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Professional Insight: Amanda Saylor, Neuro Occupational Therapist

Amanda Saylor gives us her expertise into being a Neuro Occupational Therapist.

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What made you pursue your chosen career path?

I decided to focus my career on occupational therapy after meeting a patient who had suffered a stroke just 48-hours before. His function and independence had drastically changed so suddenly, and I felt called to learn all I could to help him as well as others who may also face these challenges following a stroke other medical condition. My goal since that moment has always been to help my patients regain their independence, as well as their sense of self.

What keeps you motivated working with stroke patients?

Every stroke survivor I meet is different, and being able to address their unique needs keeps me engaged and motivated. In just one day, I may work with one patient to help them improve their vision, another to enhance executive function for driving, and another to rehabilitate the hemiplegic upper extremity – the goals of every stroke survivor are unique to their experience, rehabilitation goals and lifestyle. Being a part of their health journeys is an awesome opportunity, and responsibility, that I take very seriously. 

What advice would you give to yourself at the start of your career?

Continued research and education are key as an occupational therapist working with stroke survivors. Through new research and innovation that are becoming more available to us, we can stay on the leading edge to provide the best care for our patients. All clinicians should strive to go beyond what they were taught in school and through their training as we work together to advance the field.  

What are the daily challenges you face in your role and how do you deal with them?

I now work as the lead occupational therapist across AdventHealth’s 11 outpatient neurology clinics in Central Florida – a role that requires me to both manage patient care and documentation along with the administrative management of our programs. At times, these responsibilities can seem difficult to balance. But I constantly remind myself that it is this unique combination of roles that is making me a better clinician and a stronger leader. 

When it comes to treating patients, one of the most challenging aspects is recommending a discharge from services – especially when the patient is understandably apprehensive about this transition. With our focus on whole person care, however, we are able to meet these patients’ evolving needs with our wellness programs offering group and individual exercise classes. These programs give them an opportunity to build on their success even after their needs are no longer deemed medically necessary by their insurance. 

What is something you have done in the field of stroke that you are most proud of?

I am excited to be leading on the integration of a new option for chronic ischemic stroke patients with upper extremity deficits with the Vivistim Paired VNS System. AdventHealth became the first hospital system in Florida, as well as the entire southeastern U.S., to offer this breakthrough device for long-term stroke recovery. 

Our early patients who have completed their intensive rehabilitation protocols have surpassed expectations and have even exceeded the improvements found in a large, triple-blind study. The outcomes have been so exciting to see, but hearing our patients report that they are “feeling like their selves again” or that they returned to a favourite activity like golfing or cooking is what makes me most proud of our work to bring Vivistim to the region.

What is the best quality someone working with stroke patients can have?

You need to be personable, and also have a sense of humour. Our patients have been through life-changing and, often, traumatic events. But we often hear that coming to outpatient therapy is the highlight of their week because of the socialisation and sense of community we are able to offer. That’s why I like to focus on being the light in my patient’s day to help them stay motivated, continue fighting and to eventually return to a life they love – whether that is going out to dinner, spending more time with loved ones, or meeting friends for a card game. 

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