etched in the history of our building and of our residents.
Share this win. Share this story. Congratulations, Team Hills!
Thank you very much for all that you do.
Onward and upward… Dignifying post-acute care in the eyes of the world.

Congratulations to Our Newest SPARC Award Winner!

Aubrey Clement, OTA, Grad Date: May 2022, Salt Lake Community College, West Jordan, UT
Read her awesome essay below:

Growing up, we always had a wood stove for heat. I learned that sometimes because of different factors, the fire would go out, but by applying a spark in the right place and by bringing the fuel together with others, the spark could reignite the fire and soon a cheerful fire could be created, generating the heat to warm us all. I envision my education and training, combined with compassion, will be able to provide a spark in the lives of my patients and help them reignite the fire for life as they are able to develop independence. I can accomplish this through a passion for continued learning, accountability and applying evidence-based practice in my daily routine with patients.

As a teen, I spent several months living in the Ronald McDonald house recovering from a double organ transplant. It was the best education I could have received. While I was there I was able to learn empathy, how to communicate with individuals with a disease or disability, and to love, serve and care for others regardless of their circumstances. I experienced this unconditional compassion first hand. Although I was just a teen, this experience was extremely impactful and shaped my perspective on life. I learned the importance of including others without judgment or treating them differently. I was able to share my challenges and how I overcame them and I grew in strength, hope and courage from hearing their stories. As an occupational therapy assistant, I strive to be a practitioner who is truly there for each one of my clients. I will advocate for them and teach them how to advocate for themselves. I will encourage them to find what they are passionate about and give them hope to pursue their goals. I will hopefully be able to share my positive attitude and perspective with them, assisting them in making the most out of their circumstances.

I have had the opportunity to learn Spanish. Learning a new language is difficult. As I persevered and struggled, I received help from many and have seen how it benefits others. I hope to help those who come from a Spanish-speaking background. I hope to inspire others and be an example to them that challenges in our lives can help us help others. For a year and a half, I lived among Latinos and experienced a new culture. This too was challenging but I learned and grew a lot. One thing I learned that I will apply, to be a spark in the lives of my patients, is that everyone deserves care no matter what their background is. Each person we meet has a story that many do not know about. We cannot judge; we can only extend a helping hand and try to reignite that fire. As a practitioner, I will make each one of my clients feel that they are special, that their thoughts and feelings are valid and they are worth my time. I will give them the attention they need to meet their goals towards independence.

Having been a patient myself in several different medical settings, I was blessed to experience the patience and compassion combined with clinical knowledge of physicians and practitioners that made a huge difference in my life. I aspire to be the kind of practitioner that fosters growth, confidence and independence. Being educated on the best practices but also interprofessional interaction, interpersonal communication skills, being client-centered, holistic, empathetic, and an active listener will tremendously help me benefit my clients. I will use my therapeutic use of self to be a spark in my patients’ lives. Using motivational interviewing, it will be my goal to figure out what is the most important thing for my client and help them find their flame. I will take continuing education courses on topics that interest me, themes that I am currently seeing in practice, and things that are completely new and unfamiliar to me in order to broaden my horizons. I will do all this so I can be the best version of myself when I face clients with different needs. I will not get caught up in the mundane. I will always be looking and thinking of new creative invention ideas that are evidence-based and client-centered.

I am passionate about helping others live a meaningful life. The best way I can do that is to strive to constantly be learning and applying new things to my career. I will be accountable by following state and national guidelines, openly accepting constructive criticism and soliciting feedback from the client to tell me if I am not being client-centered. I believe that life is a gift that we need to make the most out of. I believe in having a positive attitude and making the absolute best of our lives, and doing what makes us happy no matter what. We should strive to live a fulfilling life. I want to help people find joy regardless of their circumstances. I understand what it’s like being a patient in the hospital and not being able to do what I love and have felt the negative impact of that. That is why I want to become an occupational therapy assistant. I understand the value of participating in meaningful occupations. Helping people achieve their goals towards independence is a very rewarding job. I am a caring, kind and dependable person who is honest and empathetic. I can think outside the box and don’t have to do things the traditional or conventional way. These attributes will help me succeed as an occupational therapy practitioner.

I will be a spark in the lives of my patients by utilizing my therapeutic use of self, personal experiences, clinical reasoning and applying all I have learned and been trained on in my program. I will bring my fuel closer to others to reignite the fire, help it grow bigger, stronger and hotter and encourage them to then go on and share the flame with others.

