Laurie Jones: Occupational Therapy - an extended family affair
By Annette Gomes, Warrior Care and Transition

ARLINGTON, Va. - When deciding on a career, many choose to ask family and friends for guidance, for Fort Campbell's Occupational Therapist Laurie Jones, that plan worked out perfectly.

"Becoming an Occupational Therapy Assistant wasn't ever my original intent while in high school or even early college. My family has a few close family friends in the therapy business and so I began asking them questions regarding the career," Jones said.

As Jones finished up her core classes in college with a declared major of Biomed Equipment Technician, she decided to submit an application to the OTA and X-ray Technician programs.

"The X-ray program was just a backup in the event I wasn't accepted to the OTA program," Jones explained. "The OTA program really focused on getting [people] back on track and adapting to whatever life threw at you through purposeful activity; activities we do without thinking of how we complete them."

And the rest as they say is history. Jones graduated the OTA program in December of 2008 and began her practice at Owensboro Medical Health Hospital in Owensboro, Kentucky in March of 2009. Jones was recently named the Warrior Care Transition Program Occupational Therapist Assistant of the Year for her dedication and support to Wounded, ill and injured Soldiers. In addition to this honor, Jones and four others at the Warrior Transition Battalion, Fort Campbell, Kentucky were also recognized by the Regional Health Command-Atlantic's Cadre of Excellence Program.

"I was most excited to receive the award and was provided sort of a "heads up" by my Supervisor, Mr. Robert Binion, regarding his submission of my Excellence award around September. He informed me of the context of the write up & spoke highly of my hard work over the last fiscal year. The Cadre of the year award on the other hand was a complete surprise," Jones said.

The Kentucky native says at the heart of the award is her ability to play a key role in helping wounded, ill, and injured Soldiers attain a sense of independence in the face of functional changes that sometimes pose life-long challenges.

"At the Warrior Transition Battalion, we provide a list of life skill rebuilding activities for the Soldiers in transition to explore or rediscover and apply them to their new normal. I absolutely agree with that mission 110 percent," Jones said. "We must assist [Soldiers in transition] in any way possible to stand back on their feet emotionally, mentally and physically. It's all too often we see Soldiers transitioning out of the Army, but we are able to use this 'next chapter' in their life as a valuable tool and new slate as they become a civilian."

In the end, Jones says it is three simple values that make her career worthwhile; Compassion, Team Work and Family.

"Too often, we as occupational therapists are not able to be a part of the moment and do not get to see the full product of the difference we make. In the past couple of years, we have had some Soldiers return to see us here at the OT Department who have said 'Thanks' or spoke with us over an example of how the rehabilitation we provided has helped them. Those moments are the ones that keep us going and make it worthwhile to get up and keep coming to work."