Podcast | Episode 16: Pediatric Community Programs with Megan Hyman, MS, OT/L

Clinical Expertise

Feb 18, 2022

Medical Reviewer: Megan Hyman, M.S., OT/L
Last Updated: December 2, 2022

Welcome to the Brooks Rehabilitation podcast where we talk to our rehabilitation professionals to shed light on the stellar programs and services we offer to help our patients reach their highest levels of recovery.

In this episode, we learn about Pediatric Community Programs with Megan Hyman, MS, OT/L.

Send us an email with your questions, comments or podcast ideas to [email protected]!

Listen to the full episode on your favorite podcast app! Search ‘Brooks Rehabilitation Podcast.’ You can also listen online. Below is a transcript of our newest episode.

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Podcast Transcript

Tracy Davis: Welcome to the Brooks Rehabilitation Podcast. My name is Tracy Davis. On this episode, we have Megan Hyman. She is the pediatric community programs manager. Megan is going to give us a little bit of her history, the history of pediatrics at Brooks, and the current state of pediatrics at Brooks Rehabilitation, and maybe a little bit of where we’re headed. Right before we get into this episode, I wanted to remind you to go to BrooksRehab.org. There you will find every single thing there is to know about Brooks Rehab at BrooksRehab.org. And if you’re interested in joining our team here at Brooks Rehabilitation, feel free to go to Careers.BrooksRehab.org and look for our current job openings. And finally, make sure you check us out on social media. We’re constantly posting new updates, videos, photos, events that are going on. You can check us out at Brooks Rehab on every major social media platform. Again, thank you for listening. We’re going to get right into the episode. Megan, thanks for coming on the podcast. So, first of all, let’s just introduce yourself to everybody listening.

Megan Hyman: Well, thanks for having me, Tracy. This is really exciting. Oh, gosh. Introduce myself. Hmm. How many minutes do I have? So, I’m going to start by saying I am a pediatric occupational therapist and have been so proudly for 20 years. Amazing to think 20 plus years ago I was in school. But I have been wanting work with children my entire life. So, that was never a question for me when I was in school. It was just-

Tracy Davis: So, high school too?

Megan Hyman: Absolutely. I always loved working with kids. I could work with all ages, but I just loved working with kids. It was so rewarding. So, I didn’t know in what capacity. And I had many experiences from volunteerism to service through school, to afterschool clubs. And then, really trying to work with kids who were underprivileged or those who had disabilities or those who had difficulties of some sort. I just was so fascinated by that, not only just because of what I could do, but trying to understand where they were coming from. So, that kind of led me down the realm of psychology in college.

I was definitely wanting to be some type of child psychologist working in some capacity with kids, whether that was abnormal psychology, whether that was clinical. But I just was very interested in the why behind people’s behavior, why they did things, and really digging down into not just… Why are you making those choices? And why is that happening? I’m fascinated by that. And that took me on a little realm of understanding. I had a little bit of interest in the abnormal psychology and the reasons why behind serial killers and all kinds of fascinating things.

Tracy Davis: It’s a very fascinating.

Megan Hyman: It’s truly a science when you get behind the horrific acts and the why behind it and how your brain does things and why it interprets different things.

Tracy Davis: It’s why all those shows are so popular, like true crime shows and Law and Order. And everyone’s interested in that kind of stuff.

Megan Hyman: Well, we are interested in human beings because we’re neuro hardwired to be connected individuals. I would hope we do have some level of curiosity in there, whether it comes from compassion or whether it just comes from pure bizarre nature.

Tracy Davis: Right.

Megan Hyman: But yeah, so I wanted to do something in psychology. And then, when I started really getting into the practice and getting into the curriculum in college, I was like, “Ugh, this is going to take me forever to really do what I want.” And I was like, “I didn’t want to wait that long.” I didn’t want to do necessarily… You could get the master’s, but you really can’t go very far with that. You need to go a little bit further.

Tracy Davis: And what school?

Megan Hyman: I went to University of Miami.

Tracy Davis: Okay.

Megan Hyman: So, I am a minority around here in Jacksonville parts-

Tracy Davis: I know.

Megan Hyman: … but proud of it.

Tracy Davis: There’s a lot of gators around here.

