Meet the Occupational Therapist: Andrew Lafleur, OTR/L, Vermont Director of Rehab

Arete Rehab sat down with Andrew Lafleur, OTR/L, the Director of Rehab for our Vermont long term care (LTC) facilities.

Arete Rehab is redefining successful aging.

Arete Rehab is redefining successful aging.

Q. What initially drew you to geriatric occupational therapy and working in a skilled nursing facility (SNF)?

Andrew: In all honesty, the beginning of my career in geriatric occupational therapy was motivated by the chance to have employment closer to home. My previous employment was a long daily commute that was taxing. I was fortunate to find the position with Arete Rehab in the area I wished to be and became enthusiastic about my job as a geriatric occupational therapist once immersed in the demographic. Now I am passionate about the work I do. I feel a great deal of self worth and enjoy how much I am able to help others perform their most basic skills that so many of my patients yearn to be able achieve to keep their independence. I feel as if the geriatric community is often forgotten as many people do not desire to volunteer or visit the skilled nursing facilities (SNF). Once you take the time, or become a member of the staff, you have so many opportunities to feel like you are truly making a difference in someone's day.

If you can be the one reason someone smiles during their day, then you are in the right niche in your field.
— Andrew Lafleur, OTR/L, Director of Rehab

Q. What is your favorite part of being an occupational therapist in the skilled nursing facility (SNF) setting?

Andrew: My favorite part about being an occupational therapist in a skilled nursing facility (SNF) setting is that I get to be one of the main forces behind helping people increase their overall quality of life. When I walk into a patient’s room, people are usually excited to see me because they know that I will be honest, patient, but persistent to help the person achieve their goals. I get to be creative each and every day, utilize my strengths as a therapist, and provide the tools and knowledge that will help increase their independence.

Q. What is the biggest challenge in your field?

Andrew: The biggest challenge I face in the field revolves around working at such a personal level with my patients. We develop relationships that may either be short or long lived. Working with an aging population, it is inevitable that many patients will pass at some point during our time of care. We as therapists must be at peace with this truth but be compassionate to those facing this stage of life and be willing to be whatever they need. Navigating this element of the job is never easy.

Q. Have you experienced any challenges with productivity demands or the physical demands of the work? If so, how have you managed them?

Andrew: I personally have not experienced any challenges with productivity demands of working in the skilled nursing facility (SNF) setting. I have been lucky enough to work for a company that believes in creating personal relationships with each resident that we work with rather than meeting common productivity demands. However, I do make every effort to instill quality care standards that will lead to efficient work. I have several friends who work for other companies that provide services to skilled nursing facility (SNF) settings and they frequently tell me how lucky I am to not have to worry as much about meeting unrealistic productivity requirements.

Q. Skilled nursing facility (SNF) work can have the reputation of being repetitious. What have you done over the years to keep your work fresh and engaging?

Andrew: I am fortunate to find my job to be anything but repetitious. I am an occupational therapist, but also a Director of Rehab which helps break up my day and keeps my work fresh and engaging. When I provide services, I try to find the motivators that work for the person I am working with, rather than a generic motivator that might result in non compliance. I have been known to break out a magic trick here and there to put a smile on someones face to keep their session upbeat and fun. I get to oversee all rehab services for physical, occupational and speech therapy which provides me with creative alternatives that build upon my “bag of tricks.”

A job is only as repetitive as you make it.
— Andrew Lafleur, OTR/L, Director of Rehab

Q. What changes do you hope to see in skilled nursing facility (SNF) occupational therapy care in the next 5 years?

Andrew: In the next 5 years I hope to see a rise in the number of occupational therapists (OT)/physical therapists (PT) and speech therapists (SLP) that desire to work in the skilled nursing facility (SNF) setting. As a Vermont Director of Rehab, it is difficult to find enough OT/PT and SLP’s to work and adequately cover the services of the growing Vermont geriatric population.

Q. What resources have you utilized to grow your practice over the years?

Andrew: I have found that the best way to grow my practices over the years is by networking. I have been surprised by how small the therapy community is and at how willing they are to help advance ones therapeutic skills.  After all, we all went into this profession for a reason. I network through social media sites such as LinkedIn as well as old fashioned phone calling to schedule get togethers with other colleagues to discuss best practice and opportunities for improvement.

Q. What advice would you give to a student who hopes to eventually work in a skilled nursing facility (SNF) or with a geriatric population?

Andrew: I would encourage any student that has the desire to work in a skilled nursing facility (SNF) to shadow for at least a day. I believe that the best way to know if you are truly interested in something is to experience it first hand. If it is not possible to shadow, make it a priority to attend a career fair or presentation from skilled nursing facility (SNF) directors.

Q. If someone is hunting for a skilled nursing facility (SNF) job, why would you advise them to look for an Arete Rehab contracted facility?

Andrew: Throughout the years I have been working for this company, I have always felt valued and respected. I would advise any therapist to look for an Arete Rehab contracted facility because this company is truly different than all other companies providing care for the skilled nursing facility (SNF) population. They value each employee’s personal approach to the field rather than creating cookie cutter therapists. I appreciate how much the company believes in providing ethical practices and taking care of the community. Arete Rehab holds its therapists to the highest standard, but with the company’s lower productivity requirement, it allows us to build relationships with the patients, and the faculty and staff of the skilled nursing facilities making our jobs that much more enjoyable and meaningful.

Q. Lots of new grads work in a skilled nursing facility (SNF) setting. What advice would you give to someone who is just starting their first job in a SNF?

Andrew: To new grads, I would say that you should always be willing to learn. Be honest when you are unsure in either skilled implementation or just the daily duties of the job. A good therapist is one that is willing to learn and will listen. Take every opportunity to build your bag of tricks: collect the experience of others to further your skills and give what you can to those that help you succeed. As a manager that hires new employees, I value attitude. Those that show interest and passion for the field will achieve far more in the field than just learning skills along the way.

Skills can be taught, but attitude cannot.
— Andrew Lafleur, OTR/L, Director of Rehab
Arete Rehab is redefining successful aging.

Arete Rehab is redefining successful aging.

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