Collage Rehabilitation Partners Appoints Shannon Swick to Chief Executive Officer

Staff Stories



Making the Difference: Teresa Flamini and MJ Schmidt

Years of Service (and Friendship) Brought These Three Together for Lunch and Laughter!

Not many healthcare professionals can say, truthfully, that they have known those in their care across decades. Some of us at Collage Rehabilitation Partners across the country can make that claim. Recently, a couple of ReMed’s team members who have that privilege got together to share lunch, catch up, and have a few laughs with a client – and friend –  they have known for years.

Leslie came to ReMed more than 30 years ago. She initially received residential post-acute rehabilitation and, when ready,  moved into her own apartment, with ReMed community services in her home. Team members, Teresa Flamini and MJ Schmidt have been working to support individuals with brain injury at ReMed for years. In her role as a Recreation Therapist, Teresa recognizes the importance of maintaining relationships and making time for friends. This lunch was not only fun, but a great way for Leslie to get out in the community in a comfortable and COVID-safe way. Lunch included a re-enactment of a photo taken in 1997 (ouch), remembering Leslie’s beloved cats, and stories about her job at the Academy of Natural Sciences in Philadelphia many moons ago. We are so lucky to have these life-long relationships and even happier to be able to share experiences and learn from one another for so many years. Getting back into life after COVID has not been easy for any of us. An outdoor lunch with friends is a great start.

Now that’s how you make a difference! Thanks to MJ and Teresa for getting this reunion together!



Making the Difference: Marla Baltazar-Mars

Looking for A Unique Internship brought Marla to Learning Services in Colorado

Marla Baltazar-Mars came to Learning Services because she wanted a unique internship. While pursuing her Master’s degree in Behavior Analysis at the University of North Texas, she became interested in brain injury. Soon she found just how hard it might be to find an internship to put her interest and new knowledge to the test. Fortunately, Marla used her networking skills to pursue her goal. After meeting Dr. Jeff Kupfer at the annual Applied Behavior Analysis Conference, she followed up and found that in fact, he knew of the perfect opportunity. Dr. Kupfer connected to Marla to Learning Services’ Neurobehavioral Program in Colorado, and soon she was there, pursuing her dream.

Marla completed her internship in July of 2021 and just completed her thesis exploring language acquisition after brain injury. She continues to work at Learning Services as a Registered Behavior Technician with her BCBA in sight! She will sit for that exam in September. In the meantime, Marla is instrumental in behavior programming in Colorado and loves being part of the Colorado team.

Collage Rehabilitation Partners is committed to helping prepare the next generation of healthcare professionals, offering affiliations, internships, and co-op experiences in PT, OT, SLP, Psychology, Behavior Analysis, Social Work, and Therapeutic Recreation. We are so lucky to have teams who are experts in brain injury and willing to share their knowledge and expertise with students.

Now that’s how you make a difference! Great job Marla and best of luck on the exam!



Nurses Recognition Week

Staff Spotlight: Meet Mary Anne Saveoz, RN, ReMed in Eastern Pennsylvania

National Nurses week is  May 6, until Thursday, May 12 (which coincides with Florence Nightingale’s birthday)!

Today we celebrate Mary Anne Saveoz, RN, Nurse Clinician in Eastern Pennsylvania. Mary Anne has been with ReMed for over 24 years as a Rehabilitation Case Manager and recently transitioned to the role of Nurse Clinician.

