Occupational therapists: ‘Hands are as individual as the rest of our bodies’

AU Health building
The Occupational Therapy Outpatient Clinic is located at AU Health West Wheeler and focuses on physical, occupational and speech therapy.

Editor’s Note: The field of occupational therapy is anything but limited. This month, Jagwire will be spotlighting the occupational therapists who make quality and compassionate patient care possible.

Occupational therapist Cheryl Priessman specializes in hand and upper extremity occupational therapy at Augusta University Health West Wheeler.

AU Health West Wheeler is an accessible out-patient clinic that includes three types of occupational therapy: physical, occupational and speech therapy.

“My particular clinic that I have is just for my hand and upper extremity therapy. We are in a nice, easy setting to get to. Patients can drive right up to the front door. It’s very easy for patients to get in and out,” said Priessman.

She works closely with between eight and 12 patients daily, evaluating each patient and working with them to design a treatment plan.

Priessman explained that occupational therapy is about adaptability.

“If a patient has rheumatoid arthritis, I can’t take away that rheumatoid arthritis, but I can help the patient adapt and do things so that they can be as functionally independent and have the best quality of life,” she said.

Treatments can range from heat and cold modalities to strength exercises to custom made-splints that Priessman creates for each patient.

“Hands are as individual as the rest of our bodies. It’s especially difficult after an injury to get a hand positioned correctly,” she said.

She has been an occupational therapist for more than 35 years. She says she still enjoys it because every day is different and she’s passionate about patient-centered care.

“When I first start working with a patient, they’ve had some type of trauma to the hand or upper extremity. They’re very scared and they’re in pain. To bring them from that place of fear to where they’ll be able to go back to their lives and use their hands — it’s very rewarding,” said Priessman.

An occupational therapist’s goal is to increase the quality of a patient’s life. Every day, Priessman works “toward getting patients to maximal functional independence in all areas of their lives.”

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Written by
Maddie Burgin

Maddie Burgin is a media relations intern in the Department of Communications and Marketing. She is currently a senior majoring in communications at Augusta University.

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Written by Maddie Burgin

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