Stephanie Bennett is a passionate advocate for her patients.
Seniors don’t always feel heard by their physicians, Bennett said, and she feels an obligation as a home health provider to act as an extra set of eyes and ears for both her clients and their doctors.
“I feel like we can really give [the doctor] a better picture of what’s happening, especially with those really complex patients that you just can’t quite put your finger on sometimes,” Bennett said. “They are just declining and sometimes it’s such a subtle decline that you’re not quite sure.”
That means her role often expands well past her usual boundaries as a physical therapist at Stillwater Medical Home Health. In one case, her advocacy helped one of the agency’s patients regain a part of her life the care team thought was over. The client, who had a neurological diagnosis, was declining in a way that didn’t match their original prognosis, Bennett’s nominator, Stillwater Medical Director and Administrator Maria Avers explained.
“Stephanie, with her history in inpatient rehabilitation as well as homecare, was able to discern the differences in the symptoms and accurately report to the ordering physician the concerns,” Avers said. “She then advocated to ensure [the patient] received the referrals needed to treat an additional diagnosis that would have had lifelong impact as well as potentially life-threatening results.”
The person went on to have surgery and spent time in an inpatient rehab facility. When they returned home, Bennett developed a plan to help them return to life activities. The patient, who was initially bedbound, can now transfer with assistance. Bennett also provided education to the patient’s family to help them understand their new normal.
Bennett, who has been with Stillwater Medical since 2009, began her career in inpatient rehab at Jim Thorpe Rehab in Oklahoma City. Bennett credits her time and mentors there with her background in multiple diagnoses, from spinal cord injuries to traumatic brain injuries. After five years, she moved to a more rural
area and landed with a contract rehab company that provided
care for home health and skilled nursing agencies.
“I just fell in love with that. I loved not having a thousand things competing for my attention. I was with one person at a time and in their own environment,” Bennet said.
Access to in-home rehab is important, Bennett said, because many of the people needing the service struggle to travel for it.
“By the time they get there and they’re being seen by the therapist, they’ve used all their energy resources and it’s not therapeutic at that point,” she said.
She added that in-home rehab also helps the therapist work with the client in the environment they are in most often. Early in her home health career, she realized that a lot of equipment she sent patients home with from their inpatient stay wasn’t a good fit, and she values the home rehab setting for helping her make those calls.
“There are some things that are out of your control and you have to respect that,” Bennett said. “They may not want to make the changes to their environment that you’re recommending, but at least you can know what recommendations to make.”