Disability Employment Success Profile: Theresa Nagle, Occupational Therapist with Paraplegia

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Theresa/Terri Nagle

60 years old

Where Do You Live?
“I live in Marshfield, MA. I am originally from Bohemia, NY (on Long Island).”

How and when did your injury occur?
“My accident was in 1977 when I was 15 years old. I was a pedestrian and I was hit by a car.”

What is your level of injury?
“I have an incomplete spinal cord injury at L1 & 2 level. I am an incomplete paraplegic with very limited use of my legs & have used a wheelchair for 45 years.”

What kind of job did you do before your injury?
“I did not have a job prior to my injury since I was so young. I graduated from Utica College of Syracuse University in 1984 with a Bachelors of Science Degree in Occupational Therapy. I have been an OT for almost 39 years.”

How did you become an OT and business owner? Was it difficult to get into this industry or go back to it as a quadriplegic?
“My struggles as an OT over the years have been interesting. First I had to prove to the college and the hospitals that I did my internships at that I would be able to perform the job. Luckily, most believed in me. However, I had challenges initially when seeking a job that some employers did not think I could perform the job. I worked initially in a rehabilitation center in a Spinal Cord Injury department.”

What kind of job accommodation do you require to be able to do your job?
“The job tasks I struggled with the most was that I could OT transfer patients, or assist in pushing their wheelchair. My employers were very accommodating since it was working in a spinal cord unit and they loved having an OT in a wheelchair since I was a great role model for the patients and staff. Since that was a very physical job, I eventually went into outpatient hand therapy. Most of my career has been in that type of setting.”

Please tell us what you do in your job? What kind of tasks do you do on a daily basis?
“Working with patients that have injuries to their arm, wrist and hand. I have not needed many accommodations in that type of setting. I have had to ask for lower tables & keep supplies lower so that I can reach easier. If I can not reach something, I just have someone else do that for me. I became a business owner in 2007 and have owned my own Therapy clinic for 15 years.”

Would you recommend this job to others with spinal cord injury? If so, why?
“I would recommend my job in any setting to a low paraplegic that has good sitting balance and arm/hand strength. The job would not be possible for a quadriplegic, it requires all hands on function and strength. My day to day involves direct contact patient care, evaluating and treating patients after they have had surgery to their arm and hand. I also make custom splints which requires a lot of scissors and tool use. The job is a lot of physical work to the arms and hands and can therefore can be tiring by the end of the day. Endurance is also necessary to complete my job. I still love my job after 39 years, it has been a fulfilling career and would recommend it to a low paraplegic. But know that it is a lot on your hands and arms (which have become worn down after the 45 years that I have been disabled).”

— Follow Theresa and her clinic at @ 2ThumbsUpHandTherapy

(photo courtesy of : https://www.wickedlocal.com/story/old-colony-memorial/2010/07/22/hand-therapist-uses-her-own/40874428007/ )



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Spinal Cord Injury
8315 N Brook Ln Apt 906,
Bethesda MD  20814
Phone Number: +1 703-795-5711