Getting Clients Back To Work

Occupational therapist Steven Kline helps everyone from keiki to kupuna with physical disabilities, and even takes his patients on field trips to improve quality of life. Amanda C. Gregg photos

Steven D. Kline, ORT/CEAS
Occupational therapist at West Kauai Medical Center/Kauai veterans Memorial Hospital

Steven D. Kline is an occupational therapist who helped give his profession some attention last month by lobbying to have the county proclaim April as Occupational Therapy Month on Kaua’i, which at his clinic was celebrated with a cognitive training and hand-splint workshop as well as a staff wheelchair relay race. Kline hopes to raise awareness of the occupational therapy program at Kaua’i Veteran’s Memorial Hospital in Waimea.

Occupational therapy interventions range from helping children with disabilities overcome those hurdles and fully participate in school and other social situations to helping the elderly struggling with diminishing skill sets.

Kline helps everyone from keiki to kupuna with physical disabilities ranging from spinal cord injuries to those needing hand therapy, as well as those suffering from neurological disorders, at Kaua’i Veterans Memorial Hospital. While occupational therapy services help improve impairments resulting from arthritis, cancer, amputation, burns, head trauma and stroke, Kline also helps people regain skills and offers support for those undergoing physical and cognitive changes. In addition, he positively affects their quality of life whenever he can. On the day of this interview, he took a vanload of patients to the Kaua’i Humane Society in Puhi.

In layman’s terms, what is occupational therapy? Occupational therapy is a wonderful profession that actually started out with Army nurses during World War II. We work with the physically challenged and those undergoing psychiatric care. We try to rehabilitate them to be as self-sufficient as possible, and try to get them to occupy their time with a purposeful activity.

What areas of occupational therapy do you handle at West Kaua’i Medical Center/Kaua’i Veterans Memorial Hospital? We are not physical therapists. We offer home-adaptive safety equipment and brain training (a cognitive training program used in my clinic for those with head injuries and those with attention deficit disorder, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, cerebrovascular accidents and Alzheimer’s disease).

Where did you receive your training? I received my Bachelor of Science in occupational therapy from San Jose State University. I also did several internships for adult and pediatric care. In addition, I did my preoccupational therapy work at Loma Linda University, La Sierra campus.

What is your job description? My job is managing the Occupational Therapy Department at the West Kauai Medical Center/KVMH, where I have the responsibility of handling long-term and acute care, as well as sports medicine and hand therapy. I oversee the activities department at KVMH in the long-term care unit, and also work closely with our physical therapy department and our activity aid/coordinator to plan outings for patients.

What is your area of focus? My area of focus is sports medicine and hand therapy. I do enjoy working with other orthopedic and neurological staff that would be in the surgical and long-term care units. But as an occupational therapist, I am focusing on the progression of patients’ daily tasks.

What made you want to get into occupational therapy? I knew that I wanted to go into medicine when I did some research at school at career day. I did a lot of volunteer work at hospitals and facilities, and all my father’s brothers were into medicine and I wanted to get into medicine from high school. I am a very creative person and probably more right-brained, and I wanted to choose a field that dealt with helping people.

Any bits of advice you give your patients that you’d like to give our readers? When necessary, slow down tasks. Ask for help if something is too heavy. Bend your knees (when lifting). Remember, practice makes perfect. Protect all joints of the body.

What are some of the latest and greatest research findings in your line of work that you use in your practice? There has been a lot of research and studies done by occupational therapists who are involved in cognitive training (exercises for the brain that help sustain attention, visual and auditory processing) for children and adults – this is mostly in the school systems. I like to use the cognitive training programs in my clinic, depending on the ability of the patient. There are so many standardized evaluations that always are changing or being invented. It is always nice to support them.

What do you like to do for fun? I love the arts (as I said, I am very right-brained.) I love to watch musicals. I love to direct musicals as well. Plays and shows are the best for me to go to watch. On the Mainland, I had a lead role in State Fair, and was directing and assistant-directing musicals, dramas and comedies. I also directed Forever Plaid when I came to Kaua’i 10 years ago at Kaua’i International Theater.

West Kauai Medical Center
4643 Waimea Canyon Drive
Waimea 338-9452