Lending a helping hand and an encouraging word

October is National Physical Therapy Month and we caught up with one of our rehabilitation team members helping a patient at IU Health Simon Cancer Center.

By IU Health Senior Journalist, T.J. Banes, tfender1@iuhealth.org

As she recently helped IU Health Simon Cancer Center patient James Dayton Jr. walk laps in the hallway, Catherine Zaegel talked about why she chose a career in physical therapy.

Born in St. Louis, Zaegel graduated from St. Louis Missouri’s Doctoral Physical Therapy Program and began working at IU Health two years ago.

“I like that I get to help patients make a little progress daily toward their goals whether pure strength, or getting back to work or home,” said Zaegel. It was when she pursued ballet that Zaegel was first introduced to a career in physical therapy.

“I never felt I was a good enough dancer to make a career out of it but was able to have exposure to PT through friends and courses that showed me I could keep ballet in my future by helping fellow dancers,” said Zaegel. “It wasn’t until I began my clinical education that I realized how amazing the world of acute care physical therapy is.”

October is National Physical Therapy Month – a time to bring awareness to the physical therapy profession, and the benefits of physical therapy. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the job outlook for physical therapists is projected to grow by 28 percent by 2026. It’s estimated there are about 200,000 physical therapists in the United States with an additional 60,000 projected to be added in the coming years.

Working with the surgical oncology team Zaegel, helps patients build up their strength and endurance during recovery. The past two years she has also rotated to the cardio/pulmonary team, medical transplant team and the Center of Life for Thoracic Transplant (COLTT) lung transplant team. She also volunteers one night a week in the ER at Riley Hospital for Children assisting with patient triage during busy hours.

As she talks to Dayton during his laps Zaegel reminds him of the new mobility action plan. The logs are kept in the patient’s rooms to help them track their walking and exercise.

“If we don’t see the patient daily, it helps them have autonomy over their goals,” said Zaegel.