A pair of new faces have joined the staff in Mountrail County Medical Center’s Physical Therapy Department this month. Zachary Mravec and Taylor Augustine, recent graduates from Cleveland State University and an engaged couple, have taken traveling positions that will see them in the facility at least through June with an option to extend.
Mravec is originally from Rocky River, Ohio, having started his career as a licensed massage therapist for seven years. He says that he knew he wanted to be a physical therapist and used the career in massage therapy as a way to pay for the schooling.
Augustine is originally from a small town in Colorado, very similar to Stanley. As an undergrad, she focused on dance and was a professional dancer for ten years in Seattle, Wa. When she went to Cleveland for graduate school, the couple met in the same class.
They have chosen to be in Stanley and North Dakota, saying that it allows them the adventure of travel while working as physical therapists. They have a goal to travel for three years or so. It will enable them to see the country and in the end to better settle down with their finances in place and pay for their upcoming wedding. It also fits into the fact that both say they are a bit of a wanderer, liking to travel and try new things. They also look forward to being together in a setting where they can gain a variety of experience working with outpatient and hospital setting.
Their differences in training and background will also bring new skills to the MCMC Physical Therapy Department, something that department head Heidi Nielsen says she is looking forward to. This will benefit not only patients, but also give Nielsen insight into some specialized areas of physical therapy that she can use well into the future.
Taylor’s focus has been on dance rehabilitation and physical therapy. She has done continuing education and courses that have allowed her to specialize in treatment for performing arts. She is on the registry for doctors for dancers and the only provider currently in the state of North Dakota with that designation.
She also has completed level one of three in another niche specialty for pelvic health. This specialty deals with incontinence, pelvic pain, rehab after birth and pelvic floor issues for both men and women. She says that while physicians may see a patient with a pelvic floor dysfunction, pain or otherwise, not many look for the signs that lead to a different approach. That includes finding that patients with low back pain may actually have a pelvic floor issue.
When it comes to the dance rehab and therapy, she says that she can work with dancers of any age from the young child learning to dance, to the professional dancer, and the aging dancer who still dances recreationally. Well versed in all styles of dance, she says that she can treat all dance styles. That includes helping injured dancers with the rehab necessary to return to dance, as well as helping dancers enhance their performance as they train back to the demands of choreography. For the younger dancers, she says that she can do pointe shoe screenings, as well as helping them with training and safety.
Education, she says, begins with adolescent dancers. She has worked with professional dancers in the past, but her goal is to help young dancers prevent injury with education.
Zach’s background and focus deals with vestibular issues. He spent fifteen weeks in a clinic that focused on those issues including diagnosing and developing a plan of care and aftercare for patients who suffer from those dizziness and vertigo issues. The goal, while seeing a patient in therapy, is to provide them with the information to care for those issues at home as well.
Beyond that, he says that anything neurological or involving the brain piques his interest. That has included helping patients with concussion issues. He also helps patients return to work and with prework testing. Having worked with workers’ comp patients, he was surprised at how motivated people are to get back to work.
Taylor is involved with the American Physical Therapy Association, a professional network that includes conferences and events to further the education of its members. She has also worked in advocacy, spending time at Capital Hill to address issues.
As a pair, they just became National Park members, starting at Theodore Roosevelt National Park in North Dakota with a mission to see most of the national parks.
They are also looking forward to experiencing life in Stanley, getting to know the residents and the community. Taylor says that she enjoys being back in a small town and the community feeling that comes with that. Stanley, they say, feels cozy, welcoming and friendly. For Taylor, she grew up that way and says that it is nice to be back in the circle.
As for the facility, they say that MCMC provides a great working environment. Everyone is approachable and in it for the right reasons, they want to help people. The approach is different than in a large city facility and feels more like why they wanted to work in healthcare.
Zach hopes that eventually they can also start some planning for nursing home residents. With the challenges that COVID has presented to nursing homes, he says they could maybe start with a small balance or dance course or class to increase activity. He would like to take that onto their plates to promote in the facility.
PT Department Head Heidi Nielsen says that she is thankful that the transition went so smoothly as one set of traveling therapists was leaving, this couple was coming in. Although the licensing stalled, it came through at the perfect time.
The skills that both bring to the table are something that Nielsen looks forward to learning more about.
She says that they see quite a few patients with vestibular issues. During her schooling, she says, they got the gist of how to treat those patients, but she did not have the intensive hands on experiences that Zach had in his clinic rotations. She looks forward to refining her techniques and helping patients find the appropriate after and home care, saying that if they can take those skills to home practice the therapists have done their job.
As for Taylor’s pelvic health training, Nielsen says this is something that needs more light shed on it. People have kept their issues quiet and do not like to talk about it. Trained hands and minds can find a way to improve that, saying that “just because it is frequent does not mean it is normal”.
She looks forward to learning from both of them and refining her skills along the way. “It is exciting for me, too,” she said. “Everyone has a different focus and passion. To get to see and learn from that allows others to grown and help patients more”. For MCMC as a rural clinic in a rural community, Nielsen says that “to be able to cover so many more avenues is something you do not typically see in rural care”.