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June 2010


Occupational and physical therapists and OT students from southeastern Nebraska and northern Kansas recently took part in a day-long seminar, Rehabilitating Nebraska Farmers and Ranchers with Disabilities, in Hebron, NE.

Sponsored by Nebraska AgrAbility, a partnership of University of Nebraska-Lincoln Extension and Easter Seals Nebraska, the workshop was designed to help health care professionals become more competent in the care they give to an agricultural population they see on a regular basis.  Lead instructor for the seminar was Dr. Carla Wilhite, OTR/L, of the University of North Dakota, Casper College.

Wilhite was instrumental in developing the AOTA-approved curriculum used in the seminar.  She added her own experiences and expertise to supplement topics such as the farm culture, farm tasks and their hazards, and treatment interventions.

Other instructors for the workshop were:  Sharry Nielsen, Rodney Peterson, and Del Ficke, NE AgrAbility; Kelly Kahman, ESN Work Incentive Specialist; and Belva Junker, Vocational Rehabilitation Services of NE. 
Participants learned about the needs of farmers and ranchers with disabilities and some of the assistive technology that might be used to keep them in production agriculture.  They also learned about the work of AgrAbility and resources available to them.  In addition to classroom work, on-site visits to the Monte Gehle and Clayton Hergott farms gave participants actual experience with some of the assistive technology used by AgrAbility clients.

Thirty-four took part in the workshop, including 16 students from the Occupational Therapy program at Central Community College in Grand Island.

Erinn Zurcher, a native Nebraskan and current student at Rockhurst University in Kansas City spent a week with the Nebraska AgrAbility team as part of her experiences in working toward a master’s degree in occupational therapy.  Zurcher was able to learn about both Nebraska AgrAbility partners, University of Nebraska-Lincoln Extension and Easter Seals Nebraska, sit in on a state planning session, observe an on-farm assessment and visit with both a small and a larger rehabilitation clinic in the area. 

Submitted by: Sharry Nielsen