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Back to Blog Main Page Meet the Team: Kristin Beltz, OTR/L, CSRS
By: Jean Carl

Meet the Team

Apr 12 2022
Kristin standing in front of a "Challenge Accepted" poster.

Kristin Beltz, OTR/L, CSRS works as an occupational therapist in the Stroke Comprehensive Outpatient Rehabilitation Program at MossRehab Jenkintown. She also co-leads the Young Empowerment Stroke Support group for young adults recovering from a stroke.

What inspired you to become an occupational therapist?

When I was younger, I never heard of an occupational therapist. Then, a career aptitude test in high school recommended it as my top job. Before college, I worked in a nursing home. While caring for patients, I kept thinking there should be a way to help them become more independent, so they don’t have to wait on the staff for everything. When looking through a resident’s care notes, occupational therapy was listed. I thought it was a strange coincidence since I just took a test suggesting the field for my career. Checking out the role, I found occupational therapists helped patients become self-sufficient in different life activities. It’s like the universe was telling me to follow this career path.

Can you tell me about your background and training? 

I got my degree in occupational therapy from Thomas Jefferson University. I also completed clinical work at St. Agnes Burn Center in Philadelphia, a private practice specializing in aquatic therapy for people with neurologic disorders, and at the Institute of Pennsylvania, where I worked with patients having mental health issues. I’m glad I had these diverse experiences; some patients have secondary diagnoses and I feel more confident working with them in these areas because of my background. I’m also certified in stroke rehabilitation, so I have additional training in treating patients with stroke.

Why did you decide to join MossRehab?

Throughout my coursework at Thomas Jefferson University, I continually heard that MossRehab was a leading rehabilitation facility. Because I am a bit of a perfectionist, I wanted to work and learn at the best facility to become the best at my job. I also wanted a job where I could work with cutting-edge rehab equipment and therapists who were recognized as experts in their field and passionate about their jobs. 

What keeps you at MossRehab after all of these years?

I’ve worked at MossRehab for 14 years, nearly 10 of which were within the Stroke Comprehensive Outpatient Rehabilitation Program (SCOR) at MossRehab Jenkintown. I work with some very talented people and, together, we support each other in improving the lives of the patients we serve. I also love working with my patient population and find it very challenging and rewarding. I feel like Moss is home to me, and I am probably a lifer.

What is your role as an occupational therapist?

Occupational therapists (OTs) help patients get back to participating in daily activities. These activities could include basic self-care such as bathing or dressing or more complex activities such as cooking a meal or going to work. I evaluate a patient’s strengths and weaknesses and prepare a plan of care to help them get back to those meaningful life roles and activities.

Who are your patients? 

I work with outpatients who had a stroke and those with non-traumatic brain injuries. Some may have brain tumors, or a brain injury caused by a lack of oxygen to the brain.

What are your patient’s challenges for rehabilitation?

A stroke causes damage to a specific brain area, resulting in cognitive, physical, communication, and vision deficits. OTs are trained to identify those deficits as well as the patient’s strengths to determine interventions targeting specific areas for rehabilitation so patients can once again participate in daily activities and life goals.

What is the SCOR Program?

The SCOR Program provides comprehensive services to patients with a stroke from a team of healthcare professionals including occupational, physical, and speech therapists. Within our network, we also offer behavioral mental health and neuropsychological services for patients experiencing post-stroke adjustment issues. The patient’s care team provides specialized services to address the problems experienced by a patient who had a stroke.

What is your approach to therapy?

Therapy is based on helping a patient to reach their goals. For example, if a patient has paralysis affecting their arm, I not only try to help that person move their arm, but help them to find a way to use that arm in an activity that is meaningful to them. I first ask patients what activities mean the most in their lives and what difficulties they have in completing them. I’ll evaluate a patient to understand their deficits and strengths, then explain what activities and interventions can target areas for improvement. I continually re-evaluate their progress to ensure that I am addressing issues important to patients. It’s not necessarily about what I think they can do better, but what is important to them.

Can you give an example of a therapy session?

I have a patient with speech and language deficits, as well as some motor planning and coordination problems with the right hand. Writing and making lunch were goals identified by the patient and activities on which we concentrated during rehabilitation. When writing, the patient had difficulty holding a pen and forming letters. To assist in this task, I determined what writing implement was the most effective in helping to formulate letters. I also helped by moving my hand over the patient’s when tracing letters. Eventually, the patient could copy letters on their own. When helping the same person re-learn how to make a sandwich, I utilized an adapted utensil to improve the patient’s grip when spreading peanut butter and jelly on bread in addition to providing hand-over-hand assistance to start. Eventually, my assistance reduced to the point where the patient was doing the task on their own.  

Do you use robotics to supplement conventional therapies?  

I may use robotics to help a patient improve performance in an activity that may be too hard to do without assistance. For example, a patient with paralysis in their arm or hand may have too much weakness to physically complete a simple task, such as picking up socks from the floor and putting them in a basket. I may use the Armeo®Spring to facilitate movement by unweighting the arm while engaging patients in interactive computer-simulated gaming activities such as reaching and grasping items from a grocery shelf and putting them in a cart. I can adjust the game difficulty so patients can succeed depending on their level of ability. Experiencing success encourages them to do a task over and over to get stronger and improve motor control. I can translate improvement in movement required for participation in the game into real-world situations.

What is your involvement in the Young Empowerment Stroke Support (YESS) group?

The Young Empowerment Stroke Support (YESS) group, offered through the SCOR Program, addresses the needs, roles, and goals of younger adults who had a stroke. I run the YESS group with my fellow team member Melissa Meyers OTD, OTR/L, who developed the group and works with outpatients in the MossRehab SCOR Program in Jenkintown. One recent initiative was participation in the American Heart and Stroke Association Heart Walk in Philadelphia. Our support group raised over $3,000 for research. Members from our group meet to begin the walk together, with everyone completing the walk at their own pace based on varying abilities.  It’s a great day and one I look forward to every year.

What inspires you on the job?

My coworkers support and inspire me. I work with the best team. My patients are also a huge inspiration. I see how much strength and courage it takes to participate in rehabilitation. Their efforts, strength, and courage push me to be better and help them in any way I can.

What are your interests outside of work?

I love doing home improvement projects, which is good because I have a million of them. I enjoy sewing and quilting and making my kids Halloween costumes over the years.  

What is your favorite food?

Pizza - any.

What is your life motto?

I heard somebody say one of the biggest mistakes you can make is being afraid to make one. I used to be afraid of making mistakes and did not take a lot of chances. Now that I am older, I try new things. I try to instill this mindset in my patients so they are not afraid to make a mistake and can learn from them.

Find out more about the  MossRehab Stroke Outpatient Rehabilitation Program.     

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