How did you get involved in this type of work as a Rehabilitation Nurse?
When I graduated from Gwynedd-Mercy College Nursing School in 1973 (yes, 49 years ago!), I started working on a medical-surgical floor at Fitzgerald-Mercy Hospital, Darby, Pa. After two years of learning the basics, I transferred to their ICU/CCU unit to learn all that I didn’t even know I didn’t know! Over the next two years I was like a sponge and learned so much! During a code one day I realized I wasn’t hearing well enough to be confident in the Doctors’ orders being shouted over all the noise. I decided to apply to Magee Rehabilitation Hospital in Philadelphia and got the job (and I bgot hearing aids). It was an amazing place–helping people learn to do all kinds of functional daily tasks a despite their disabilities. These skills went with me as I went on to Case Management roles in rehabilitation units, home care and, eventually ReMed. I realized along the way that growing up with my Mom suffering with severe Rheumatoid Arthritis and no help for our family of six kids is what pushed me to help people and their families with disabilities,

What do you like best about working for ReMed?
The freedom and flexibility to use my nursing knowledge and experiences to help with the management of these medically complex individuals with brain injury – some 20, 30 and 40 years post injury. I have been able to be part of an amazing team that helps educate not only the patients, their families and insurance adjusters, but also Doctors and hospitals we partner with to provide all their routine and urgent medical care. Advocating how to see and address each person’s cognitive and behavioral deficits/needs along with their medical issues has been very challenging but so rewarding.

Can you share a story that’s especially important to you related to your work in this job?
A large part of my job has been to schedule and take patients to specialty medical appointments. While there, presenting medical/cognitive/behavioral information to providers is imperative to then creating a realistic plan of care that the patient and staff will be able to carry out. Translating this plan into doable tasks for 24 hour/day non-nursing staff is critical. As in other families, unexpected medical crises, cancer and death occurs. I have been honored to help many patients and their families through these devastating times. One of the most unique events I was able to be a part of was helping a family and the patient’s ReMed family say goodbye to him after living with us for over 30 years. He was in college when he sustained his first TBI. He was able to walk, and despite many behavioral issues, endeared himself to us and the community. He suffered a second injury that left him quadraparetic and wheelchair bound for about 10 years. A cancer diagnosis came quickly and within a month he was put on hospice. When I visited him the next day I realized he only had a few days left. His family was able to get here by the following evening. I was able to coordinate with other staff to notify many staff who had worked with him over these 30 years and many people were able to visit that next day to say goodbye. It was Thanksgiving week and many of the younger staff had never experienced hospice or death before. I felt it needed to be a celebration of his life, so I picked up decorations, a copybook to write “memories” in, and a large stuffed black horse–all of which the hospice graciously let us decorate his room with. He loved horses, and they loved him back. For years he volunteered at a local equestrian therapy farm, and groomed and rode a black horse named Beauty. We wanted him to see Beauty one more time. The farm agreed to trailer Beauty to the hospital parking lot and we moved him in his bed outside. It was a magical 30 minutes of Beauty sniffing his hand and face, and eating apples out of his supported hand. After the Music Therapist played and sang for him, he said goodbye to his brothers and his ReMed family. He was truly loved!

What do you like to do when you’re not working?
I’ve always enjoyed singing in choirs. Ten years ago I had the opportunity to audition for the Philly Pops Festival Chorus and had the honor of singing with other adults at the Kimmel center with the Pops Orchestra several times each year during concerts. Time with my family – my daughter, Tina, and son, Christian (pictured here with me) – and friends is important, and I love traveling and time at the Jersey shore!

What’s a fun fact about you?
I love musical theater and for about 30 years was involved with community theaters throughout Delaware County doing everything from singing and dancing to stage crew, costumes and props.

What advice would you give to someone that’s looking into being a Rehabilitation Nurse?
Rehabilitation Nurses have an amazing network both locally and nationally. It takes time to learn the basic skills for many different types of disabilities. You have to be willing to work in the trenches and talk to patients in a way that puts them at ease with these personal tasks. And there are always new things and new equipment to learn. Rehabilitation Nursing is not just practiced in a particular hospital or unit, it is a frame of practice that can be used anywhere a disabled person is. You can help someone where they are –physically, and wherever they are on the course of their disability. In a spiritual light–I have been blessed to be able to help many people – It’s a Wonderful Life!



Nurses Recognition Week

Staff Spotlight: Meet Sharon Hallahan, BSN, RN, CRRN, CBIS, ReMed in Eastern Pennsylvania

National Nurses week is  May 6, until Thursday, May 12 (which coincides with Florence Nightingale’s birthday)!

