Occupational Therapists Innovate Every Day {Interview With Tamara Vos-Draper}

Post Written By Guest Blogger, Megan Zimmerman

Tamara Vos-Draper is an Occupational Therapist at Mayo Clinic. Although many of you may be familiar with this job title and what Tamara does with patients, I discovered that the field of occupation therapy is involved with innovation that serves patients and their families. Tamara described how Occupational Therapists (OTs) innovate every day. When working with patients, they take in a lot of information about what tasks the patient needs to be able to do in their daily routine as well as the barriers preventing them from accomplishing those tasks. Occupations Therapists modify the task, the tools, or the patient’s environment to allow the patient to perform the tasks and become more mobile, active, and involved in their lives. These modifications are different for every patient and therefore, require constant creativity and problem solving.

Tamara works with wheelchair mobility, seating equipment, and assistive technology solutions for patients. What does this mean, you might ask? Well, it means that she evaluates and recommends equipment for individuals to optimize their mobility and adjusts the chair to give them the best position possible when they are in their wheelchair. She also works with patients with recent spinal cord injuries to help them learn how to manage their daily activities. Many of Tamara’s patients are dealing with pressure ulcers. More commonly known as bedsores, pressure ulcers, are injuries to the skin and tissue resulting from prolonged pressure to the skin. Bedsores commonly develop around the heels, ankles, hips, and tailbone. They typically occur in patients with limited mobility and prevents them from changing position frequently. Tamara’s research includes a project aimed at developing a better strategy for managing skin health (preventing pressure ulcers) for patients with spinal cord injuries in wheelchairs. Tamara described how bedsores are a frequent and lifelong issue for many of her patients. Tamara is creating a special seat that allows patients to know where pressure is occurring when they are sitting so that they can take action to protect their skin. This seat has an interface pressure map that acts as a visual compensatory method so patients can “see” where pressure is occurring. They are trying to connect this system with phones and computers to allow caregivers and therapists watch for problems, review the data, and use the map to ensure that the patients are positioned correctly in their chairs.

Tamara said that OTs are valued members of the rehab team for acute, inpatient, and outpatient care at Mayo Clinic, and she would love to expand her role to include OT improvement in research at Mayo Clinic. She described how more OTs are getting advanced degrees and some programs are evolving from a master’s to a doctoral level program. She also described how she would love to see more connections between Mayo Clinic and the OT program at the University of Minnesota Rochester to focus on research activities and expand and improve the care OTs provide. Tamara and the team of researchers are improving the lives of their patients thanks to their passion for healthcare as well as the innovation and research focus at Mayo Clinic. Hopefully, more patients will benefit from their projectin the future and more research and innovation will come from their success. To read more about Tamara’s research, you can visit this link.