Megan Hyman: Ugh. That’s okay. I mean, I’m okay with some of the other Florida schools but… So, yeah. So, I went to University of Miami coming down from Washington DC area. So, really a far trek for me. Yeah. But when I started studying, I was like, “Yeah, I wanted to be able to do something without having to go through the masters, through a PhD.” So, that’s kind of when it became, “Okay, well, I can work with kids, but in what capacity?” And then it was like, “Well, let me discover and explore some of the other avenues.” Didn’t want to do teaching just for some reason. I mean, even though I loved teaching, it just was limiting. And then, I started exploring some of the allied health probably because I was really just doing more observation hours.

I worked in college with an advisor who did pre-med advising and who really reviewed a lot of the charts and portfolios for kids or students who were applying to med school. So, I really got a lot of interesting kind of information behind the scenes as to types of curriculums, the types of classes, the types of opportunities. So, when I started looking at observation hours just to explore where my next steps would be, and that was probably as a junior in college. I discovered therapy. Now, I discovered all realms of therapy. So, I observed physical therapy. I observed occupational therapy, and I knew some speech language pathologists. And then, when I started really looking at how occupational therapy applies to pediatrics, it was just wow. The psychology blend with it, the ability to work with such a diverse population, whether it’s ages or diagnoses, just the ability to address so many aspects of daily function. I was like, “Yes, all in.”

Tracy Davis: So, that over PT just because of all the other aspects that come in, other than just the actual movement and those kind of-

Megan Hyman: I think, and again, I will say this because I was somewhat limited. I went and observed physical therapy in a sports medicine clinic. So, obviously it has a very-

Tracy Davis: Different.

Megan Hyman: … very narrow focus. However, when I really started exploring… And this is not to speak ill of any one profession.

Tracy Davis: No. No.

Megan Hyman: But it’s really just looking at what meshed with me and what spoke to me. So, when I was looking at my concept at that time, which is very different from now. But my concept that time of exercises and just mobility and just looking at a certain snapshot in a child’s functioning was limiting for me. Because, again, I was coming from a psychological background, and I was like, “I want to look at all the other aspects to that.” So, for me, I think it just blended better with who I was, what I was interested in, and the opportunities I think it would afford to me down the line in terms of where and how I could work with kids.

Tracy Davis: So, how did you land at Brooks? And what were you doing when you first got to Brooks?

Megan Hyman: Ah, so I didn’t plan to land at Brooks. It was kind of funny because I started working in a private practice in South Florida after I graduated. And so, I worked in this fantastic private practice, multidisciplinary, learned a huge, a bazillion amount of information just because I was working so closely with all the other colleagues and professionals. So, we really had a true interprofessional practice. So, working there. But then, we didn’t want to stay in South Florida. That was totally just lifestyle change. We needed to get out. So, we looked at Jacksonville, and my husband was able to transfer, which was fabulous. So, I said, “I can go anywhere.” So, when I started looking up here, I was looking at both private practice. I was looking at large organizations. And I knew Brooks had a name up here, but I liked the fact that we had some diversity in terms of different avenues.

Tracy Davis: What year was this?

Megan Hyman: This was 2006.

Tracy Davis: Okay.

Megan Hyman: So, this was-

Tracy Davis: Yes. So, we were way smaller than we-

Megan Hyman: Oh, we were totally smaller.

Tracy Davis: Yeah. We were.

Megan Hyman: We didn’t even have a pediatric program.

Tracy Davis: We were like 12, 13 outpatient clinics.

Megan Hyman: Exactly. And so, if we think about that, I was like, “Okay, well this is going from one private practice, two locations in a private practice.”

Tracy Davis: And some people know we’re over 40 outpatient clinics now, something like that.

Megan Hyman: Oh, we’re probably close to 50.

Tracy Davis: Close to 50. Yeah.

Megan Hyman: Yeah.

Tracy Davis: I haven’t checked in a while.

Megan Hyman: And we span from Jacksonville down to Orlando.

Tracy Davis: Yeah. Yeah. At that time, it was just Jacksonville.