Today we celebrate Sharon Hallahan, BSN, RN, CRRN, CBIS, who, after 14 years as a Rehabilitation Case Manager at ReMed, a Collage Rehabilitation Partner in Eastern Pennsylvania, recently transitioned to her new role of Nurse Clinician.

How did you get involved in this type of work as a Nurse?
After working as a CNA in a free-standing acute care rehabilitation hospital while in nursing school I was hooked. I accepted an offer to work there full-time upon graduation. I enjoyed working with the spinal cord injured population and assisted in the development of a premier ventilator dependent program. Developing close therapeutic relationships with the patients and their families and subsequently caring for them in the outpatient setting lent itself to a rewarding start to a lifelong career in Rehabilitation Nursing. Seeing the face of someone who has gained increased independence despite medical challenges motivated me to continue Rehabilitation Nursing as a lifelong career, serving in various rehabilitation clinical and management positions.

Early on in my career I was introduced to and became involved in the Greater Philadelphia Chapter of the Association of Rehabilitation Nurses (ARN) and subsequently served in the past as Board Member, Secretary, Treasurer and President. Having presented at national ARN conferences on topics inclusive of ventilator dependent SCI care, outpatient lifetime follow-up care for SCI, patient education, advocacy, social media, ethics, medical complexity, UTI prevention/treatment, dual diagnoses of cancer & TBI and navigation of end-of-life issues with traumatic brain injury. I continue to be amazed and humbled by the expertise of those I believe in are my nursing role models.

What do you like best about working for Collage Rehabilitation?

I enjoy my current role travelling throughout the Philadelphia area programs to provide nursing expertise and direct care services while working closely with interdisciplinary teams to provide exceptional and innovative rehabilitation and treatment to individuals with mild, moderate, and severe brain injuries. Relationship building with the clients and their families, as well as staff, over the years has been very rewarding and an important and added bonus. Working in a different setting every day in this long-term continuum of residential and supported living environments allows me to provide nursing support in a variety of multiple and challenging situations.

Can you share a story that’s especially important to you related to your work in this job?

I work in a continuum that provides support to individuals as their life needs change, even when life-altering news and a life-threatening diagnosis of cancer enters the picture. As a nurse I have played a critical role in caring for and managing medical complexities of care combined with TBI sequelae for several individuals. ReMed’s philosophy of care of Supporting Even the Longest Journey was always at work in the background. Putting systems and supports into place, working in conjunction with a hospice team and supporting the client, family, peers and staff allowed all of us to celebrate life and say goodbye in a meaningful and thoughtful manner. End-of-life celebrations in the form of a huge party or one last meeting from a hospital bed in the hospital parking lot to interact with a horse named Beauty will be remembered forever.

What do you like to do when you’re not working?

I love to travel, spend time with family and friends and do activities to stay healthy and fit.
What’s a fun fact about you?
I would be an international photographer and a baker if I didn’t attend nursing school.

What advice would you give to someone that’s looking into being a Nurse?

Find your passion. Making a difference in the lives of others allows you to grow personally and professionally while having so many different arenas to choose from to practice. I have worked in various clinical and management positions over the years and have enjoyed the flexibility that a nursing career can offer. Rehabilitation Nursing also lends itself to opportunities to get involved at the local and national level to support those with disabilities from many different positions: collaborators, educators, care coordinators, advocates, and change agents. I work with other healthcare team members including physiatrists, therapists, and many more specialists to create comprehensive care plans based on patient goals and maximum potential. Rehabilitation Nursing is a philosophy of care, not a work setting or a phase of treatment.



May is Better Hearing & Speech Month

Staff Spotlight: Meet Cassi Sweeney, MS, SLP, a Speech-Language Pathologist at Collage Home and Community Rehabilitation Program in Texas

May is Better Hearing & Speech Month raising awareness about communication disorders and the role of ASHA members in providing treatment. The 2022 theme is “Connecting People.” Meet Cassi Sweeney, MS, SLP, a Speech-Language Pathologist at Collage Home and Community Rehabilitation Program in Texas.

