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Occupational Therapist Loves Road Less Traveled

Travel adventures, poetry and rewarding patient encounters are just part of the experience for Thresa Kussman, OT

By Debra Wood, RN, contributor

         “Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—
         I took the one less traveled by,
         And that has made all the difference.”
From “The Road Not Taken” by Robert Frost.

This poem holds special meaning for Thresa Kussman, OT; not only did she find these words to be true as a travel occupational therapist, but she once used the poem as part of a treatment plan for a dementia patient.

An occupational therapist for 19 years, Thresa Kussman, OT, has experienced life as a Med Travelers OT and as a rehabilitation director. Regardless of the position, the profession remains a steadfast passion for her. Thresa Kussman, occupational therapistShe enjoys the creativity and ability to make other people’s lives better and more fulfilling. She specializes in neurological conditions, such as strokes, progressive neuromuscular conditions and cognitive decline. She believes that the more complex the case, the greater the challenge and the greater the reward.

What made you choose occupational therapy as a career?
Occupational therapy addresses mind, body and spirit in the realm of creating a balance with work, rest and play. Helping people heal themselves involves creativity. There is nothing rote about any day. Every patient is different. There is great flexibility to do different types of treatments.

What is your most memorable moment as an OT?
I have many favorite moments, but one of the most heartwarming was on a travel assignment in Northern California, working with a dementia patient to decrease sundowning behaviors. I started sorting sugar packets with her, in order to engage her in a simple cognitive task. She picked up the packet and read the words “Sweet and Low,” so I realized she had retained the ability to read. Next time, I printed off Robert Frost’s poem “The Road Not Taken.” She not only read it, she recited it. It was a beautiful moment. I printed off a number of poems in large print and created a book for her. When she began to sundown and get anxious, we would hand her the poetry book, so she would recite poetry.

What benefits of working as a travel therapist did you enjoy most?
My children hit college age, and I flew the nest. It was a great adventure. I went somewhere I always wanted to explore: along the West Coast. I loved the flexibility and the variety of the subacute and long-term care settings to which I was assigned, and the small towns and cities that I explored. I had a wonderful time with the administration and residents of every building. It was a fantastic experience. I made lifelong friends with both employees and patients.

What advice do you have for other potential OT travelers?
I highly recommend new graduates get experience for a year or two, so they are not put in positions they do not know how to handle. They need mentorship with more experienced therapists. Do your research before you go. Ask questions and make sure you get the right recruiter and assignment. You have to be able to trust the recruiter, someone who will be upfront with you and give you the best set-up. (Tony Leber [at Med Travelers], you’re the best.)

If you have a free spirit and enjoy being creative, the travel world is a wonderful one to navigate through. It’s something everyone should try, at least for a little bit.

Share Your OT Story for a Chance to Win $100!
In celebration of Occupational Therapy Month, Med Travelers would like to hear your most rewarding occupational therapy experience. Just share your story for a chance to win a $100 gift card!

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