Megan Hyman: Absolutely. We might have dabbled in the Orlampa area, it’s what we called it. But it was the first time I had looked at a rehabilitation network. So, I had worked in a rehabilitation private practice in South Florida. But what I had become really excited about in South Florida was we had created our own network. So, we were working with Miami children’s. We were working with private psychological practices where we could refer. We had some great networking, which is where I started appreciating working in a multidisciplinary team beyond the allied health. So, I was like, “Okay, great. Well, I have a rehabilitation network. That might have a lot of resources.” And then, when I started looking and comparing with private practice, I said, “Well, let’s try it out.” I wasn’t a fan of what I considered corporate America in terms of big practices. But when I came here, and I had the interview. And it’s kind of funny because Victor DeRienzo was the manager who interviewed me and hired me.

Tracy Davis: That’s funny. Now, COO.

Megan Hyman: Exactly. So, 15 years later. So, but the whole model of what they were looking to do was exciting to me. So, not only was I being hired as a therapist to fill a role, I was being hired and viewed as a specialist, which was the first time from what I understood. They were really looking at therapists for their specialty and looking at the potential to specialize in a population at Brooks. And so, that was exciting to me because I felt like I was bringing something that I could share.

Tracy Davis: You could hear the growth was a part of what they wanted at the time.

Megan Hyman: Absolutely. It was very exciting. And so, they were interested not only in what skills I had, but what I could bring to the setting. And so, I was like, “Wow, that’s a big opportunity for me because that allows me to grow and work with a huge number of people.”

Tracy Davis: From that time, how has peds grown at Brook? We’re going to get into some more of the specifics of what you do now. But how has peds grown from that time to now?

Megan Hyman: Wow. I have to think because that’s thinking back 15 years, Tracy. I got to think about that.

Tracy Davis: I mean because you were at the beginning of all of that really so…

Megan Hyman: Right. It’s kind of crazy when I look back in retrospect as to where we’ve come, and I probably need to do that more often. Because when you actually start thinking about all the things that have been accomplished with so many great people involved, it’s really exciting. So, we actually started hiring and employing specialized clinicians, not just a generalist who would treat. And that was fine. But really moving, and I think that was the evolution when new leadership came on board at Brooks, that idea of programmatic and specialization. And so, that evolution has come to hiring clinicians with a specialized background. Looking at programmatic in terms of elevating that standard of care to where we have programmatic for specific populations. We didn’t have any programs outside of the inpatient hospital and outpatient.

So, this is a huge evolution where we look at… Gosh, we have what? Seven specialized programs in outpatient now, where we really didn’t have much that I was really aware of or that maybe was known in outpatient. You might have had pockets of people. And that was also sort of in those first couple of years, the birth of specialized centers, where you had the Center for Sports Therapy. You had the Balance Center. All of those things started evolving because of this direction and the need to evolve into… We need to think about specialization for the populations. We do a lot really well, but we can do so much more better. So, that was exciting. So, if I think about pediatrics, I mean, we started with we didn’t have any specialized clinics. We had clinicians who were hired slowly to dress treat pediatrics and to shift that caseload from 50-50 adults peds to working 100% with peds.

And now, we’re at 10 clinics, two of which are freestanding pediatric clinics down in Daytona and St. Augustine. So, you’ve 10 centers that have specialized multidisciplinary teams. 15 years later, you have a program that specializes just in pediatrics and really is looking at elevating their best practice and standards of care for pediatrics as a whole across 10 clinics. That’s pretty amazing, and that require is a huge amount of infrastructure, vision, and organization in terms of people really getting on board. So, the amount of people that have been brought into opportunities in pediatrics, I think is exciting. The fact that it’s been identified as a specialization and a needed one because it was always in the hospital. We had specialization in the hospital. But to extend that really extends the opportunities for continuum of care. And then, a lot of the growth that I think has extended well beyond the skilled therapy setting.

Tracy Davis: Absolutely. That’s great. I mean, that’s a little bit of a good background of not just your history, but some of the history of peds at Brooks and where we started with it because peds is such an important part of what we do you at Brooks. So, let’s talk a little bit about today. What are you doing now? What is your job title, I guess? And then, what do you oversee at Brooks?

