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What brought you to a career in physical therapy?

At a very young age I knew that being a healer was what I was meant to be. I enjoyed reading the New Testament and learning about Jesus’ healing powers. I would reread and highlight passages about helping the lame to walk and it just resonated so strongly with me. I often pretended to be a doctor and fixed my siblings imaginary injuries and nursed them back to health. Even my dolls had home made casts on them. When I first heard of physical therapy and how they helped people essentially learn how to walk again after and injury or illness, I thought this is what I am meant to do. I started volunteering in my local hospital in the rehabilitation department when I was 16. I was able to see the work behind the scene a bit as I cleaned mats, followed patients with wheel chairs and held cones as a target to help people stand and reach. I liked that the therapists working in the hospital seemed like really nice and caring, down to earth people with good work life balance. It felt like a good fit for me. When I was 18 I began studying PT at UNE.

This year will mark my 20th year as a PT. As I look back on the last 20 years of my career I can honestly say I am doing the job that I was meant to do. Every patient that comes into my care is someone who I hope to help on their journey toward wellness. I love helping people to return to whatever it is that they are passionate about. Whether it be running, horseback riding, yoga, knitting or basic daily activities. I want to help people move better, get stronger, prevent future injuries and be able to be their healthiest.

One of the many things that sets us apart at Heritage is the 1:1 time that we spent with patients. I love having an hour to work with people. It allows for time for education, manual therapy and really watching them move as well as providing rehabilitation exercises. No aides. No other patients working out in the same room. No divided attention. Also, to be able to have access to the resources available from the staff in our clinic is amazing. It is a great team approach. In addition, I know medicine can be so myopic. There are no “ankle sprains in room 2” in our clinic. Each individual is looked at holistically. Body, mind and spirit are all interdependent parts of wellness. We are not afraid of talking to patients about life stressors or emotional components that might be affecting their ability to heal. These things are practically taboo in other settings. We want our patients to be well, not just have a rehabbed ankle. I think that healing is so much bigger than that. Our bodies function as a whole and if someone comes in with an ankle sprain we still look at the bigger picture including posture, core strength, movement patterns for example. We want our patients to move well and be well so they can live the lives that they desire. This is what makes coming to work rewarding for me.

On a personal note, I love to laugh and try to find ways to make rehab fun. After all, if your going to be here for an hour shouldn’t it be at least a little fun. Perhaps you’ve had PT somewhere else in the past. If you think rehab is impersonal, boring, painful and downright dreadful, I invite you to come have a different experience at Heritage.
Rita received her degree in Physical Therapy from the University of New England in 1998. She has experience in a variety of settings including outpatient orthopedic manual therapy, acute and skilled rehabilitation and home health. She worked for Mercy Hospital in Portland for 10 years prior to joining Heritage full time.