How did you get involved in this type of work as a Speech Therapist?
After working for 13 years in a long-term acute care setting specializing in traumatic brain injury, strokes and neurodegenerative diseases, I wanted to provide therapy that would integrate all aspects of cognitive communication and dysphagia in my patient’s home environment.

What do you like best about working for Collage Home and Community Rehabilitation?
I believe in a holistic approach to rehabilitation that includes collaboration among therapists and our patients. I enjoy working with talented therapists that are skilled and compassionate. I also feel like I have a lot of autonomy but always have support from case managers, and supervisors.

Can you share a story that’s especially important to you related to your work in this job?
One of the worst parts of the pandemic was how isolating it was for everyone, especially our vulnerable populations with autoimmune deficiency. I worked with a patient that had a brain injury during this time of isolation. As she progressed in therapy, I was made aware of the importance of socialization. She made significant progress with our team, and as a goal she organized a birthday party and invited the therapists. It was a great way to celebrate her achievements, and was very therapeutic.

What do you like to do when you’re not working?
I am a yogi, gardener, and love spending time anywhere on the water and with friends.

What’s a fun fact about you?
I survived a plane crash.

What advice would you give to someone that’s looking into being a Speech Therapist?
Work in a hospital for your CFY if you want to do adult therapy, especially dysphagia. Always approach everything you do with compassion, don’t overexplain your therapy, let your patients identify goals, and never stop learning.



Making the Difference: Drexel Co-Op Students

How One Drexel Co-Op Student Took Her Experience Even Further

Drexel Co-Op students majoring in psychology, nursing, biology, behavioral health counseling, public health, and more join our team for an immersive hands-on care experience. As Brain Injury Specialists in our programs, they learn what it is like to be part of a clinical team, how to assist people living with brain injury with their everyday lives, as well as critical skills like documentation and medication administration. Our Drexel Co-Op students always exceed our expectations with their energy, quick learning, and creativity.

Many of our Co-Op students stay on with us after their co-op ends, working part-time while finishing school. One such student, Gianna Joyner, has taken her experience even one step further. Gianna worked with our Co-Op’s Coordinator, MJ Schmidt, to further expand her experience in brain injury. This January, Gianna joined the Mind Your Brain Foundation as a volunteer, assisting founder Candace Gantt (pictured next to Gianna on a Zoom call!) with her amazing podcast. In this role, Gianna has gotten an opportunity to work behind the scenes, connecting with speakers for the podcast and assisting in their creation.

Now that’s how you make a difference! Great job Gianna

And for those interested, Mind Your Brain Podcasts can be found here!

Podcast



Making the Difference: Drexel Co-Op Students

Our Drexel Co-Op Program has Made a Difference at ReMed for over 20 years

For over 20 years, ReMed, A Collage Rehabilitation Partner has been excited to work with Drexel University’s Co-Op Program for many years.  All together, ReMed has welcomed 38 co-op students, with students working across our brain injury programs in southeastern PA and NJ. Co-Op students come on board as Brain Injury Specialists, working full-time for a six-month semester. They work directly with clients, helping them to employ the strategies developed by the clinical team for everyday tasks like personal care, meal preparation, medication management, exercise, and leisure. Their majors are wide-ranging but tend to cluster in health and human services. Common majors are nursing, behavioral health counseling, biology/pre-med, psychology, and pre-physical therapy.

ReMed is committed to helping prepare the next generation of healthcare professionals. Co-op training includes all elements of our staff training, both classroom and experiential. Additionally, co-op students take the Brain Injury Fundamentals course and work with our training team to gain additional knowledge on managing the stress associated with compassion fatigue; the business side of rehabilitation; and networking within the industry.

Many of our co-op students stay on after they complete their semester, working evenings and weekends. Almost all would recommend this co-op to others!

