Practicing therapy in rural areas requires the therapist to think a bit more independently than one in an area where there are a lot of therapists to bounce treatment techniques off of. In home health situations, the homes may be spread out for miles, there might not be a phone available and cell phone signals are not strong. During the fall and winter seasons, deer are out on roads, black ice and snow may block your path and EMS services may be miles away.
I spoke with Amanda (Mandy) Kreienheder, PTA, about what it is like to be a PTA in a rural area. She has been practicing for 21 years after graduating from St. Louis Community College in 1987. She also graduated from Inland Massage Institute in 1991, and is a certified pharmacy technician in Montana.
"For most of my career I've worked as a traveler. I've worked in Missouri, Florida, Tennessee, Alabama, Mississippi, Texas, Oregon, Idaho, Washington, New Mexico and Montana," she said.
In Mississippi, Kreienheder said a PT asked her to do an evaluation and told her he would sign it. She said no. In a home health situation in Alabama, she had to assess whether social services should be involved because there were no family members, the situation was bleak and there was a lot of poverty.
"I did have a weird thing happen to me in Alabama. I was standing on the porch of one of my home health patients and three stray dogs came up behind me and one of them bit me in the leg. I didn't know which one bit me and I had to receive the rabies vaccine."
She has been married to her husband Richard for 21 years and they live in Whitefish, Montana. She works in Lewiston, Idaho for eight days and then takes six days off. On her days off she travels back to Whitefish to the log home her and her husband built themselves.
Kreienheder went on to say, "I try to treat all my patients with care and compassion and try to meet them at their level. I try to do little ‘random acts of kindness.' It can be as small as a smile or getting them a little glass of water. It makes me feel good inside."
Kreienheder had a massage therapy clinic in Spokane for about two years and was a manager in a retirement community for the therapy department for about one to two years.
"I think with most PT schools expecting doctorates now, it would probably be beneficial for PTA schools to require BS degrees," Kreienheder said when asked about increasing educational level.