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June 2011

Donna Sims is this month's Upstate Face

Donna Sims joined Upstate University Hospital 19 years ago as the first Certified Therapeutic Recreation Specialist (CTRS) for the Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation unit.  In her role, Donna evaluates patients from a physical, cognitive, social and emotional perspective and provides recreational therapy to help patients in their recovery process, adapt to changes that have occurred as a result of illness or injury and to improve their overall well-being.  She uses a variety of techniques and activities, including animal assisted therapy visits, movie theme activities, games, special events such as, a yearly carnival, dinners, and outings in the community to help patients improve functional abilities, while building confidence. She helps patients socialize effectively to enjoy greater independence in social settings.  Donna makes sure to incorporate activities her patients enjoy into their therapy and strives to provide an environment that is welcoming for each patient.  She describes a recreational therapy session as “providing patients a vacation from being a patient." Donna also educates families in brain injury and how to allow the patient to access their recreation leisure interests both at home and in the community.

When asked what she likes most about her position, Donna replied, “I enjoy the wide variety of patients I interact with. They are of all ages, diagnosis and have different physical and emotional needs.  What we do makes a difference. We work with patients from the inside out. No two days are the same and I appreciate the flexibility my role provides me.  My day is determined by the needs of a patient on that particular day."

In her spare time, Donna enjoys going to camp with her husband of 17 years and riding her ATV, loves to read and is an active member of her church. She also trains and evaluates dogs for pet therapy through Sunshine Friends and two of her dogs are therapy dogs.  She’s also learning to play the bass guitar.
When asked what she would like people to know about her, Donna replied, “Everything I do, I base on my belief in God.  I treat our patients like they are family, with respect and dignity. I also have a love for life and after 10 years I have written a book about animal assisted therapy that I’m hoping to have published in the fall."