Changing Lives, One Job at a Time – Spotlight on OT During Occupational Therapy Month

Changing Lives, One Job at a Time – Spotlight on OT During Occupational Therapy Month

By: Michele Berro, MA, OTR/L & Lisa Deshaies, OTR/L, CHT
Occupational Therapy Month

Changing Lives, One Job at a Time – Spotlight on OT During Occupational Therapy Month

Changing Lives, One Job at a Time – Spotlight on OT During Occupational Therapy Month 1024 829 Health Services Los Angeles County

*Lorena in the Rancho Works Café

The Occupational Therapy (OT) profession dates back to 1917. Los Angeles County hired its first Occupational Therapist in 1926 to help “inmates” living at the County Poor Farm be productive despite whatever circumstances they faced.

Following a devastating illness or injury, adjustment to a disability and community reintegration continue to be serious challenges that our clients face today. Our Work Rehabilitation (WR) Program at Rancho Los Amigos National Rehabilitation Center is a specialized OT service that assists individuals with physical disabilities achieve their return-to-work goals. The skills that they learn are beneficial for making a successful transition to becoming contributing members of the community. Offerings include Functional Capacity Evaluation, worksite evaluation, individual and group therapy, and our unique Rancho Works program.

The Rancho Works Café & Gift Shop is in the lobby of Rancho’s Outpatient Building. This OT-run non-profit business employs former WR clients, allowing them to practice their skills in a supportive work environment. Participants develop essential skills such as time management, multi-tasking, taking responsibility and teamwork. Our program is designed for participants of all diagnoses, abilities and backgrounds to foster a sense of belonging and purpose while working alongside others toward the goal of returning to work in the community. It empowers individuals to gain the knowledge, skills, and confidence needed to maximize their work performance and ultimately improve their quality of life.

Meet Lorena. Before her stroke, she worked as a forklift driver in a warehouse. Although she wanted to return to her job, she realized that her right hemiplegia and aphasia would preclude this. After completing her WR program, Lorena stayed on as a volunteer. She learned to do everything with her left hand and improved her mobility from using a wheelchair to walking with a cane. Lorena was then hired as a paid worker at our Café & Gift Shop. Through supported employment, she increased her communication skills, improved her physical tolerances, and learned new strategies to effectively participate in work-related activities. Her positive attitude positioned her as a leader and mentor for newly hired trainees. Lorena was subsequently hired by Sodexo, Rancho’s food service vendor, and has successfully transitioned to her new job working in Rancho’s cafeteria for the past 6 months.

“The program did not just provide me with the work skills, but gave me the opportunity to build my self-confidence to do what I thought was not possible. For that I am always grateful,” said Lorena.

“I appreciate her ‘can-do’ attitude which sometimes puts some of my other employees to shame. Lorena has been very refreshing for us and we wish all employees would have the same approach to work and life. She came with very good training. We are very happy with our decision to bring Lorena on. We are hopeful we may be able to consider other graduates from your program,” said Sodexo’s Manager.

Our OT Work Rehabilitation Program at Rancho remains dedicated to changing lives one job at a time and continuing the OT legacy rooted in our County Poor Farm days.

If you have any questions, please contact Michele Berro at: