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Ph y s i c a l T h e r a p y

story and photos By Marlene Chabot


“I’m a caregiver at heart...” ~ Pam Miller


Pam Miller (left), occupational therapist at Essentia Health Rehabilitation Center, demonstrates some therapeutic techniques with Essentia employee, Sharon Olsen.

Our hands are marvelous tools. They help us hold a baby, pick up objects, operate precision machinery and even touch the face of a loved one. Only over-use or an injury stops us from using them. Without our hands many things get left undone. Thankfully, there are qualified professionals who can help us regain the use of our hands. Occupational therapist Pam Miller, who is certified in hand therapy and lymphedema, sees approximately 8-15 patients a day at Essentia Health St. Joseph’s-Rehabilitation Center in the lower level of the Northern Orthopedics Building on South Sixth Street in Brainerd. Miller, a graduate of St. Catherine’s University in St. Paul, has helped people in our area for the past 35 years. She loves what she does and it shows. The minute Pam sits down with you her sunny disposition and soothing voice puts everyone, from a young child to a person in their 90s, at ease and you’re ready to do whatever she suggests to help you regain the use of your fingers to your shoulders. A patient with tendonitis in their hand or arm may require treatment with cortisone and ultrasound. You may need a splint formed for a fractured wrist. The post-operative patient is shown the necessary exercises to strengthen parts of their hand or arm. “The most rewarding thing for me is when the patient leaves with less problems than they came with,” Pam said. Before a treatment session starts, the hand therapist evaluates the injury. She may look at your wounds, range of motion, strength and endurance, coordination and ask about level of pain. When Pam first arrived in Brainerd from her hometown of


SUMMER 2012 | her voice

Annandale, she worked as a physical therapist assistant. Then in 1994 she went back to school in occupational therapy and did various internships to earn a hand therapist certificate which must be renewed every five years. Later, she did intensive training at Norton School of Lymphedema Therapy. The job of a hand therapist is always changing. It’s a challenge to stay informed. New research brings with it different ways of handling arm and hand problems. One of the newest innovations, a wrist splint used for fractures, has a zipper attached to it which allows the patient to remove it while showering. The daughter of Robert and Marlys Pritchard, both now deceased, has thought about a career in occupational therapy ever since she was in high school. “It was my mother, a nurse, who steered me in that direction. The opportunity to work for St. Joseph’s Hospital is what originally brought Pam to the area. It’s rare she said to find a hand therapist in a small community, generally a person with her specialty locates in a metropolitan area. If you are thinking of going into Pam’s line of work, she stressed that you should enjoy one on one work with patients. “I’m a caregiver at heart,” Pam said. It makes her feel good to know she was the one who helped a patient return to work again with a

Her Voice - Summer 2012  

• Sandy’s Country Roots - Here’s a nursery east of Brainerd whose owner re-creates her “country roots.” • Reliving History, One Bead At A Ti...

Her Voice - Summer 2012  

• Sandy’s Country Roots - Here’s a nursery east of Brainerd whose owner re-creates her “country roots.” • Reliving History, One Bead At A Ti...