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How Do Rehab Engineers Complement Therapy Services?

Theresa Berner, MOT, OTR/L, ATP, Dennis Cleary, MS, OTD, OTR/L, FAOTA

January 15, 2023

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Question

How do rehab engineers complement therapy services?

Answer

A rehab engineer can have a mechanical, biomedical, or electrical engineering degree. They can have any engineering undergrad degree and get advanced training in the rehabilitation field. They learn how to apply technology to a person's needs and are often very good with the technological piece. Therapists who work in AT usually have a natural inclination to want to tinker. What I have learned is there is an area where therapists tend to level off due to a knowledge gap about technology. I have seen this in the past five to six years because of the complexity of technology. We advocated for a rehab engineer to come to the clinic with us as a "value-added" service, so we do not bill the client. The rehab engineer supports the clinicians and allows us to prioritize our time and ensure that the equipment is serving at its highest level.

Our rehab engineer is Liz. How I look at it is that she has enough clinical knowledge to understand the person, but she has more mechanical expertise and the time to program, upload, integrate, and set up the devices. OT or PT's time is utilized for the interface of the patient with the equipment, and therapists love that. They do not want to spend their time programming or setting up equipment. They want to interact with that person. The engineer can then stick around and see how the equipment and their work are utilized. It has been a great partnership, and I hope to see more rehab engineers in clinics. They are in the VA and academia, but you do not see them as much in clinical settings.

This Ask the Expert is an edited excerpt from the course, Using Assistive Technology To Increase Participation In Daily Life Podcast, presented by Theresa Berner, MOT, OTR/L, ATP and Dennis Cleary, MS, OTD, OTR/L.


theresa berner

Theresa Berner, MOT, OTR/L, ATP

Theresa Berner, MOT, OTR/L, ATP is an occupational therapist and Rehabilitation Clinical Manager at The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center. She has more than 29 years of experience in seating and positioning and Adult Neuro Rehabilitation. Theresa has been certified by RESNA as an assistive technology professional (ATP). She is responsible for the Assistive Technology Center and the Adaptive Sports Institute. She is also a clinical instructor at the School of Health and Rehabilitation Sciences at Ohio State and oversees the OT Neurologic Fellowship Program. Theresa is a Clinician Task Force member and was recently appointed to the United Spinal Board of Directors. Theresa has participated in presentations across the country at many national and international conferences. Theresa received the 2016 Academy of Spinal Cord Injury TLC Distinguished Clinical Award and the 2017 OSU Medical Center Values in Action Award. She received the 2022 RESNA Samuel McFarland Memorial Mentor Award.


dennis cleary

Dennis Cleary, MS, OTD, OTR/L, FAOTA

Dr. Dennis Cleary has over 25 years of experience as an occupational therapist.  Dennis’ clinical practice has been primarily with children and adults with intellectual disabilities to encourage their full participation in all aspects of life at home, work, and in the community. He has had faculty positions at The Ohio State University and Indiana University. As a researcher, he has been on teams that have received over seven million dollars in grants from state and federal agencies, including a National Institutes of Health multisite trial of the Vocational Fit Assessment, an age-appropriate transition assessment, which he co-created. He has numerous publications and national and international presentations. Dennis is passionate about increasing the role of Occupational Therapy in transition-age service with the goal of improving outcomes and quality of life for all. 

 


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