Our Continued conversations series highlights the experts behind our content. Meet the presenters, contributors, and guest editors who make a difference in their fields and inspire our learners to do the same.
Kathleen Weissberg, OTD, OTR/L, is a researcher and educator in the field of occupational therapy and has worked in a variety of clinical settings. She currently serves as Director of Education for Select Rehabilitation, a provider of contract rehabilitation services, overseeing continuing education support for the company’s 6,000 full-time therapists nationwide.
An expert on topics including dementia, palliative care, reimbursement challenges, and Medicare documentation and billing, Weissberg is a well-known lecturer in the field and has authored numerous publications.
Why did you initially pursue the field of occupational therapy?
In high school I joined a group called Medical Explorers. We met at the hospital and had many different guest speakers talk to us about what they do. There was a woman who spoke to us who was an occupational therapist, and I will never forget her. She brought in all this adaptive equipment such as the sock aid, and I thought it was all so cool. I took the next step and asked to be a volunteer in the hospital’s OT department and got to see all the wonderful things these people were doing, and to me, that was it. I was sold.
Why do you think this field stood out to you above the others?
Occupational therapy is so purposeful, meaningful and functional. Back in the day, you didn’t hear “patient-centered care” across specialties the way you do now, but OT has always been person-centered, and that’s what made this profession click for me.
Is there a certain patient population you are most drawn to treating?
I went to school at D’Youville College in Buffalo, New York, which offered one of the first master’s programs in OT in the country. I really connected with the program chair. She had a neurology background, which fascinated me and ended up being the field I went into after graduation. I worked with patients with head trauma at a rehabilitation hospital for the first few years of my career and still consider neuro my first love. Eventually, I transitioned to long-term care and found that I loved it as well and never went back.
"Occupational therapy is so purposeful, meaningful and functional. Back in the day, you didn’t hear 'patient-centered care' across specialties the way you do now, but OT has always been person-centered, and that’s what made this profession click for me."
What led you to the educator role you have today?
I spent many years in a management role in the field of skilled nursing. I’ve been a single-site manager, a multi-site manager, and a vice president before transitioning back into a clinical specialist role. Now, my primary focus is education. I work for a company called Select Rehabilitation as their Education Director and oversee all of the continuing education for our 16,000 full-time, part-time, per-diem, and contract therapists nationwide. All of this is made possible through technology, which I’ve always been fascinated by.
How has technology impacted your profession through the years?
Technology has allowed us to make so many improvements in our field and gives us greater access to learning. When I went back to school for my doctorate, my capstone research looked at whether using technology for education is truly effective for clinical practice, and my research found overwhelmingly that it is.
You do lobbying work on behalf of the field. Why is that important to you?
The field is constantly changing, and we need to embrace that. Some changes are good, and some may not be so good, so we have to advocate for our profession. I think we as clinicians have the opportunity to drive what the changes are to ensure that ultimately the patients are best served.
What inspires you most about your profession?
The cliché answer is “helping people,” but it’s so true. Early in my career I had one of those patients who sticks with you. She’d suffered a stroke 27 years prior to coming to therapy. This young lady who struggled to walk into the clinic the first day walked out after just a couple of weeks with perfect gait. She could use her assistive device, she could take the subway, and she made so much progress overall. You look at these individual successes, and that’s what keeps you going.
I've switched focus and don’t treat patients as much anymore, but what keeps me going now is all the advances we’re seeing in our practice and being able to learn about those and then teach others about them. When someone comes back to me and says that a tip I gave them really worked, it’s a shining moment. It’s not my clinical success anymore, but it’s teaching others so that they can have clinical success, and when they do it really makes me really happy.
You’ve presented for Continued’s OccupationalTherapy.com and other continued learning sites for a number of years. What keeps you dedicated to continued’s course offerings?
What I’ve come to find is that the content Continued offers is quite varied and allows people to learn about things they may not be exposed to otherwise. They bring in some really top-notch speakers, and the topics are pertinent to our clinical practice and always cover the latest and greatest in the industries they serve. It’s also so cost-effective and really a high-quality product. I really like being associated with it and recommend it to my colleagues all the time.
"The content Continued offers is quite varied and allows people to learn about things they may not be exposed to otherwise."