Introducing Jace Briggs PT, DPT, DOR, Temple View Transitional Care Center, Rexburg, Idaho

Submitted by Cory Robertson, Therapy Resource, Idaho
Jace has been DOR at Temple View since October 2021 after being a staff PT at Gateway Transitional Care Center in Pocatello with Angela Anderson PT, DOR, who prepped him for leadership. Jace stepped in and hit the ground running and is such a pleasure to work with. He has a growth mindset and exemplifies CAPLICO. He is loved everywhere he goes and we are so fortunate to have him. He recently gave some perspective about some of the great things about being a PT in skilled nursing and specifically at an Ensign-affiliated facility:


I had no intention of working in a SNF through school. I, like many students who enter PT school, had every intention of working an outpatient ortho-type job. COVID-19 made that very difficult. When I graduated, I spoke to two OP clinics and one pediatric clinic who had some interest in me working with them, one of them a specialized manual therapy clinic that really interested me, but the general response was “We don’t know what our caseload will look like right now with COVID-19; we will get ahold of you in a few months.” I took a job at Gateway in the meantime, as it was the only interview that had offered me the job and there was no contract if I did leave earlier. I even did accept a job at the manual clinic part time for just a few days and quit to stay at Gateway.


SNFs have a really bad reputation in PT school, and the truth is I don’t really know why. There is a lot to love about working in an Ensign-affiliated SNF. First, the ‘customer second’ core value does make me feel valued and appreciated at my job. I know that Gateway has put effort into training me and helping me to become the best practitioner I can be, and they care about my professional development. I know that I have the freedom to take that professional development wherever I want. Do I want to focus on manual therapy, orthopedic conditions, neuro conditions like stroke or TBI, vestibular therapy, wound care, or functional interventions? Gateway is happy to support education and development in that direction, and the SNF setting does have enough variability in the patient population to get practice with those patients and develop what I want to do.


This leads well into the next point that is great about my job: there is a lot of freedom in this setting. There are general requirements for visits, but they are generally pretty broad and within those requirements there is a lot of freedom with what I want to do with them, how to get them to their goals, how long to work with them, and when to see them. The patients on my schedule need to be seen, but I can see them early in the day or late, I can leave work to make appointments and come back, however I need to work things out so they are seen but I can still fit that in however I need.


The last major point about what is so great about Gateway is the team and teamwork. Because there is so much care in developing the staff, the teams at our Ensign-affiliated facilities are excellent. They work well together, are great sources of more information and education, and are a great support. The teams I have worked with in our facilities have made the workday enjoyable, they have been fun to work with and have made me a better practitioner, too.

Homegrown Therapy Leader in Idaho: Sarah Prough


By Dominic DeLaquil, Therapy Resource, Idaho/Nevada
Way back in 2007, an 18-year-old high school girl was looking for her first job. There was an opening at the SNF in her small hometown of Emmett, Idaho, so Sarah Prough became a nursing aide at River’s Edge Rehabilitation and Living Center. As she became familiar with the rehab staff, the DOR, Steve Balle, saw potential in Sarah and encouraged her to consider a career in therapy. Sarah was intrigued, and she enrolled in a nearby COTA program.

Once Sarah earned her COTA license, she had to scramble to pick up PRN work in and around the Treasure Valley in southern Idaho. She was keeping herself busy at various PRN gigs, even going as far away as Burley, nearly three hours from her home in Emmett, to help with an Ensign-affiliated building there, Parke View – Burley. Through her hard work, good rapport with patients, and willingness to be available, she was eventually able to find full-time work at Owyhee Health & Rehab in Homedale, Idaho.

The DOR at the time also saw Sarah’s potential, so he began to teach her the basic Therapy Leader tasks so she could be his back-up. Eventually, the DOR moved to southern Utah, and the Therapy Leader position at Owyhee opened up. The ED felt confident offering a leadership position to Sarah, and, with a mix of excitement and trepidation, Sarah stepped into the Therapy Program Manager role.

Since becoming TPM in August 2017, Sarah has grown tremendously. She attended the Therapy Leadership Summit in 2019, is now the cluster lead for her Therapy cluster, and has more than doubled the size of the rehab team at Owyhee. Sarah has grown into a respected and valued therapy leader in the Idaho-Nevada market. We are lucky to have her, and she is a great example of growing leaders from within.

