Physical Therapist, University of Washington Medical Center
As a physical therapist at the UW Medical Center inpatient rehab unit, Brandon Bailey helps people recovering from brain and spinal cord injuries prepare to return home. The patients Brandon works with often face difficulties doing simple tasks, like sitting up or standing. It’s a vital but challenging job, and one his UW training readied him for. "The UW Doctor of Physical Therapy program did an excellent job of preparing me for life in the clinic," he said.
Can you tell us a bit about your current job?
On the rehab unit, I work with our neurologic population, people with spinal cord injuries, brain injuries, stroke and such. I'm seeing people fairly early after an injury. My job is helping them learn how to manage a new disability and get to the point where they're safe to go home.
How do you approach your work as a physical therapist?
I'm very aware that the person I'm working with could easily have been me or a family member, and I want to do the best job I possibly can for them. I want them to feel, in the end, that they’re more prepared for what they’re going through than when they first arrived at the hospital. Any time things like this happen to people, it’s nothing they asked for – I know how much they want to get back to a normal life.
How did the UW program prepare you for the work you’re doing today?
When I first went into physical therapy I thought I would be doing sports medicine, and here I am doing mostly neurologic PT. That came from being in the UW program. With the variety of topics in neurologic PT in the program, the quality with which they were taught and the close proximity we had to the UW Medical Center and Harborview’s rehab departments, neuro really felt like a strength of the program to me, and it all just clicked.
The UW DPT program did an excellent job of preparing me for life in the clinic. Professor Valerie Kelly’s classes, Applied Neurology and Special Topics in Neuro Rehabilitation, gave me the skills and the knowledge to handle the type of caseload that I would see at an inpatient rehab facility like the one I'm at now. I'll never forget how nervous I was going out to do internships as a third-year student and how quickly I was able to calm myself once I realized that I was well prepared and knew how to do this better than I realized.
What appealed to you about the UW program in particular?
When I was in undergrad, I learned that part of the requirements to get into physical therapy grad school is to have a certain amount of hours of experience. For me to get my hours, I was a work study student during the summers for the UW Medical Center clinic.
The experience I had there, and getting to see those therapists work, was a huge part of why I chose the UW. Because the DPT program had a connection to the physical therapy department at the UW Medical Center, it meant not only would I be going to school and getting the didactic portion in the classroom, but I could have a relationship with therapists who are already well established and have great caseloads and patient stories to share. That was the best part – to be able to watch and learn from PTs who are so good at their jobs.
Can you tell us about an especially rewarding case you’ve worked on in your job?
A woman had come to us after a significant car crash and had a very bad brain injury. She had spent a few weeks at another facility, and they just weren't seeing a lot of return, maybe a little bit of wiggling in her hand. They sent her to us to try to continue with rehab.
It was an amazing process to watch the changes she would make every single day. Because of the level she was at, we worked a lot on simple movements. Even having the ability to sit up was a major accomplishment. With the severity of her brain injury, she had bad contractures throughout her body – upper body, lower body, especially at the ankles. We used a standing frame to help support her in standing, to get that weight bearing through the body and to allow her to even have the strength and control to lift her head up and look straight ahead.
Now this person comes in for outpatient visits. The other day, when she and her family came in, I stopped by to say hi. Her mom and dad were so proud of how far she had come. They wanted to show me that she could now stand up from the chair and keep her own balance. We're talking about somebody who it took three or four people when she was inpatient to help get her into the standing machine. Now she just stood up on her own and gave me a big hug. We took a picture together with her standing up and smiling. She can actually make expressions now, smile and show emotion and communicate a little bit. It’s amazing to see what the human spirit can do.