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UTHSC Rachel Kay Stevens Therapy Center Offering Telehealth Services

Occupational therapist Taylor McMurry provides OT services via telehealth with a patient. (Photo submitted by UTHSC Department of Occupational Therapy)

The UTHSC Rachel Kay Stevens Therapy Center (RKSTC), a student-run, pro bono, pediatric occupational therapy clinic, is offering therapy via telehealth, as a result of the coronavirus pandemic.

The center was founded in 2016 in memory of OT student Rachel Kay Stevens, who died suddenly after starting her training at UTHSC. The clinic serves underinsured and uninsured children from birth to 18 years and offers telehealth appointments every other Tuesday.

The RKSTC previously offered services at its clinic located on the fourth floor of the Boling Center for Developmental Disabilities at 711 Jefferson Avenue. Occupational therapy services were provided by UTHSC OT students with the direct supervision of a licensed occupational therapist. The services included consultation, evaluation, individual treatment, and parent/family education. All are now all being offered online.

UTHSC Occupational Therapy alumna Taylor McMurry serves as the occupational therapist for the clinic. She says transitioning appointments to telehealth has had many benefits for both patients and occupational therapy students, who receive training through the clinic.

“Telehealth has allowed us to reach more children and families who need us during this time and can’t get out to a regular appointment or are finding it difficult to get an in-person appointment at an outpatient center,” McMurry said. “We want to prevent their regression of skills and help families out, since they are at home more, and to be a support for them.”

Appointments usually last 45 minutes, but with telehealth there is more flexibility to make sessions longer or shorter, depending on the needs of the patient.

Anne Zachry, PhD, OTR/L, chair and associate professor in the Department of Occupational Therapy in the College of Health Professions said a benefit of having the therapy via telehealth is that parents have opportunities to be directly involved and “hands on” during the sessions. “This is ideal, because they can continue working with their child on the skills on a day-to-day basis. Having this carry over is so important and helps the child progress more quickly toward meeting their goals,” she said.

McMurry says the telehealth appointments have an additional benefit. The provider is able to see a patient’s home environment, noting areas where the patient may struggle and offering suggestions to help. “We are able to see what they have in their home and materials they may be able to use to work on some fine motor skills and things at the house they can adapt to be functional to use at home,” she said. “We can work on behavioral and sensory interventions, patients can take breaks if they need to, and a big part is just family education.”

UTHSC OT students are able to participate in the sessions by observing the telehealth services with McMurry. Since sessions can be recorded, students are able to have more time for group discussions and debriefing sessions around telehealth visits.

“Moving quickly from in-person sessions to telehealth sessions has greatly impacted my learning as an OT student in many ways,” student Sarika Maymoundok said. “I was able to use the skills we were taught in school, such as adaptability, quick thinking, and using the resources around me to make this happen for our clients. Transitioning to telehealth has been watching all of our hard work unfold for something greater than us all.”

For more information or to make an appointment visit the RKSTC website.