Megan Hyman: So, my job title is pediatric community programs manager. So, we’ve had a couple of pediatric programs outside of the skilled therapy setting. So, we’ve had the inpatient rehab. We’ve had the outpatient program. And we’ve had a longstanding community program, the School Re-entry Program, that’s been here over 30 years. This was probably about five years ago or so, what I found was that it was very disjointed. So, we were focusing on programmatic, but we were focusing on it really by division. And when we’re looking at a continuum of care, we need to have better collaboration, and we need to have better coordination between those different divisions. Especially, if we’re talking about a population like pediatrics.

Pediatrics is unique because you’re often not coming for a certain diagnosis. You might be referred for that. But what are families looking for? What is the interest for families when they’re looking for a care setting? What can you bring to my child? What can you offer for my child? What can you offer for my family? And so, I think it’s important that when we’re talking about pediatric rehabilitation, we have to look at the angle on the lens of the families. We have to look at what’s important to them. And so, when we look at things like… Yes, we can provide therapy. We can also provide educational support. We can also provide recreational and community-based support because children are going to grow. They’re going to need those services if we’re truly talking about those who have congenital conditions or even those with acute or traumatic. They’re going to be needing different levels of support throughout their entire life. So, it’s not a one and done, and it’s not a “We’re going to work on this for this many months.” They’re going to need those different levels of support.

So, kind of coming full circle back to where I saw my current position. I kind of saw the opportunity to weave that continuum of care better and to get better representation for pediatrics across multiple platforms. So, I’m now the pediatric community programs manager, which evolved in combination with my work in outpatient. So, I was working as a clinician in outpatient. I was actually the pediatric outpatient program coordinator. And so, therefore I was like, “This is a wonderful blend. I need to make sure that pediatrics is represented not only within our company, but within our community.” So now, I’ve kind of evolved into… And those opportunities provided me with some really fantastic learning opportunities.

I was like, “Wow, not only am I being challenged to work and use a different part of my brain, but I’m getting to work with different people and looking at what I do for the end user, for the patient, for the family.” How that connects, how it connects from an executive level and a programmatic level all the way down to the clinician. And so, I got really excited because I started working with people where I could help make that connection and help bridge that. This is what’s important in therapy, but here’s what we have to make sure that we’re sharing the story and making sure we tell the right story to the right people. So, that blend was really exciting for me. And I think that’s kind of evolved into I get pure joy out of working with and supporting other people to grow, whether that be from a patient perspective or whether that be from a team perspective. So, I’ve evolved into slowly phasing out of direct patient care, which happened in 2020. August 2020 was-

Tracy Davis: So, you’re not seeing patients–

Megan Hyman: No. And that was a huge identity thing for me because August 2020, that was 20 years after I had become a therapist. And my job was to work with patients. And so, that was a big identity to change for me because I still have the mentality of a clinician, which I hope I never lose. But then, I have to say, “Well, how does this then relate? How do I support and serve a broader number of people in a different way?” And that’s what I get excited about because everything I was doing on a one-on-one basis, I can now just scale that and amplify that. And I’m challenged to do with teams and now on an organizational level. So, I am thrilled and very, very humbled.

Tracy Davis: So, let’s talk about Peds Rec specifically.

Megan Hyman: Yes.

Tracy Davis: So, what is Pediatric Recreation?

Megan Hyman: Okay. Pediatric Recreation. So, we call the Pediatric Recreation Program. It is truly a year-round adaptive sports and recreation program for youth. It was designed originally when we wrote the pro forma in 2015. We were seeing that families had a very difficult time. And this is when I was in an outpatient. Families had a very difficult time finding the resources and connecting and integrating with the community to find the opportunities for their children. They were concerned about the level of commitment. Were the people going to be comfortable working with their child? Was their child going to like it? Was there a financial investment that-

Tracy Davis: The parents were like, “We’re so happy with the therapy that we’re getting, but we need our kid to have specific community to connect to.”

Megan Hyman: I don’t think it was said that kindly.

Tracy Davis: Is that what you’re saying?

Megan Hyman: Absolutely.

Tracy Davis: So, how am I going to trust people with-

Megan Hyman: Correct.

Tracy Davis: … my kid and all. Okay.

