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COTA Traveler Mastering the Art of Compassionate Care

Excellent patient care takes both skill and compassion; the first you can learn, but the second seems to come naturally to some people more than others.


Certified occupational therapy assistant Susan Flagg has proven to be one of those people. She was recently recognized as a Compassionate Caregiver in Club Staffing’s Allied Achiever Award program that ran through October. Flagg was nominated by her recruiter, Kristine Mallin, in part because of a recommendation letter from the skilled nursing facility where she is currently assigned. The recognition included an engraved award, a $250 travel voucher, a $250 educational scholarship and a special gift basket.

“At work, my goal is to be friendly and outgoing, and my basic patient care philosophy is to treat residents, families and staff with kindness and respect,” Flagg said. “I interact with residents as if they were my parents. I do my best to listen and to hear what they say to me and then respond accordingly.” Flagg is currently investing her skills and compassion at her COTA travel job with Shinnery Oaks Community, a 60-bed skilled nursing facility in Denver City, Texas. 

“During therapy sessions, I try to remember that each resident is a unique individual,” she continued. “I enjoy working with those diagnosed with dementias, especially when I’m able to interact with them in positive ways, even for a short time. A vital part of their care is to work with them in slow and gentle ways. I also think it’s important to share therapy goals with certified nursing assistants to ensure they understand how to support residents’ occupational therapy goals as they care for them.”

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Supporting Personal Independence

Flagg decided to pursue an occupational therapy (OT) career while working as a medical assistant for a doctor of medicine and rehabilitation. “I was very impressed by the way patients recovered quickly without the use of pain medications,” she said. “I looked into OT careers and found I liked the idea of helping people to regain the ability to dress or bathe themselves and to regain personal independence.” 

She graduated from her OT program at Brown Mackie in Fenton, Mo., three years ago, and has been traveling with Club Staffing for more than a year. She reports that her recruiter is easy to work with, and is constantly aware of the assignments and places that are of interest to her. 

“Kristine is always there for me and does her best to assist me should problems occur while I’m on the road,” Flagg said. “I enjoy my assignments and the staffs I work with, as they are friendly, cooperative and supportive of therapy goals; therapy staffs are filled with good people.” 

Discovering A New Hometown

“I travel with my cat, Curious George, and I like small-town assignments like Denver City in West Texas, where I work now,” Flagg explained. “I especially like the people I’ve met; they welcome outsiders and have helped me to acclimate here. In fact, due to local support, I intend to purchase a house and make Denver City my new hometown.”    

Exploring Unique Places 

Flagg has been enjoying the opportunity to explore unique places in the areas where she’s assigned for her travel COTA jobs. “I had a good time while visiting the Palo Dura Canyon near Amarillo, Texas,” she said. Known as The Grand Canyon of Texas and located in the Palo Duro Canyon State Park, this canyon has a 30-mile trail for hiking, biking and horse riding. 

On another trip to New Mexico, Flagg had a chance to explore Carlsbad Caverns National Park, which incorporates 83 caves, including the deepest limestone cave and the third largest cave in the United States. 

“I visited Carlsbad Caverns with my son, Christopher, and his wife,” she said. “I like sightseeing and enjoy experiencing many different types of landscapes and travel adventures that this country has to offer.”

Flagg plans to use the travel voucher that came with her award to visit Maryland and spend time with a physical therapist friend who lives there, adding even more travel memories to her growing list.


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