Meet our Vice President of our Orthopaedic and Rehabilitation Service Lines, Nina DePaola
Why did you become a physical therapist?
I knew from personal experiences at a young age that I wanted to go into healthcare related to improving ones quality of life. In order to pursue this I spent time volunteering in high school and I observed physical therapy which inspired me. My goal at the time was to help those with cancer and improve their day to day function and strength during treatment and recovery. Through my physical therapy education and training I became interested in working with a variety of those in need-including those with sports, cardiac, neurological, amputees, and orthopaedic conditions. Most importantly a physical therapist has the ability to motivate and teach an individual to become more independent and enjoy each day.
How long have you worked for Northwell health?
I will be celebrating my 30 year anniversary in 2017.
Can you talk about your career profession within the health system?
I began as a staff physical therapist at NSUH Manhasset. I then pursued my masters in administration, with the intent to go into a physical therapy private practice. About 5 years later I was offered an opportunity to start a small outpatient orthopaedic physical therapy program for the hospital. This small program has grown over the years to many sites and is called STARS (Sports Therapy and Rehabilitation Services). The STARS team continues to this day and celebrates exceptional service, engagement and care for many types of patients in need of physical and occupational therapy. I was asked approximately 15 years ago to oversee the Rehabilitation Service Line for our growing health system, and shortly after that I was asked to oversee the Orthopaedic Physician Service Line. Now our two service line teams have grown many programs, centers, facilities and offices in many markets throughout the region.
What do you like most of the administrative role of rehabilitation?
Once I became a physical therapist I started developing programs and I really enjoyed initiatives that resulted in impacting many more than just the 10 patients a day that I was treating. It is also very rewarding to help those with a passion for what they love to do create better patient care. That motivated me to grow and I was asked to do this more formally – thus starting my career ladder into administration. My most proud achievement to date has been to celebrate the successes of others and the accomplishments of many individuals who have helped create better ways to offer care to those in need. On the business end a particular goal is to volume build. Areas of our teams include marketing, community outreach, meeting with societies, care organizations and advocacy groups in order to meet their needs, building new service communities and promoting a personal touch to everyone and everything we encounter in corporate healthcare. In corporate healthcare, it has been helpful to be a voice as a physical therapist- to represent the profession and yet align strategically with the health systems mission.
What kind of experience and settings are available to therapists within Northwell Health?
Within Northwell there is just about every variety of therapy and rehabilitation. We have hospital based therapy, skilled nursing- short and long term care therapy, acute inpatient rehabilitation, outpatient therapy and homecare. We treat all ages from pediatrics to geriatrics and have just about every specialty program from sports and spine care to joint replacements, neuro rehab, brain injury and lymphedema care. Part time and full time positions which offer flexible hours are available in many of our settings that help promote a work- life balance.
Why is Northwell Health special?
Northwell health is the largest employer for physical therapists in our region. Many employment options are available related to location and specialty. The overall culture of Northwell is one of teamwork, caring, communication, respect and a great family feel. Employees within Northwell Health truly care about each other and enable change for improvement and what best meets the needs of the patients. As a physical therapist we tend to have the same values of teamwork, communication and motivating others so it marries nicely with the culture of Northwell health.
What opportunities are available for therapists at Northwell Health?
A physical therapist within Northwell Health has many opportunities for additional clinical education, research, program development or leadership growth through the offering of a management track. The Center for Learning and Innovation that has many courses to help develop leadership skills and an understanding of healthcare. There is tuition support available for those who go on to advanced education. There are many cultural activities that help build teamwork with physical therapists and other professions such as nurses and physicians- this makes Northwell Health unique.
Can you speak to the relationship between our Physicians and our Physical Therapists throughout the health system?
We have thousands of physicians who work with our physical therapists in every setting. A physical therapist typically receives the referral to offer care but our communication and partnership to give the patient exactly what they need is very important. Our physicians include orthopedists, neurologists, surgeons, internal medicine and oncologists. There is a very good relationship and mutual respect between physical therapists and physicians concerning the development of programs, education of the community, prevention and treatment of disability in patients.
What would you like to say to our Physical Therapists employees during PT month?
PT month is a time to celebrate for all we that we are able to do for patients and for each other. Northwell Health continues to grow and our expanding workforce of therapists is very strong, well-qualified, well respected and outstanding in their field. This is a time to celebrate the great services that we offer and the continued growth of our programs. A huge message of appreciation is sent to each and every therapist who is proud to be part of the Northwell Health Rehabilitation family. This is a month to celebrate who we are and what we do for so many. Our teamwork and our individual offering of quality care helps thousands and thousands of patients each year and we should congratulate each other offering such quality care in such a rewarding field and in such a great organization which is Northwell Health.