Megan Hyman: And what we were also seeing was therapists needed resources. Holy smokes. For clinicians who are treating pediatrics, you’re seeing them pretty frequently. And oftentimes, that becomes a very comfortable setting for families. And so, what therapists also need is they need opportunities. They need resources. And it can be a full-time job just figuring out all the resources in the town. So, when we have so many families here who are coming in town or moving here for jobs or military, we need to make sure that we have a better network of resources to connect families with, whether they are first here and whatever journey point they’re at. So, we saw the need for, of course, families and their children to be able to connect and have opportunities that were safe and supportive in the community. But also, we have to recognize this indirect benefit to the clinicians because now they can help their families envision a longer plan of care that may extend well beyond the skilled therapy environment.

Tracy Davis: Yeah. Outside of just come into to their therapy appointments.

Megan Hyman: Absolutely.

Tracy Davis: They’re kids. They need more. They need stuff to do.

Megan Hyman: But as a parent, and I can say this, sometimes you have a hard time thinking beyond where you are now. It’s hard enough to figure out where you are now. You need someone to paint that picture for you as to here’s what’s going to happen next, or here’s what you can do in combination to your therapy that gets you connected and finds other resources and support systems, that then you feel more comfortable and empowered. Because in the end, that’s what it’s about. It’s giving the parents tools, so that they can advocate for their own child.

Tracy Davis: So, what was the first Pediatric Rec sport event community thing?

Megan Hyman: So Pediatric Recreation actually started probably two or three years prior to its actual implementation. I was working with a fantastic therapeutic recreation specialist in the hospital, and she was passionate about aquatics. So, we started. I kind of was excited because I worked with her just on some other projects in the pediatric program. And so, she started doing pro bono classes and just like, “Let’s try this out. Is this something that’s of interest?” And luckily, that turned into a grant that we received from Comcast that allowed us to provide aquatic-based classes after hours.

Tracy Davis: Wow.

Megan Hyman: Which was fantastic because, oh, my gosh, what a need and how many people were excited about it. And she and I worked on the pro forma together, really gave us the leverage to say, “How could we create this into something bigger? What is this the launching point for?” And so, that’s when we started really looking at. And that’s what we leveraged saying we have aquatics classes. That’s really what we started with. We started the pediatric program with a loyal following of aquatics classes that we held.

Tracy Davis: Where’d you do it at?

Megan Hyman: At the hospital.

Tracy Davis: So, it was here. Okay.

Megan Hyman: Yes, it was here, and it was very convenient for people. And it was the perfect space because all of our classes are small. They’re designed to be small. We never offered that it’s a one-on-one setting. It’s really a recreation program. So, it’s going to be small group based. So, that’s really where it started. And that was the birth of it. And that’s still to this day, our most requested activity. But from there, we really had to say, “What activities do families want? And what is not necessarily as accessible in the community?” Not what’s not available. It might be available. But sometimes things are available to certain pockets of people. So, we wanted to try to say, “How do we make some of these highly coveted or very impactful programmings or programs more accessible?”

And so, that kind of rolled into some other activities. We tried art, or we did art, we did dance, we did sports. And over time, that’s really evolved into some two organized team sports and a variety of recreation activities that revolve throughout the year. So, we are year-round. We occur at a time when children and their families can attend. So, when children and families are either working or at school, we have to look at when is this program accessible, after school, weekend hours. But we do also offer daytime programming for those who are… Before they reach school or those who are homeschooled, and that continues to grow. So, our programs really are a result of feedback. We get from our consumers and ones that we see as opportunities to bring something new to the community.

Tracy Davis: So, what other activities are we doing now?

Megan Hyman: Okay. So, we’re currently in the season of… We are doing gardening. We are doing a dance workshop and actually a first dance workshop for those who are both wheelchair users and non-wheelchair users. We’re trying to see if that’s an opportunity. We always start every activity that we have with some type of workshop, clinic, kind of special event. But we rotate in seasons. So, right now we’re kind of in our winter season, so we are doing cooking, which is indoors. We’re going to have a dance workshop. We’re getting ready for our gardening program, which will start in March, which is really exciting. That’s a new program. We started as a result of COVID.

Tracy Davis: Where are you doing the gardening?

