Alumni Perspective with Kim Lemmons

Kim Lemmons is a 2008 graduate of the Physical Therapist Assistant (PTA) program. Prior to enrolling at Clarkson College, she received a Bachelor’s degree in Biology from the university of Nebraska–Lincoln and spent nearly a decade testing the waters in a variety of roles and work environments. She tried out massage therapy, held an administrative assistant role with the Lancaster County Health Department and worked as a Senior Geospatial Analyst for a satellite imaging company.

A lack of satisfaction with her career decisions prompted Kim to return to the drawing board once again. As a teen, she suffered a back injury and underwent physical therapy as part of her treatment. She reflected on how beneficial it was to her overall well-being and decided she wanted to have this same effect on others.

To this day, Kim’s instructors recall what an honest, focused, hardworking student she was. As shown in the Q & A that follows, the dedication and moral standards Kim exemplified as a student continue to hold true in her work as a PTA at Methodist Physicians Clinic in Papillion, Neb. As she works with patients through their care plans, she applies manual therapy techniques, stabilization and strengthening exercises and a combination of balance and proprioceptive activities so they can return to work, activity and sports at their former level of function.

In what ways do you think honesty and integrity are vital to your work as a PTA?

They provide the basis for me to build trust with the patients I work with. Without trust, patients may not reap all of the benefits from physical therapy.

Can you share an instance when doing the right thing was very difficult but paid off in the end?

There was a situation where I had to fail a student. The student was on her final clinical rotation before graduation. This was a six-week rotation. The issue was she was late five times during this period. I tried to resolve it by talking with her after the first couple of times she was late. By mid-term, the Academic Coordinator of Clinical Education (ACCE) and I spoke with the student and drew up a contract that we all reviewed and signed. The terms of the contract were that she could not be late for the remaining three weeks of her rotation. If she were late—even once—she would fail the clinical. This was difficult, as it was her last clinical before she was to graduate from the program. In week five, she was late. She called me on her way to the clinic, and I told her we would discuss the issue when she arrived. When she got here, I had to inform her that she had failed this clinical rotation. For her to pass and graduate with her class, she would have to work out something with the ACCE.

As much as I want to pass all of my students, I could not. I felt it would have been ethically wrong if I passed her. She couldn’t fulfill the most basic requirement, which was to get to work on time. If I had passed her, I felt that I would have been condoning her behavior, which would put a burden on her future employer and colleagues. I also felt that it would undermine my role as a clinical instructor. I feel I’m fair, and there are certain requirements that need to be met by all of my students. If I had passed her, that would have called my credibility into question as far as following the rules and being fair and impartial by treating all of my students equally. I know that I would want someone who is reliable as an employee. Sometimes, all one has is their word. Without integrity and ethics, you cannot build a solid foundation with others.

Do you feel your education at Clarkson College played a role in your commitment to providing high quality, ethical health care services?

Yes, I do, especially my Ethics class. This class provided many scenarios where ethics came into play. It taught me that sometimes, regardless of my personal feelings regarding a person or situation, one must still remember the primary reason one got into health care—to help others. To do this, one must be able to push personal feelings aside and provide high quality care for all those entrusted to one’s care.

Whether at work or in your personal life, why do you choose the high road over the easy route?

For me, it’s plain and simple—it’s the right thing to do. I know that the results I achieve are earned through hard work.