A Word From Our Latest Visiting Occupational Therapy Fellow Penina Weiss

1. Provide an overview of your fellowship at your hospital and the role you played during your stay.
I spent one month at the NYU Steinhardt School of Medicine in the occupational therapy department. My professional liaison was with Yael Goverover, Ph. D, a specialist in cognitive rehabilitation strategies. During my stay, I was involved in a number of professional activities. I explored up-to-date evidence-based practices in the fields of early mobilization, cognitive rehabilitation, mild cognitive impairments, driving rehabilitation, and vestibular rehabilitation. To study the application of research, I visited a number of leading acute care and rehabilitation service centers, including the Kessler Institute for Rehabilitation, Rusk Rehabiliation at NYU, and New York-Presbyterian Hospital. Additionally, I participated in two professional conferences related to my fellowship topic. One conference focused on vestibular rehabilitation, and the other annual conference dealt with driving rehabilitation specialists. I benefited tremendously from meeting with leading professionals who provide functional assessment and rehabilitation to people coping with acute and chronic medical conditions.

2. Describe how your fellowship opportunity has expanded your knowledge in your specific field.
As an occupational therapist, a primary concern is proving the effectiveness of interventions. This fellowship has given me the opportunity, the time, and the surroundings to explore and deepen my knowledge of the most up-to-date research and rehabilitation techniques being used to benefit clients in need of neurological, functional and cognitive rehabilitation. By studying the areas of vestibular rehabilitation, I have learned techniques that help clients with balance and dizziness problems and that aid in the early mobilization of patients in ICU. In addition, I have gained knowledge on the use of simulators in the field of driving rehabilitation and have acquired the latest evidence-based recommendations in the field of cognitive rehabilitation. All of these are areas of knowledge that occupational therapists at RMC are heavily involved in and such information will greatly aid the RMC Occupational Therapists and their patients.

3. What did you enjoy most about your fellowship opportunity?
First of all, I was excited and proud to be the first health professional that is neither an MD nor a nurse to benefit from this unique opportunity. I believe the management at Rabin Medical Center realizes the importance of multi-disciplinary, first-class, multi-level medicine. I have enjoyed the exposure to practical materials and techniques that I can utilize back at RMC. I learned about assessments for cognitive executive functioning, worksheet applications that are applicable to the occupational therapy outpatient clinic, as well as hands-on exercises that can enhance recovery for persons with disabling dizziness and balance challenges in both acute care and outpatient environments. Additionally, the ideas of early mobilization and the role of care coordinators are ideas that I would like to promote at Rabin Medical Center when I return.

4. What were some of the challenges you faced while working at your hospital?
Unfortunately, most medical facilities in the United States do not permit the shadowing of patients, so my exposure was limited to just observing the work being done.

5. Do you feel international medical relationships and fellowship programs are vital to the future of medicine and research?
Absolutely. As worldwide advances in the medical field are happening at amazing speeds, it is hard to keep abreast of the newest procedures/techniques, etc. Time constraints, caused by heavy caseloads of direct patient care, usually make this even more difficult. This opportunity is invaluable in regards to making new contacts and developing common grounds for future research collaborations and sharing medical practice ideas.

6. What do you feel are the key issues and challenges in your field - not only in the Unites States and Israel, but worldwide?
I believe that one of the biggest challenges is making physicians (the primary medical care providers) more aware of the need, uniqueness and importance of occupational therapy rehabilitation services and their positive effect in helping to re-establish clients’ ability to function as independently as possible in their everyday lives.
Additionally, it is incredibly difficult to create evidence-based functional rehabilitation practices, which can provide proof that what we do benefits our clients from a health perspective.

7. What are your future plans at Rabin Medical Center when you return to Israel?
First, I intend to share the materials, ideas, and techniques that I was exposed to in the U.S. to my colleagues at Rabin Medical Center. I hope to promote the use of such techniques at the hospital. Furthermore, I hope to collaborate with the team at NYU and Kessler in a study involving awareness training and “Actual Reality” (vs. virtual reality) for patients coping with cognitive decline.

8. Would you recommend this fellowship to your peers? Why or why not?
Definitely. For the reasons that I have stated above, as well as on a broader level, I think that these fellowships help the multi-disciplinary staff at Rabin Medical Center continue to be leaders in their field of work – something that can be done only if they have an international perspective. Staying local does not generate as much knowledge and expertise.

SPECIAL THANK YOU TO THE AMERICAN FRIENDS OF RABIN MEDICAL CENTER AND SUPPORTERS OF THE RABIN MEDICAL EXCHANGE FELLOWSHIP PROGRAM.

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