The first question physical therapist assistant Anissa Keith asks a new patient is, "What do you want to achieve?"
A physical therapist assistant with Chesterfield General Hospital Therapy Services in Cheraw, Keith works with people who have lost mobility due to surgery, disease or an accident.
"We find out what they are lacking functionally and what they need to get back to an optimal life," Keith said.
About 18 years ago, Keith asked herself what she wanted to achieve to improve her life, and she realized it was to pursue a career in physical therapy.
But how? Living in Cheraw, Keith was a wife and a mother. She could not leave her home or her family to attend a school such as the Medical University of South Carolina in Charleston, where the Physical Therapy program was offered.
Keith decided she would start one step at a time, and her first step on her pathway to a future in physical therapy was enrolling in Northeastern Technical College, which was named Chesterfield-Marlboro Technical College at the time.
During the summer of 1993, she began taking classes at night at the College in Cheraw.
"Going to Northeastern Technical College allowed me to work a full-time job, be at home with my child and live in my community," Keith said. "I could do all that and get the prerequisite courses I would need to transfer to a college that offered the Physical Therapy program."
Besides convenience, Keith also found at NETC that she received valuable one-on-one time with instructors who cared about helping her achieve her goal.
Keith attended a four-year college after graduating Bennettsville High School, but she dropped out of college after her first year.
"I was young and a new mother and wife," Keith said. "I was working, too, and could not juggle it all at the same time."
Returning to college years later, Keith said the smaller classes and the tight-knit learning environment of NETC helped her keep her grade point average up. Her College advisor helped to make sure she enrolled in the correct classes to reach her ultimate goal of becoming a physical therapist assistant.
Keith transferred to Florence-Darlington Technical College, and she graduated from there in 1996 with her Associate in Arts degree.
Her next step was to enroll in the Physical Therapist Assistant program at Greenville Technical College. At the end of the summer of 1997, she finally walked across the stage to receive an Associate in Health Science degree with a major in Physical Therapist Assistant. She had also earned the Academic Excellence Award and was named the Outstanding Physical Therapist Assistant Student in her graduating class.
Keith had been working as an aide since 1994 at Chesterfield General Hospital. Four months before she graduated Greenville Technical College, the hospital offered her a position with its Physical Therapy Department, as she would soon be a licensed physical therapist assistant. Keith accepted the job and has been with CGH Physical Therapy ever since.
"We're a small operation, but all of us here love what we do. We are making a difference in people's lives," said Keith, who was named the assistant director of rehabilitation in 2003.
"To be a physical therapist assistant, you have to have compassion and empathy, be creative, be able to solve problems and be a people person," Keith said.
Keith is also certified in the Kinesio Taping Method, a definitive rehabilitative taping technique that is designed to facilitate the body's natural healing process without restricting the body's range of motion. Keith said many professional and recreational athletes are turning to this method to ease aches and pains and allow them to stay in the game.
Keith also has an Associate in Science degree from NETC, which she completed in 2001. This degree will give her the foundation she needs to work toward her next goal, which is to have a doctorate degree.
Keith encourages others to follow the pathway she did by starting her education at NETC.
"I have five sisters, and three have gone to school at NETC," Keith said. "One sister is now a registered nurse, another has a master's degree in education and is a National Board Certified teacher, and the other has a master's degree in occupational therapy."
Keith said not only is the College affordable, but it also provides a great learning environment.
"You are more than just a number in a classroom," Keith said. "At NETC, the faculty and staff care about your career goals, and they will help you gain success in life."
Tags: Jumpstart to Education
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