Meet the Team
Stephanie Stein serves as an occupational therapist and team leader at the Drucker Brain Injury Center. She recently helped develop a new protocol to treat individuals with post-traumatic amnesia as part of a group of interdisciplinary team leaders.
We spoke with Stephanie about treating patients with brain injuries, her use of therapeutic gaming in inpatient rehabilitation, and how she uses her background as a makeup artist in therapy practices.
What made you decide to become an occupational therapist?
I knew in high school that I wanted to work in healthcare but was unsure of a career path. I spent my initial years in college observing and talking with different therapists and nurses. Shadowing an occupational therapist in pediatrics, I found that I liked the field and decided to pursue it as my career. I like occupational therapy because you work with people to become independent in their daily activities so they can reengage in life.
What are your educational background and work experience?
I have a combined bachelor's and master's degree in occupational therapy from Thomas Jefferson University. I also completed a certification in upper quadrant rehabilitation at Drexel University. I’ve worked at MossRehab my entire career, starting on the weekends while attending undergrad and graduate schools and then moving into a full-time position as a rotating therapist. For the past five years, I’ve treated the inpatient population at the Drucker Brain Injury Center and currently serve as an occupational therapy team leader. In this position, I assist staff and am involved in mentorship and program development. I’ve been in a role at MossRehab since 2004.
Why do you like working at MossRehab?
I love the people and culture here. Everyone wants to learn and teach each other. The staff goes out of their way for each other, and the team leaders are very encouraging and supportive. We feel like a family that works together in learning and facing challenges. Besides, MossRehab has the best technology to support rehabilitation. The therapy gym has various technology, some featuring gamification, that work on the upper and lower extremities. I’ve also been involved in research projects over the years including the development of a post-traumatic amnesia protocol now in use at MossRehab. That’s a unique opportunity for an occupational therapist working in inpatient rehab.
Who are your patients?
I work with the inpatient population aged 14 and up who have suffered some form of brain injury, either traumatic or anoxic. I do have some patients who had a stroke. But mostly, I work with brain injury patients who have a wide range of cognitive, visual, and orthopedic impairments.
What is your role as an occupational therapist?
I help transition patients to home safely. So, I work with them on activities of daily life like getting out of bed, using the bathroom, getting dressed, and other tasks they do during the day. I also work on cognitive skills such as money management, cooking skills – anything to help with a life skill to transition back to their life. Also, I may address visual and upper extremity impairments before patients transition to outpatient therapy to help them return to school or work.
Can you describe a typical day providing occupational therapy?
The bread and butter of occupational therapy is the morning routine when you help patients get showered, dressed, and groomed for the day. Sometimes, I’m the wake-up call getting them out of bed. Since every person has varying levels of ability, therapy is different for everyone. Therapy is very patient-specific on their condition and treatment.
Do you use robotics in your therapy treatments?
I use different robotic equipment available at the MossRehab gym as part of my therapy treatment as I find it motivates and engages most of my patients. Many of them feature therapeutic gaming that provides visual interactions and auditory feedback that can make it easier for patients to complete activities than through verbal instructions. This is especially helpful for patients with aphasia who have a hard time communicating and comprehending language due to brain injuries. I can also get feedback on patient progress and customize activities to patient capabilities. So, after working on activities of daily living with a patient, I may take them to the gym to work on arm weakness. It depends on a person’s level of consciousness as some have difficulty just keeping their eyes open and following a command.
Tell me about your involvement in the MossRehab Post-Traumatic Amnesia Protocol.
I was in a workgroup with other team leaders that developed a protocol for better practices when dealing with patients experiencing post-traumatic amnesia (PTA). People with traumatic brain injuries have memory problems and often are in a state of PTA. These individuals become very confused and agitated when asked too many questions. Increased agitation can lead to decreased participation in therapy and, sometimes, a decreased positive experience with therapy.
Clinicians from different disciplines as well as nurses and doctors ask patients a lot of questions to get information and establish a rapport. We reflected on why we asked all these questions and built a protocol to reduce that number while asking more meaningful and present questions. Rather than ask “Do you remember me?”, a clinician now states their name and purpose for the visit. Questions are based on the here and now: “How do you feel right now?” rather than “How did you sleep last night?”.
The protocol made an immediate impact on healthcare teams delivering more consistent care that doesn’t challenge the patient. I noticed a difference in the way therapists are interacting with patients. In general, I feel the patients are responding well to the protocol. It’s also a good educational tool for families as many don’t know how to interact with their loved ones in a state of PTA.
What inspires you on the job?
Seeing patients get better is very inspiring. It is very emotionally satisfying to know that you had a part in helping people get better and return to their routines. Patients and their families are very appreciative of what we’ve done to help them in their recovery. I feel good making people happy.
Who has influenced your life?
My eighth-grade teacher, Mrs. McArdle, gave me a love for science. She emphasized science, and it was the first time I did a project for a science fair. She set the stage for me to go into the healthcare field.
My clinical interests are upper extremity assessment and treatment. I love robotics and the use of technology in therapy treatments.
Something people don’t know about you?
I am a certified makeup artist. I work in bridal and editorial/runway makeup settings. I have done makeup for New York City Fashion Week. I love when a patient asks me to teach them to do their brows or eye makeup. I incorporate makeup and skincare as part of my therapy treatment for grooming. During the pandemic, one patient asked if I could do her brows before she Facetimed her family in England. She wanted to see if they noticed how she looked with her new brows.
What are your interests outside of work?
I have a four-year-old and a one-year-old so I don’t have much time for hobbies. I do enjoy exercise like spinning and yoga.
What do you like to do in your leisure time?
I love being outside - swimming, hiking, taking my kids to parks.
Last book read?
I just read my daughter a book about Maya Angelou from the series called Little People, Big Dreams. It’s a great book series and very inspiring.
I love Middle Eastern vegan food.
Treat others as you want to be treated. I look at my patients as if they are family members. I keep that in my mind that this person is someone’s mom, dad, son, etc. and understand that they are going through a rough time. It can be very stressful working in healthcare. I realize that people are entitled to their feelings and try to be compassionate and empathetic with everybody.
Learn more about the Drucker Brain Institute and how MossRehab treats traumatic brain injuries.
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