Alissha Alexander-Hodges, DPT, has worked as a physical therapist for over a decade, spending most of her career at MossRehab. She has experience treating patients with various conditions and earned her specialty certification in vestibular rehabilitation in 2015.
We spoke with Alissha about her career, interests, and the importance of patients continuing to receive treatment during the pandemic.
What made you decide to become a physical therapist?
I was initially interested in becoming a lawyer, but decided to pursue a physical therapy career instead because I wanted a more active job that allowed me to help others stay active. I started dancing in college, which sparked my interest in understanding how the human body works and what I could do to help others recover from injuries. I was also drawn to physical therapy because it provides a platform to specialize in different areas.
What is your educational background and training?
After earning my BS in Exercise Physiology at Temple University, I completed my Doctor of Physical Therapy (DPT) degree and a Health Business Management Certification at Widener University. At the time, I thought I might want to open a clinic but, instead, pursued my vestibular certification. After graduation, I started working at Montgomery Hospital (which would later become Einstein Medical Center Montgomery) and completed continuing education in vestibular rehabilitation, a specialized therapy that treats patients with dizziness, vertigo, and balance problems. After Montgomery Hospital merged with Einstein Healthcare Network and MossRehab, I pursued an opportunity to get certified in vestibular rehabilitation through an intense, evidence-based vestibular rehabilitation course at Emory University.
Who are your patients?
I work with patients from a range of ages groups who have varied orthopedic, neurologic, and general medical conditions. My niche is with pediatric patients and those with vestibular conditions, but I also commonly treat those with balance and/or vestibular concerns due to a concussion or other traumatic brain injury, age-related dizziness and imbalance, and vestibular dysfunction including benign paroxysmal positional vertigo (BPPV), vestibular hypofunction, and vestibular migraine. My patients also include children with congenital conditions or developmental delays, patients of all ages with orthopedic diagnoses, and those who have had a stroke or other neurological disorders.
Please describe a typical therapy session.
Therapy sessions vary as treatments are individualized and tailored to meet each patient’s needs. Initially, I perform a thorough evaluation to assess a patient’s needs and goals for therapy to develop a treatment plan. In every session, I assess the patient’s progress, modify interventions as needed, and educate patients on their condition(s) for greater self-management independence. Vestibular rehabilitation has specific types of exercises that are prescribed depending on the problems. These include habituation exercises, gaze stabilization exercises, and balance exercises. For example, a common complaint of patients with vestibular dysfunction is dizziness produced by visual stimulation in busy environments. For a patient with this type of complaint, I may use a computer to simulate walking in a grocery store, walking in groups of people, driving over a bridge, etc. These are tasks to promote the brain learning to ignore the abnormal signals received from the vestibular system to reduce or eliminate the patient’s dizziness.
Why do you like working at MossRehab?
I’ve worked at MossRehab Collegeville for about eight years, after transitioning from MossRehab Einstein Medical Center Montgomery, where I worked for four years. I like working here because everyone - from the team to higher management - is very supportive. As a working mom, I appreciate the work/family balance. My co-workers are amazing, we try to keep it fun, especially in times like these. We have theme days that lift the spirits and give that added boost to both staff and patients. I am fortunate to have a group of co-workers with whom I enjoy working at my site and across the network. Everyone is open to questions and provides help. Rather than just being one of few therapists working at an outpatient satellite, I feel I’m part of a large organization with many resources and strengths. MossRehab helps you to grow. Whatever interest you have, you usually get the help to work in that area. That’s important for career growth.
What are your clinical interests?
I enjoy treating patients with a variety of conditions. My areas of specialty include pediatrics and vestibular rehabilitation. I am drawn to vestibular rehabilitation because it is challenging and requires a deep dive into the human balance system. I am required to critically analyze the underlying reason why patients experience symptoms and changes to their balance systems. This analysis is important to effectively work with patients in addressing limitations and concerns and ultimately improve ability, safety, and quality of life. As a vestibular therapist, I have the opportunity to work with patients after mild traumatic brain injuries (mTBI, concussions). Patients with mTBI have excellent recovery potential but often need support in determining the best path forward in managing a multitude of symptoms—dizziness, headaches, sleep disturbances, emotion/mood changes. I enjoy facilitating their progress by addressing the needs for which I am qualified and guiding them to other professionals who can also constructively support their recovery.
What inspires you on the job?
I enjoy meeting new people and making a positive impact on their lives. I always learn something new from my patients, whether providing care or listening to what they share. It is very gratifying to be a part of helping others get better and achieve their goals.
How has therapy changed during the pandemic?
At first, patients canceled appointments because they were afraid. However, one of the messages we relay to our patients is that they shouldn’t put their bodies on hold too long as most recovery occurs early after an event. Going to therapy is not the same as going to a bar or restaurant. It is about your health. MossRehab has a plan to keep staff and patients safe during the virus, including stringent screening measures, cleaning procedures, and mask-wearing requirements. We will even put patients into a private room to feel more comfortable if that is needed.
Who has had a strong influence on your life?
My mom and dad are my biggest cheerleaders and inspirations. They have always worked - my dad is a pipefitter, and my mom is a nurse - and taught me to have a great work ethic. No matter what, they found quality time to spend with my brothers and me. They instilled the idea that while you have to work for yourself, your work should change the world. As a physical therapist, I see how my work positively changes my patients’ lives.
What are your interests outside of work?
I enjoy spending time with my husband and three sons. I also like dancing, participating in a professional adult dance group, and dancing for the church. I am heavily involved in my church and our community outreach. I also spend a lot of time on the soccer field, and basketball court as all three of my sons play these sports.
What is your favorite place to vacation?
I love the beach and especially the sunset on the beach. My family and I go to Rehoboth and the other smaller beaches in Delaware, like Dewey and Bethany. I also enjoy biking and hiking on trails with my family.
Something people don’t know about you.
I’m quite an introvert. While I’m extroverted when working with patients and my team, I like to have time to sit and read and be by myself.
Learn more about Balance and Vestibular Services at MossRehab.
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Betty Alexander January 27, 2021 at 01:13 pm
Very interesting and educational article! I really enjoyed it. It is nice to know about the people who provide professional care to patients.
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