 

Now that’s how you make a difference! Great job to our recent co-op students Rani, Christopher, Joseph and Lauren!



April is Social Work Month

Staff Spotlight: Meet Sarah Blattenberger, RSW, RBT, CBIS - Rehabilitation Case Manager in Covington, Louisiana

How did you get involved in this type of work?
I originally started working for NRLC as a day support staff while I was completing my degree to become a Social Worker. Originally, I planned on working in the foster care system, but fell in love with my job here at NRLC (now ReMed, A Collage Rehabilitation Partner). I was very fortunate to be offered the case manager position and have been in this role for six years.

What do you like best about your job?
My favorite thing about my job is the amount of support you receive day to day to grow as a professional. I am so fortunate to work with an amazing team of hilarious, smart, out of the box thinkers who make every effort to have fun and better our clients.

Can you share a meaningful client story that highlights what you do in your role?
I have so many stories about our clients that have given me so much joy and appreciation for this work over the years. One of my highlights is is developing relationships with families and guiding them through an extremely difficult time in their lives. Most recently, we had an individual who suffered a stroke and his mobility, speech, and overall cognition were impaired. It was wonderful to experience the joy from the family and the client when he walked out of the program. All of us were in tears!

What do you like to do when you’re not working?
When I am not working, I am spending as much time as possible with my three-year-old daughter, Luna (pictured with Sara below). We just finished planting our garden, and she is over the moon that her rose bush had a rose bloom faster than mine!

What’s a fun fact about you? 
a fun fact about me is that I am currently completing my Master’s Degree program to become a Behavior Analyst (one of the many ways ReMed has supported me over the years!). More fun is that I’ve seen every episode of Grey’s Anatomy more than once… and there are 19 seasons.

What advice would you give to someone that’s thinking about pursuing Social Work as a profession?
If I were to give someone a piece of advice that wants to go into Social Work is to make your days fun, rely on your team when you get stuck, always be willing to speak up and advocate for your clients, and lastly to maintain a healthy balance between your work life and your home life.

And Covington Program Director, Noramia Ford, adds “besides being a great social workers, she is a WONDERFUL MOTHER!!! She is awesome and I couldn’t do it without her.”



Making the Difference: Gwynedd Mercy University Occupational Therapy Students (and Our Staff)

Gwynedd Mercy's Master's Student Works with ReMed's Occupational Therapist

Gwynedd Mercy University’s (located in eastern Pennsylvania) first cohort of Master’s-prepared Occupational Therapy students are in their last semester of school, completing their fieldwork requirements and we are proud to be an affiliated site. Since January, OT student Samantha Cancel has been working with ReMed’s OT Morgan Bird in our Short-Term Rehabilitation and Neurobehavioral Programs. Sam has had the opportunity to work with a variety of individuals, learning “hands-on” about assessment and treatment in post-acute neurologic rehabilitation. Some of her favorite things about her experience with ReMed were home assessments, conducted both virtually and in person; working “the floor” in the Neurobehavioral Program and seeing how OT recommendations for morning routines and other aspects of care are implemented outside of therapy sessions; and working directly with Morgan to increase both her clinical and documentation skills.

ReMed is committed to helping prepare the next generation of healthcare professionals, offering affiliations, internships, and co-op experiences in PT, OT, SLP, Psychology, Social Work, and Therapeutic Recreation. We are so lucky to have teams who are expert in brain injury and willing to share their knowledge and expertise with students. We wish Sam well as she moves on to her next placement and are excited to welcome another Gwynedd student in April.

Now that’s how you make a difference! Great job Sam and Morgan



April is National Occupational Therapy Month!

Staff Spotlight: Meet Erin Jones - Occupational Therapist in Our Colorado Program

How did you get involved in this type of work?
I worked in group homes for adults with developmental disabilities during my college years and found that I enjoyed helping people learn how to be as independent as possible. From there, I researched and shadowed various medical professions and fell in love with OT!

