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Meet the Team: Gretchen Watson Heacock, MPT
By: Peter Schnellenberger
Mar 30 2021

Gretchen standing in a physical therapy gym

Gretchen Heacock, MPT, celebrated her 25th anniversary as a physical therapist with MossRehab in 2020. She treats inpatients at MossRehab Tabor Road who experienced strokes or other neurological conditions as well as those recovering from accidents, gunshot wounds, and surgical procedures. She provides physical therapy to prepare patients to go home safely.

We talked with Heacock about her work and experiences at MossRehab during her quarter-century of employment here.

Why did you decide to become a physical therapist?

I wanted to be a physical therapist since I was about 12. An incident while playing Little League baseball introduced me to this profession. After hitting a foul ball, my grandmother tipped over her lawn chair to avoid it and broke her hand. I felt very responsible for my grandmother’s broken hand and went with her to physical therapy (PT). I would ask questions about her treatment and became very interested in the field. When researching a paper about careers the next year in school, I chose PT. It has been the only thing that stuck with me throughout my middle and high school years. So, I decided to pursue it as a career and have been with it ever since.

What are your background and training?

I attained both my bachelor’s degree in the biological track of anthropology and my master’s in physical therapy from Temple University. I’ve spent my entire career in physical therapy – 25 years! – at MossRehab. For the past 12 years, I’ve worked with the inpatients at MossRehab Tabor Road treating a wide variety of individuals with different diagnoses.

Why do you like working at MossRehab?

There’s a lot I like about MossRehab. First, I find the network is very patient-centered. Staff want the best outcomes for patients. Second, I enjoy my co-workers. Everyone is committed to work, open to learning and sharing knowledge. Our therapy team has a nice camaraderie where we support each other and share ideas. Third, opportunities exist for learning throughout the network. I sometimes travel to MossRehab Elkins Park to attend meetings or in-services to receive education to improve my clinical skills and knowledge. I’ve also participated in Special Interest Groups within MossRehab that focus on gait rehabilitation and cultural diversity.

Who are your patients?

I work with a cross-section of different patients including those with neurologic disorders from stroke and traumatic brain injuries, orthopedic injuries caused by falls or accidents to gunshot wounds. I also work with patients recovering from surgeries such as liver transplants, amputations, or receiving a left ventricular assist device. Our main goal is to provide therapy to individuals so they can safely go home. That means ensuring patients can get in and out of bed, stand up, sit down, and other basic activities. I’ll work on improving an individual’s strength through exercises and endurance using different cardiovascular equipment like bicycles and treadmills. And focus on improving people’s balance in sitting and standing positions. I believe it’s the best part of their rehabilitation journey.

How has treatment changed during the pandemic?

We are lucky to still treat patients in the gym but maintain social distance and space equipment apart. We wear masks including patients and continue to clean equipment in between use. One thing that is challenging during this time is visitor restrictions. We are used to having family members visit quite frequently. Now, we try to have our patients keep in touch with their families by phone or FaceTime.

And while, in the past, we would educate families more frequently in person, we take an extra effort to educate family members by phone before patients go home. If caregivers need some hands-on assistance before patient discharge, we have a room where one family member can receive instructions at the end of rehabilitation.

What inspires you on the job?

Seeing my patients improve and knowing that I contributed to their recovery is very inspiring. I admire the motivation of my patients who work hard to improve their performance, so they can go home. My coworkers also inspire me. Working for 25 years, you can potentially become complacent about your job. My co-workers inspire me to keep my skills fresh. I like having younger folks around for their energy and insights about what’s taught in schools now. And I do serve as a mentor to the younger staff that rotate through our unit.

What are your personal interests?

I am married and have two young children that keep me busy with their sports and school. I’ve been very involved in their school and serve on several committees.

What’s your favorite thing to do in your leisure or on vacation?

We love going on vacation to check out new places whether around Philadelphia, our country, or the world. There are so many different places to experience. When it was just my husband and me, we vacationed in Europe but now stay in the United States. We do enjoy taking mountain vacations in the summertime. I’m not much of a winter sportsperson. The last time I snowboarded, I broke my arm.

Who has had a strong influence on your life?

My parents strongly influenced me. I had a great childhood. My parents were very supportive of my sister and me. I grew up around a lot of family – cousins, my grandparents, etc. So, my family, especially my parents, influenced my life. Now, I want to be the kind of parent that my parents were to me.

What is your favorite food?

I like a lot of different foods depending on my mood. But if I had to pick one food, I would say dark chocolate. I eat it every day!

What was the last book that you read?

I read in the evenings but mostly magazines and newspapers. I like to know what is going on politically in the world and am passionate about public education. I also read with my kids. Right now, I’m finishing a book series with my son called Bears of the Ice. And my daughter likes this series called Rebel Girls that I highly recommend.

What is something people don’t know about you?

I like to watch singing shows like The Voice and American Idol. Maybe it’s because I was destined to be a singer, but I didn’t get the voice.

What is your life motto?

One important life motto is to treat people with respect. My pet peeve is when people are not respectful to each other. I’m trying to teach my children to treat people with respect as well. It is also important to find the good in people and situations. My husband tells me that’s my superpower!

Learn more about the different therapy treatments offered at MossRehab Tabor Road.

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