Megan Hyman: We have a donated space down in Northwest St. Johns County. And so, it’s on a private property. But this gentleman and this family really provide access to their space and their farm for different reasons. So, Special Olympics, we’ll do training down there for their equestrian program. And so, though there’s a big garden that is just not really-

Tracy Davis: That’s amazing.

Megan Hyman: … maintained on a regular basis. So, we provided the proposal, and the family was very willing. So, we are going into our third season of gardening, which is really exciting. We’ve been rebuilding ever since we kind of had a little bit of a halt due to COVID. And so, we’ve been kind of pivoting and providing and creating new activities and opportunities that are maybe outdoors, that are smaller in nature. But we want to get back to our larger, special events. Our skating event that happens once a month. We want to get back to our are dance classes. It’s been harder to find locations in the community where we can work with our partners just because people are being very cautious and safe as a result of COVID. But we are still adapting. We’re still rolling along.

Our basketball program right now is running strong. They’ve just started competing for the first time in two years, which is just so exciting to see. And so, they have a couple more tournaments going. So, in the summer times, we have partnerships with local private summer camps where we will bring programming to them. So, we kind of saw this about three years ago where we provide programming in the community for people to come to us. Well, we need to start looking for opportunities where we can bring programming to one spot.

Tracy Davis: I knew some of these things. But as you’re saying that you just can’t help but think of what a need this has to be filling in the community. You know what I mean?

Megan Hyman: We hope so.

Tracy Davis: It’d be great if this was a nationwide kind of thing. I’m sure that would blow your mind as to how to handle that.

Megan Hyman: The amazing thing is when you look at other states, you see cities really running with this and they’re either city or local governments who are funding these adaptive recreation programs. And with our success of the Brooks Adaptive Sports and Recreation Program and their collaborations with the City of Jacksonville, that’s kind of how we shaped a lot of the pediatric recreation program initially because we knew we had that model in which to follow. Now, there’s definitely some differences because of the population, because of the schedule and just because of the types of activities. But we really do have that model in which to go from. But many other cities and many other states have some phenomenal adaptive recreation programs. Not as many are private, but there are a lot. But what I’m just excited by is when you look at… Yes, there’s ways to do this. You don’t have to canvas the entire market. You just have to know what you do well.

Tracy Davis: Sure. And we want to make sure we mention too, just like Adaptive Sports and Recreation, you don’t have to do Peds Rec, you do not have to be a Brooks patient.

Megan Hyman: Absolutely, not.

Tracy Davis: Parents sign their kids up. And how do they do that while we’re here?

Megan Hyman: Great questions. So, we do not need a referral to get to our program or to be registered for our program. We get referrals from a lot of different ways. You can be referred from a therapist, whether that be a Brooks therapist, someone over at Wilson, someone in a private practice. You can get a referral, excuse me, not a referral, you can be recommended from your school-based therapist. What we ask is that families contact us directly. It’s better because then there’s that intention and commitment. So, we get requests via email. We get requests via phone. We do have a Facebook group. And so, that’s a great way to kind of see what we’ve been up to, to learn about us and to connect with us. We also just have a general email box. And so, that’s usually where we get most of our requests.

And if you want to register for our program, it’s just a matter of reaching out to us. We’ll get you the registration paperwork. We like to do an orientation meeting, whether that’s in person or zoom. It’s usually about 30 to 45 minutes, but it allows to really get to know the family, get to know the child and answer their questions. Because what we like to try to do is find an activity sooner than later to get them involved with that is going to be the right match.

Tracy Davis: So, what’s that email address?

Megan Hyman: So, that email address is [email protected].

Tracy Davis: Okay. And I’ll make sure I put that in a description of this podcast.

Megan Hyman: Thank you.

Tracy Davis: So, before we’re running out of time, let’s talk about school re-entry really quick.

Megan Hyman: Yes.

Tracy Davis: You mentioned that it’s been at Brooks for over 30 years. Right?

Megan Hyman: Absolutely.

Tracy Davis: So, what is school re-entry?

Megan Hyman: And I want to make sure that I do it justice because it’s expanded quite a bit over the years. School re-entry is really a transitional service. It’s a transitional support service or our patients. Now, originally when it was created, it was created for inpatient population. Because that really does need the most amount of support once you’ve transitioned from a highly acute environment like a hospital back into a home environment. And many of our patients or former patients are not ready to go right back into a school setting.

