Kelly Dempsey’s STEP Project at Nationwide Children’s Hospital

1. For my STEP signature project, I volunteered for Nationwide Children’s Hospital’s Close to Home Center for Physical and Occupational Therapy. This was an amazing experience, because I was able to meet many children from many different backgrounds and experiences – who all looked up to me with a smile on their faces. During this experience, I was able to facilitate rehabilitation by ensuring that all housekeeping duties were taken care of, allowing physical therapists to provide their utmost attention to their patients at all times. I also shadowed various types of interactions between physical therapists and children, to learn how they deal with diverse physical, emotional and/or mental setbacks.

2. This project allowed me to learn so much about myself. I went into this STEP project thinking that my sole dream was to attend graduate school to become a Doctor of Physical Therapy, and to then further become certified in animal rehabilitation. Little did I know that I would develop a passion for pediatric care. I have always been thrilled to be around children but have not had much experience with children who have various disabilities. I was both excited and nervous to enter this next step in my buckeye journey, but I am now forever grateful for this amazing opportunity. It has been such an honor to become a member of the Nationwide Children’s Hospital family, and to expand my knowledge of what physical therapy truly is.

My view on the world has changed tremendously because I have seen how much unconditional hope, love, and support people can have for others. Nationwide Children’s Hospital is a place where children strive to achieve their dreams; with the doctors, volunteers, and other faculty members right by their side for every step of the way. The positivity that radiates from the children and their proud family members gave me a new outlook on life; allowing me to be grateful for what I have been given and to always be proud of those around me. This STEP project has proved to me that I am indeed following the right occupational path. I dream to provide families in the future with just as much hope and support as the doctors did who I had the honor to be associated with at NCH.

3. There were many interactions and relationships that lead to the transformation that I underwent, but two of them truly stood out to me most. First, it was very honorable to meet the families of children who have survived cancer. I cannot even imagine the stress and sadness that these families have underwent for ongoing durations of time, and the expenses that came along with a child who had cancer. It was so amazing to me to see the hope, motivation, and driven attitudes behind these families – to get their loved ones back to living a normal healthy life. Regardless of whatever happened in the past, these families constantly looked forward to the brighter days that came ahead. I had the opportunity to speak with parents about their hardships as well as the boundaries that they were able to overcome, and their stories opened my eyes to how grateful people should be for their health, and how much the medical field is constantly improving their practices.

It was also very transformational to meet different families who have decided to adopt disabled children. Having the opportunity to meet multiple parents who have decided to take in a new member of the family who has special health requirements is such an amazing thing. Many of these families have completely changed around the structure of their homes and their lives in order to accommodate their newest family members. The love that these families share with their children is something beyond words, and to see their relationship grow as the child undergoes therapy makes the entire project worthwhile. Everyone has a different story, and it is an honor to get the chance to hear about the stories that people voluntarily share. There are so many inspiring people in the world, and these families truly were some of the most amazing people.

These experiences had the most humbling effect on me. Volunteering in this type of environment gave me a constant sense of purpose and gratitude. I was so grateful to surround myself with the most caring doctors, families, and children. Every single day that I walked out of Nationwide Children’s Hospital’s Close to Home Center in Clintonville, I had gained so much knowledge and appreciation of physical therapy. This STEP project allowed me to want to continue working with Nationwide Children’s, and to explore other areas of physical therapy as well.

4. This transformation was very valuable to my life since it ensured that physical therapy graduate school is the correct path for my future. I initially wanted to attend veterinary school after my undergraduate education, and began to change my aspirations as time went on. As I learned more about physical therapy, I viewed the transformational process as a magical one. I believe that attending a graduate program for physical therapy is exactly where I belong, and I never would have known that if it weren’t for this STEP signature project. Whether I decide to further continue a certification in animal rehabilitation or not is still questionable, but I believe that pediatric PT is an occupation that I never realized I would love so much. I am forever grateful for the STEP experience.