Leadership Highlight: Rehab Tech to BOM

Submitted by Mira Waszak, Therapy Resource – Pennant WA
After graduating college in 2010, Russell Sells found himself in a tough job market in the greater Sacramento area. Unable to find full-time work as someone without much job experience, he settled for multiple part-time positions while still searching for full-time work. After a conversation with a friend from college who was living in the Olympia, Washington, area, he decided to apply for work up in Washington.

Russell says: “One of the first positions I applied for was a Therapy Assistant position (thinking it was a Rehab Tech job). The first person I spoke with was Mira Waszak. She informed me they were looking for licensed assistants but also offered to put me in contact with someone who needed a Rehab Tech for a new building acquisition in Olympia. The next person I spoke with was Scott Hollander, who at the time was the Therapy Director for Olympia Transitional Care and Rehabilitation. After spending about six months at Olympia as a Rehab Tech, Scott pushed for me to apply for the open Admission’s Coordinator position within the building. I spent the next two years as the Admissions Coordinator for OTCR, which turned out to be a very challenging time for the building as a whole, but also helped me grow enormously as a leader. I was ultimately offered the open BOM position near the end of 2017 and have been going strong ever since!

“Truth be told, I fell in love with LTC thanks to working with Scott and the therapy team at Olympia Transitional Care. Their passion for the residents they care for and willingness to teach me what they knew about the industry helped foster my interest in LTC as a career opportunity.”

Leadership Highlight: Roohi Kapoor

Submitted by Kai Williams, Therapy Resource, Keystone East, TX
Roohi Kapoor, PT, DPT, CTO Operations Manager of Copperfield Healthcare and Rehab, Houston, TX

Don’t you love a good story about the person who never, ever thought they would be in a certain position, and then they really impress us and surpass the mark that they thought was set for them? Yeah, me, too!

Roohi Kapoor, PT, DPT, is the current Operations Manager at Copperfield Healthcare and Rehab. Prior to that, she ran a powerhouse program as the DOR at Mason Creek. As a DOR, she hesitantly stepped into that role about three years ago and quickly shifted the clinical and operational metrics upwards — so much so that she earned the coveted honor of Chief Therapy Officer in early 2021. She likes to say that she has grown up within Ensign-affiliated facilities. She began her start as the PT at Misty Willow, even then she challenged the status quo beyond the assumed expectations of a staff PT. I would be crazy to ignore that while she has been on her leadership journey, she was also feeding her passion for learning and working on her transitional Physical Therapy Doctorate, which she earned in mid-2021. Talk about one to watch! This example of intentional growth further supports that we are a leadership development company that just so happens to be in healthcare.

Leadership Highlight: Carly Kenney

Submitted by Asa Gardine, Sunstone Therapy Resource – Utah
Carly Kenney began with our facility when she wasn’t actually intending to. She came to Coral Desert Rehab for a job interview to be a rehab tech. She didn’t realize that we shared a parking lot with a competitor outpatient therapy company where she had the actual appointment. As the rehab director at the time, I was looking for a rehab tech anyway, so I went ahead with the interview and offered her the job on the spot, and she accepted. We’re all so blessed that she did!

After spending a few years making our Therapy department shine by taking on every kind of responsibility we could throw at her, Carly saw an opportunity for growth within Coral Desert in the admissions and case management department. As much as we missed her influence in therapy when she left, Carly made an immediate positive impact with our admissions team and made great relationships with her hospital contacts and insurance case manager contacts. After completely owning her job responsibilities and even more duties, beyond that she saw another opportunity for growth within our Sunstone Market. She is now officially the Managed Care Part B Authorization Resource and is using her skills to support many buildings. It has been remarkable to watch someone share their talents with our organization and affect so many lives of staff and patients. It will be exciting to see what more she is capable of as she grows and progresses.

CTO Recognition: Todd Burgener, PT, DPT, CBIS, CTO/DOR Paramount Health & Rehabilitation, Salt Lake City, UT

Submitted by Gary McGiven, Therapy Resource, Milestone, Utah

Todd (pictured left with Gary McGiven) has done amazing things as the Therapy leader at Paramount in Salt Lake City. He has grown a team from all PRN employees to a full PT, OT, and SLP staff with an ADC ranging from 45-60. Todd and his team have set the bar in our market for what is possible with long-term care. They have gone from a sub-$5 PNSD to $40+ PNSD. They have some of the happiest residents you will ever see and have some amazing rehab stories. They have also partnered with Nursing and Rec Therapy, providing amazing groups in a time where the socialization that groups bring has been vital to quality of life.