So, that educational support is one that really… That’s a common thread, no matter what stage of recovery you are in for children. And so, education to me is that lifelong service, depending on how old. And that’s what I think is really cool and amazing about the program, is it really will follow families and their students for as long as it’s needed. So, being a community-based service means that it’s available for whatever questions or needs there are. So really if we think about the transitional service and support that inpatient would need, their educational plan might need to be modified in the school setting. They might need a step-down type of setting before they return to of their school settings. So, sometimes that’s homebound services, educational services, making sure that all of the accommodations and the abilities that that child has are documented and are advocated for in the classroom.

Tracy Davis: So, on a tactical level, maybe there’s an example of a certain student. What was their injury? And then, how did the school reentry program help them?

Megan Hyman: So, we can do this on a state level or a international level or outside because school reentry will really serve students both in the state of Florida, outside of our immediate state, and surrounding states and even international. So, I can give you two quick examples of an inpatient to an outpatient. So, a child could have an injury, whether that’s a near drowning or a spinal cord injury car accident. And so, they’re going to spend several weeks in our inpatient hospital. And so, there they’re going to get intensive therapy on a day-to-day basis. But really the preparation that school reentry is thinking about is what are their needs going to be when they leave? Not only what are their educational needs in terms of not falling too far behind while they’re in school, but how are we preparing and getting that family ready with the documentation and the communication with their school base?

Okay. So, if they’re communicating with the county, if they’re trying to ensure and get hospital homebound or homebound educational services set up, they’re working with the family to prepare them for meetings that will come up if their educational plan or their curriculum needs to be adapted for some reason. And so, they will follow that family well beyond discharge. They’re working with them, not only in the hospital, but then as they are discharged. They are following up with them. They are establishing and setting up meetings with school officials to make sure that all of the documentation is proper. And that if they should need an individual educational plan, an IEP, that is enforced

Tracy Davis: Is there a part of it to make sure that the school might not be… They might not have an understanding or a level of understanding of what this kid just went through. So, they need to kind of liaison for that family to help them understand.

Megan Hyman: Absolutely. They are a huge advocate. A huge advocate for the child. A huge advocate for the families and really empowering and educating those families to advocate for the child themselves. The goal is to transition them back into their previous school environment and then providing those supports to the family and to the school to ensure that the student’s needs are met. So, that’s that transition from inpatient. Now, that child could be receiving outpatient services at the same time. I think the neat thing about school re-entry is it’s really blossomed into serving our outpatient community.

So, we get referrals from our clinicians in outpatient for needs, for advocacy, for needs, for information. If a family doesn’t know what kind of services their child is receiving, or they’re uncertain about this upcoming IEP meeting or what they can advocate for their child, our school reentry team will review their records. Again, you have to be a patient at ours, but that’s just part of our continuum of care. They will review the files, and they will be able to make the recommendations and give the family the tools to be able to advocate and represent for their child.

Tracy Davis: That’s great. Before we move on, anything else for school re-entry? Is there an email that they should be aware of?

Megan Hyman: Yes, absolutely. It is [email protected]. And I just want to put a shout out to the school entry team because they work so hard. They have such an amazing educational and clinical mindset because they have to blend that educational and clinical information. And I just want to say, I’m just so excited to work with them. I learn from them every day. It’s one of those little nuggets that not many people know about at Brooks, but it really is what sets us apart. And I think there’s opportunities for us to utilize them more and really be able to serve all those needs that our students have. And I think it provides assistance for clinicians. Again, thinking about how to support our staff by knowing the resources that are available within our own organization.

Tracy Davis: Absolutely. And they won an award last year.

Megan Hyman: They did. They won the celebrate the team award. So, it’s about time. I will definitely say over 30 years, it’s about time. I’m thrilled.

Tracy Davis: Okay. Lastly, is ThinkFirst. What is ThinkFirst?