What do you like best about your job?
OT draws out my creative side. Each client I work with is unique and I have to think of individualized ways to engage them in activities that are meaningful to them. Each day is different and that keeps me energized and engaged in my role.

Can you share a meaningful client story that highlights what an Occupational Therapist might address?
I have a client right now at Learning Services who formerly worked as a mechanic and identified a goal to improve his mechanic skills. He struggled to understand how various games and assembly projects related to mechanic work during our OT sessions, and therefore, was resistant to participating in sessions. So after some time of scouring the internet, I found an actual lawn mower engine, which I was able to learn how to assemble. I brought it into Learning Services as a real life mechanic skill training task. I enjoyed expanding my own skills and finding a way to best engage and challenge this particular client and any other future mechanics we care for.

What do you like to do when you’re not working?
I like to cook and make pottery in my free time.

What’s a fun fact about you?
I ride a tandem bike with my husband. We are even able to do some tricks together on it.

What advice would you give to someone that’s looking into being an Occupational Therapist?
Get a job as a caregiver or other helping role where you can learn foundational skills like how to assist people with self care and transfers. It’s also a great idea to shadow OTs in a variety of settings, especially since the day to day role of an OT can look very different depending on the setting.



February is International Recreational Therapy Month

Staff Spotlight: Meet Kim Juarez – Collage Home & Community Rehabilitation Partners - Southern California

How did you get involved in this type of work?
While I was in college, I took an elective class that highlighted the various job opportunities in the field of recreation. I also had a childhood friend who, at the same time, had acquired a spinal cord injury. I accompanied him as he was exploring adaptive sports from his wheelchair. I knew at that point that I wanted to be involved with helping to bring joy to people’s lives through adaptive leisure and therapeutic recreation activities.

What do you like best about your job?
So many factors it’s hard to name just one. Being a part of my patients and family’s lives is so rewarding! I love that this program allows me to think outside of the box and provide unique and personalized therapeutic interventions to every patient I work with! Seeing the joy and happiness on my patients’ faces as they accomplish new goals is the BEST! Being on cases with all of our amazing therapists makes my job even more rewarding!

Can you share a story that’s especially important to you related to your job?
Building and establishing trust is of utmost importance! I recently was able to have a patient attend a sailing activity in Long Beach. This patient had not been out in the community in over a year. Seeing the joy on her face and leaving her wheelchair behind at the dock as she sat on the sailboat and sailed through the harbor was one of many moments that I am so grateful to provide as a recreation therapist.

What do you like to do when you’re not working?
I love finding and exploring new hiking trails. I also have a succulent obsession (lol). I’ve been married for 26 years, and I have a son that is a junior at San Francisco State University, and my daughter is a high school senior and has been a dancer most of her life. Any time I get to spend with them is time I always cherish!

What is a fun fact about you?
I was a competitive figure skater through my childhood and teenage years.

What advice would you give to someone that’s looking into being a recreational therapist?
Shadow therapists and volunteer in various therapeutic settings!

 


 



Making the Difference: Kevin Minners and Diane Amicone

Brain Injury Specialist and SLS Director Working Together

Our staff work hard to make a difference! 

ReMed has always prided itself on cultivating and incorporating the talents of our team members into the work that we do. Diane Amicone, Program Director of our Supported Living System, is truly a master at this. Across her nearly 35 years with the company, Diane has shepherded hundreds of staff, assisting many along the way to identify and obtain their career goals and dreams.

One example is Supported Living System team member Kevin Minners. Kevin joined ReMed a year ago, applying as a university student/recent graduate. Kevin came on board as a Brain Injury Specialist, working to help individuals with their daily needs, as well as their recreational and vocational pursuits. However, his real passion was exercise science and fitness training. Within a year of his employment, Kevin and Diane worked together to alter his role to become the fitness trainer within the Supported Living System. Kevin worked with physical therapist Lauren Robinson to hone his skills and develop programming, and today he is responsible for helping our clients stay active and fit!

Now that’s how you make a difference! Great job, Kevin—and Diane!