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When OTs Wore White Shoes

Therapy on Wheels

Published January 18, 2016 9:24 AM by Debra Karplus
The other day I drove by the local Bloodmobile parked in front of a large downtown bank near my house. It brought to mind an old fantasy that I had entertained for years, but never actually acted on it. 

During most of my years working as an occupational therapist, my market niche was rural Central Illinois. My clients were basically facilities and agencies that were unable to find an occupational therapist that was willing to drive to the hinterlands to provide rehabilitation service to geriatric clients. I travelled in some of Illinois' worst winter weather and in the warmer months I drove amidst all kinds of heavy duty highway construction, to see patients in long term care facilities around the states. 

My practice later expanded to performing wheelchair evaluations, doing home visits for the birth-to-three population, and also evaluating students in schools and attending numerous Individualized Education Plan (IEP) meetings and team meetings at small town schools. My tiny station wagon, and more recently my Honda Civic, had so much therapy paraphernalia, as well as files on each of my facilities and each of the patients on my caseloads, in the back or in the trunk that a simple routine weekend trip to the supermarket was a challenge in terms of finding room in the car for groceries.

And though I don't think I have ever driven any vehicle much larger than a hatchback (I recall owning an AMC Gremlin, circa 1975) my fantasy involved owning and driving my own "therapy clinic on wheels", something about the size of the Bloodmobile or the library's Bookmobile, all around Illinois that was completely accessible for even a wide wheelchair. It would hold all the therapy equipment necessary to provide comprehensive services at that time, such as a Deltoid aid, and possibly even some parallel bars if I could squeeze them in.

As curious as I often am, I searched online to see if any occupational therapist or even physical therapist, speech and language pathologist, or other health care professional had taken the step beyond my fantasy and brought therapy services to the patient in a recreational vehicle type of transportation. Perhaps I didn't use the correct key words in my search, but I didn't stumble upon any mobile health care providers who were servicing out-of-town clients in this way.

With over forty years of therapy work behind me, and the fact that yes, indeed, I now drive like an old lady (I'm now in my mid-60s, so I think I have a good excuse!) I really don't see myself purchasing an RV and converting it into a therapy mobile. But I am darn curious if any of my readers know of a trailblazing OT or PT who is hitting the open road in a large vehicle and inviting patients into it for rehabilitation.


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hosein zamani May 4, 2019 6:55 AM

I too have thought of doing something similar to that. In my town we also had a Book Mobile...I believe that is what sparked my interest in doing so.  It would be interesting to do but I"m curious about liability issues...if any

LORIE ROWLES June 15, 2016 10:23 PM

Thanks for reading and commenting, Alex

Debbie K, author

Debra Karplus January 20, 2016 9:23 AM

Interesting therapy.

Alex Hendry January 20, 2016 5:43 AM

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