Peninsula Hand Therapy (PHT) opened in January of 2020. To many, that may seem a strange time to undertake such an endeavor as starting your own occupational therapy practice. To Kerry Bate, occupational therapist (OT) and certified hand therapist (CHT), the timing seemed just right.
Bate says, “I had been working for a big medical group that cut a lot of its services when COVID started. My department was eliminated and I found myself without a job.” Furthermore, Bate’s work most often involved helping patients after elective surgery and, at the time when she was looking for work, those elective procedures weren’t being performed. “For the first time in my career,” says Bate, “I didn’t have certain job prospects; it was a point in time when I had nothing to lose by venturing to open my own business.”
Since that beginning, PHT’s patient list has grown, though the staff has remained small. Bate has one employee, her clinical coordinator, and doesn’t plan to change that any time soon. “I’m a small practice. I don’t have to be overwhelmingly busy to be successful,” she says. That method of success translates to excellent care as Bate personally treats all PHT’s patients.
The success of PHT isn’t just good news to Bate and her family; it’s good news for Oyster Point and for surrounding communities as well. Dr. Nicholas Smerlis, a hand surgeon with Tidewater Physicians Multispecialty Group, offered this insight into this effect: “The enormous benefit to our community of having a certified hand therapist like Kerry Bate to aid in a patient’s recovery to maximize the clinical outcome cannot be overstated. We are very fortunate that CHT Bate opened a thriving hand therapy practice in the face of the COVID-19 epidemic.”
Bate’s customers echo Dr. Smerlis’ sentiment with stories of their own experiences. Susan Coffman went to PHT for help in recovering after a fracture repair. In her words, “Mrs. Bate is a gifted hand therapist, coach and cheerleader!” Coffman says that the success of her recovery, in which she regained the full use of her right arm, is because of Bate and PHT.
Says Bate, “As a Certified Hand Therapist, I have a highly specialized level of training and experience in treating all kinds of injuries to the hand, wrist and arm, from traumas such as wrist fractures caused by a fall, to arthritis which has become more problematic and harder to live with over time, to vague hand pain whose source is unknown.”
Bate continues, “A patient with arthritis in his hands may have been told that there’s nothing to be done for arthritis. This isn’t true. While I can’t reverse or erase the joint damage that already exists, we can work together to ease symptoms such as pain, tightness or weakness, and I can teach him exercises and simple lifestyle changes which stabilize the degenerative process to keep the symptoms at bay. I never make unrealistic promises of miracle outcomes, but if I’m honest and clear about what therapy can achieve in cases like these, patients are often surprised to find that they don’t have to live with so much pain and disability after all.”
Bate is enthusiastic about problem solving with patients. “This is what keeps my work interesting after 25 years of practice. There’s nothing more satisfying than figuring out what each patient needs in order to return to valued activities. But I can only steer patients in the right direction, I can’t do the work for them. It’s always a partnership among patient, doctor and therapist, with the patient’s contribution being most important. It’s especially important for my patients to follow their home programs, so I don’t have to use our limited time together to do what they can be doing on their own.”
When she’s not helping patients with their hand therapy needs, Bate says she is kept busy by the demands of her family, which includes her husband and their nine-year-old daughter.
“Juggling is a permanent occupation of a working parent,” says Bate. She describes one of the biggest challenges of a busy parent as “remembering where I have to be,” as in which of the many obligations of a parent will she be dealing with immediately after she leaves work, and which she’ll deal with after that.
After all the running is done, though, Bate says she loves to spend time with friends and family, adding that she loves to travel. Those two passions she can conveniently combine, since her husband’s family is in England, her own is in South Carolina, and they still have many friends in New York, where Bate and her family lived until just a few years ago.