Alumni Spotlight: Kyle Borges, Occupational Therapy ’18, MSOT ’20

Head shot photo of Kyle Borges
Kyle Borges, Occupational Therapy ’18, MSOT ’20

Kyle Borges ’18, MSOT ’20

Staff Occupational Therapist at Whittier Rehabilitation Hospital in Bradford, Massachusetts

The Alumni Advancement office recently interviewed Kyle Borges (KB) about his UNE experience and career plans.

Describe your path to becoming an occupational therapist and key professional choices to this point.

KB: I started at UNE as an undergraduate Health Wellness and Occupational Studies student then progressed to the graduate Occupational Therapy (OT) program. I came from a family of healthcare providers and knew I wanted to work in the healthcare industry. As part of the Master’s program in Occupational Therapy, I experienced various practice environments including a skilled nursing facility, an outpatient hand therapy clinic, and to an inpatient rehabilitation hospital/ long term acute care hospital (LTACH). The diversity of diagnoses and the critical thinking involved with inpatient rehabilitation care really appealed to me. No two sessions were ever the same.

When I finished my degree in May 2020, there were not many options for employment – hospitals were trying to limit the number of people needed in the building for the protection of the patients and staff alike. I reached out to my clinical instructor at the inpatient rehabilitation hospital/ LTACH where I completed my level 2 fieldwork, Whittier Rehabilitation Hospital, and they got me in touch with the director of rehabilitation. We had an interview, and it went well! We even talked about how the team already knew how I work, my documentation style, and my safety skills. When I returned to Whittier as an employee, I already knew many of my colleagues. I looked at who I had in my network, who I worked with before, and it paid off to reach out.

Now as an OT working independently under my own license, the people I work with can be medically complex. Many of my current patients are recovering from COVID and they are very weak. This means I am working with pulmonary patients among others diagnoses who need to build strength and endurance for everyday tasks. One of the preliminary activities is to work towards functional independence with activities of daily living (ADLs) and instrumental activities of daily living (IADLs). As an OT in my setting, I also work with my patients to practice using adaptive equipment to compensate for functional deficits and again promote their independence with meaningful occupations such as ADLs and IADLs. Practicing ADLs (dressing, bathing, grooming, etc.) and IADLs (cooking, financial management, home management, etc.) is another focus of my treatment sessions with my patients.  

How has your Screening, Brief Intervention, and Referral for Treatment (SBIRT) Student Leader Training influenced your patient interactions in practice?

KB: The training definitely gave me a different way of thinking about how I converse with a patient. So much of what we do in occupational therapy is grounded in our relationship with our client and the first impression is critical. The motivational interviewing techniques we learned as students help me now with my own patients and when working with colleagues patients.  I am able to empathize with my patients as they transition into whatever new circumstance they find themselves. I use affirmations in goal setting and reviews to keep moral up and buy-in for the rehab process strong.

From the very start in gathering demographic information, I try to see the person as a whole. When I see a patient, they have experienced something traumatic – heart attack, amputation, COVID, whatever it may be, I try to mix empathy and affirmations to provide support and continue to build rapport. I use reflective listening and summary skills everyday with my patients. I use it to have a really clear understanding of how my patients are feeling and to be sure they know I am really listening, not just making small talk. The skills from the SBIRT training are truly transferable to all parts of my work.

Do you ever experience intentional InterProfessional approaches in your work?

KB: At Whittier we have rehab team conference meetings throughout the week on each of our patients. We talk about where the patient is functionally, medically and if anyone has had a medical emergency.  Doing simulations as a UNE student helped me to be prepared for this part of my job. I joined the team with a strong knowledge base about various health providers’ roles – from the Physician Assistant to the Dietician to the Social Worker. Doing meet and greet activities with students from other programs helped me to translate all our roles in a real practice setting. I have an extra level of confidence to speak up in these team meetings because of the simulations and my experiences in SBIRT training sessions. I feel comfortable approaching people on the team in order to get to the best outcome for our patient. I talk to the physical therapist every day; I talk to respiratory therapy every day.  It is so important to know who holds what roles and who to turn to with questions.

How did your experiences at UNE impact you as a student, a person, and a professional?

KB: UNE professors ingrained in us, both in undergraduate and graduate studies, that as professionals we are treating a whole person, not just a medical condition. We chose a field that is both medical and holistic and we must also consider the human experience when working with our clients.

UNE provided opportunities for real world experiences. I benefitted from being able to try things I would actually be doing when I finished school. This translated into heightening my skills in how to be flexible, empathetic and compassionate. I continue to use these critical skills gained from my education to support and enrich the lives of the people I am working with.

Before UNE, I didn’t really know what the true definition of patient centered care meant. I learned about the importance of including the client/patient as part of the team. They are as much a part of the healthcare team as me or the doctor or the respiratory therapist. By including the patient and using a teamwork approach it can yield them the positive change they are hoping to get. There are no lapses in communication, everyone's very transparent.

What is your favorite UNE memory?

KB: UNE was such a happy place! It shaped and influenced my personality to be in such a positive environment. From President Herbert to the professors, everyone at UNE is approachable!

I loved going ice skating at the Alfond Forum as an undergraduate – Hockey games were always fun. I also really liked getting out into the community. Our professors were always sending us information about things we could sign up to do to outside of class to improve our clinical, interprofessional, or interpersonal skills which I found quite beneficial.  

My class wasn’t that big and we really formed into a little family. We were all in the same classes, studying late together and on the same track. We studied hard but we definitely had some good laughs throughout our educational journey.

What advice would you give to current students who may be job searching or graduating soon?

KB: Be patient. Embrace the learning process of being a new clinician. Always reach out to your clinical supervisors! It is never one and done.

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