Megan Hyman: ThinkFirst is a true injury prevention program that is for the community. It extends really outside the walls. We do a lot of internal education at Brooks, but it extends outside the walls of Brooks to the community. So, the outreach piece is really about education for the community, but for our youth for injury prevention. So, really how to think first. So, we have relationships with local schools, both private and public. We have relationships with the YMCA, First Coast YMCA. And we provide educational presentations to groups. And that can be a small group setting. That can be an auditorium style.

ThinkFirst is fantastic organization, a national organization, really with chapters set up in every state and usually multiple chapters per state. So, the fact that we are harnessing and really utilizing the youth-based curriculum. They’ve developed an evidence-based curriculum that’s targeted for different age groups. So, we provide that curriculum on a community level to be able to help be aware of injury prevention, learn different parts of the brain and the spinal cord. And then, we’d use a lot of community give back through helmet fittings through health fairs, just to be able to raise awareness for that. And so, that goes-

Tracy Davis: So, they’re targeting different age groups?

Megan Hyman: Correct.

Tracy Davis: This age group rides bicycles more or this for swimming. So, different injury prevention type stuff depending on the age group.

Megan Hyman: Absolutely. And we work really closely with Safe Kids Coalition of Northeast Florida. So, there’s a lot of people who are doing this work. There’s enough work to be done. So, what we’re just trying to do is connect with places in the community where we can provide that free education, always important. Because, yeah, we can provide the presentations, and we do that with First Coast YMCA at their summer camps. We look for those target audiences where we can get to them the earlier the better. But there is evidence-based curriculum that’s age appropriate for first grade all the way up through high school.

Tracy Davis: That’s excellent. That’s fantastic. How do people get involved in that? Is it something they can find out where a presentation’s happening?

Megan Hyman: Absolutely. So, we have what we call a director of our ThinkFirst Program here locally. And so, she pretty much coordinates all the presentations. Everybody who’s involved around ThinkFirst is on a volunteer basis. So, we love having people to help with helmet fittings. We love having people to help with school presentations. It’s a great opportunity for interns or people who are needing observation hours. If they want to connect, they can definitely reach out to [email protected] and find out if they’re interested in a presentation, if they’re interested in volunteering, if they want to learn more about our opportunities, or where we’re going to be next. We’re really excited to start community fairs and slowly start to get back into these larger organized events where we can really see a greater number of people. But we’ve done some great, smaller school-based presentations most recently, which has been highly effective.

Tracy Davis: Well, thank you for your time. I mean, hopefully, people will see just how important peds is to our system of care at Brooks. I mean, and that’s why we always like to talk about, the system of care that we have here. Because it’s very unique and peds obviously fits right into that. And it’s been great to hear the growth that we’ve had on pediatrics. Anything else you wanted to say?

Megan Hyman: We’re not done. There’s lots more to come. And I think just knowing that there’s so many opportunities to get involved, we have some fantastic clinicians and some fantastic leaders. So, I want to encourage anybody who’s new to Brooks to get involved, to step up. There’s opportunities. Create your own opportunities if you need to. And if you’ve been at Brooks a while, thank you for being here and continue to reach out because there’s so many resources that we have, but we also have to determine the need for.

Tracy Davis: That’s great. So, one final time, the Peds Rec email address.

Megan Hyman: [email protected].

Tracy Davis: And then, school re-entry?

Megan Hyman: [email protected].

Tracy Davis: And ThinkFirst?

Megan Hyman: [email protected].

Tracy Davis: Easy enough.

Megan Hyman: Absolutely.

Tracy Davis: Thank you.

Megan Hyman: Trying to do so.

Tracy Davis: Thanks for coming on, Megan.

Megan Hyman: Oh, thanks for inviting me, Tracy. This is an awesome opportunity.


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Medical Reviewer

Megan Hyman, M.S., OT/L

Pediatric Community Programs Manager
Megan Hyman is a pediatric occupational therapist with 20 years of experience working in outpatient, home, and school-based environments. Megan is the Pediatric Community Programs Manager, overseeing programs such as the Pediatric Recreation Program, School Re-entry Program, and Brooks ThinkFirst chapter. Megan has also served as Outpatient Pediatric Program Coordinator to help develop best practices across the division’s 10 outpatient pediatric clinics. Megan is passionate about working with children and families impacted by developmental and neurological impairments, empowering them through education and access to community resources.
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