April is Occupational Therapy Month; Meet your OT, Erin Sandoz

By Scott Bidroski

The American Occupational Therapy Association (AOTA) has declared the month of April as Occupational Therapy Month. And at Gordon Memorial Hospital (GMH), a familiar face fills the role of Occupational Therapist.

Erin (Kruger) Sandoz, a 2013 graduate of Gordon-Rushville High School, is your local choice for Occupational Therapy in Sheridan County.

Sandoz, along with her husband Thomas and daughter Hallie, have set up shop here in Sheridan County, a place where Sandoz is all too familiar.

“Health care has become highly specialized and specific to certain populations but I wanted to put into practice all the skills I had learned in school. You can’t get that anywhere but a small town that is rural, like Gordon. Plus, how great that I can give back to the community that gave to me growing up,” said Sandoz. 

“It’s hard to be bored when I see adults in the hospital and our therapy gym, the elderly, and kids. Even more than that though, I knew I wanted to raise a family in this area where conservative values and a slower paced life are still prevalent,” she added.

The spark that ignited Sandoz’s interest in the Occupational Therapy field was watching how it helped her brother, Paul Kruger. Paul has Down Syndrome and benefited greatly from his time spent with his therapist.

“I felt a strong interest in a direct helping profession so I looked into health careers. While all health professions are great, I was drawn to therapy because of the longer term relationships I can cultivate and the ability to give direct help in functional daily activity,” said Sandoz.

Sandoz notes you may be referred to an occupational therapist for a large number of reasons including shoulder, elbow, wrist, or hand injury, pain or dysfunction. Cognitive impairments from dementia, cancer, brain injury, or developmental delay. Or poor home safety, need for assistance with self-cares or strengthening after an illness or injury, proper ergonomics in your work environment, or fine motor deficits.

Some other common diagnoses that may prompt you to see an OT are arthritis, carpal tunnel, wrist fracture, shoulder surgery, weakness from cancer or other illnesses.

Haley Bidroski, director of Rehabilitation Services at GMH, understands the benefits of having a skillful and knowledgeable OT on staff.

“Having an occupational therapist on our staff really benefits our hospital and community as a whole. Erin is able to provide services that patients would otherwise have to drive 45 minutes to an hour to receive,” said Bidroski.

“We are able to offer both OT and PT (Physical Therapy)to our hospital inpatient and swing bed patients which works on preparing a patient to return home safely and in a condition that they are able to perform all of their normal daily activities. In addition, Erin provides OT services to the school system and acts as a local expert for teachers and families to easily reach out to as she is readily available,” added Bidroski.

A service that Sandoz provides that may surprise you; home safety evaluations. She will walk through your home and make recommendations to improve safety and function in your home’s environment. An individual does not need to be injured or hospitalized to receive one. Your provider can write a script for it upon your request.

Sandoz may shine the brightest in her role in the local schools. She spends two days a week working with students on handwriting, cutting, coloring, desk posture, hand strengthening, hand eye coordination, among other skills.

“Kids have endless potential and that’s so exciting and motivating to work with. It is so rewarding to see kids gain skills that unlock more independence for them,” Sandoz adds.

No matter what hat she is wearing on any given day, Sandoz’s professional experience is an asset to our community. And this month, we recognize the positive impact she has made on our community through her role as an Occupational Therapist.