Schools partner on rehab clinic


Calvin College, Grand Valley State University and Western Michigan University will use the new rehab center as a real-world learning tool for students in speech pathology and audiology, social work, and physical and occupational therapy. Courtesy Calvin College Rehabilitation Services

Three area colleges and universities are collaborating to bring integrated rehabilitation services to patients and interdisciplinary learning to students under a single roof.

Calvin College Rehabilitation Services, an innovative rehabilitation clinic developed in partnership with Calvin College, Grand Valley State University and Western Michigan University, is hosting an open house from 4-7 p.m., Tuesday, Sept. 29, in the renovated facility at 1310 East Beltline Ave. SE, Grand Rapids.

Calvin partnered with GVSU and WMU to provide comprehensive medical rehabilitation services for children and adult patients in areas including speech pathology and audiology, social work, and physical and occupational therapy.

Steven Vanderkamp, clinical director of the clinic and an experienced medical professional, said the dream for the new clinic was born a couple of years ago after a Calvin College clinical instructor wanted to offer additional services to the speech therapy patients she treated on campus.

“We were at capacity on campus, and over the next couple of years, with lots of conversation and lots of prayer, the team there decided we should move forward with building another clinic off campus,” said Vanderkamp.

“It is a rehab clinic offering similar services elsewhere in the community, but we are doing it with other schools.”

As the newly appointed director of Calvin College Rehabilitation Services, Vanderkamp will not only manage the clinic, but also will serve as a part-time physical therapist.

The clinic will have seven paid faculty members who specialize in physical therapy, occupational therapy, social work, speech pathology and audiology from the three academic institutions. The schools also will provide graduate interns to work with patients.

“We are really trying to be able to provide all the types of therapy care somebody might need in a rehab setting under one roof, and also providing an atmosphere that is conducive for good student learning,” said Vanderkamp.

“Having all three (academic institutions) playing in the sandbox together is very unique, but it’s also extremely special for us,” he added.

The new rehabilitation clinic’s speech therapy services include traditional speech and language interventions, swallowing therapy, and specialized treatment for patients with a traumatic brain injury and for executives who have experienced a stroke.

The speech therapy component is led by Calvin College, and graduate students will have the opportunity to perform services under the observation of a clinical instructor, according to Vanderkamp.

Audiology services also are provided through Calvin’s programming and range from hearing assessments to hearing aid fittings.

“They are also doing what is called ‘aural habilitation and rehabilitation,’” said Vanderkamp. “We’ve been blessed with a grant out of The Carls Foundation to be able to purchase two audiology booths that we have installed here.”

Judith Vander Woude, chair of Calvin’s speech pathology and audiology department, said the clinic addresses a need in the community, and having her students work alongside occupational and physical therapists will help them learn how to collaborate closely with various professionals to best serve their clients.

“It’s one thing to talk about it in class, but it’s another thing to actually do it and figure out how to get on the same page for a particular client to help fulfill his or her needs,” said Vander Woude.

“Then, when they graduate, they can do that or at least advocate for it.”

Calvin also is providing an instructor and a couple of students to perform social work services to help families and clients in areas such as assisting with financial challenges and connecting them with other community resources.

The physical therapy component of the clinic will be provided by a GVSU clinical instructor; the services include a patient evaluation and developing a treatment plan, which may include a home exercise program. The therapy will focus on neurological and orthopedic issues, including post-injury and post-surgical rehabilitation.

While there isn’t currently a GVSU physical therapy student at the clinic, Vanderkamp said he anticipates a student will join in 2016.

Barb Baker, associate professor of physical therapy at GVSU, said the clinic will allow physical therapy students the opportunity to experience treatment of neurological clients from an inter-collegiate and interdisciplinary perspective.

“There is great excitement in the Grand Valley physical therapy department over this venture,” said Baker. “This is meeting an enormous need in education students because neurological placements for students are limited.”

The final component of rehabilitative services offered at the new clinic is occupational therapy, which is led by two clinical instructors from Western Michigan University. Services provided include full developmental services or assessment for pediatrics, autism intervention, and providing support for older adults experiencing physical or cognitive changes.

“This is where some of the collaboration comes in because we say we are collaborating with local schools, and you can see with Grand Valley and Western Michigan how we are able to provide those additional services that I would think would be a little more difficult for us,” said Vanderkamp.

Nancy Hock, coordinator of WMU’s occupational therapy program in Grand Rapids, said the collaboration with the other colleges and the community is a great opportunity for WMU and a wonderful learning experience for students.

“We’re very excited about the opening of the new clinic,” said Hock.

While the clinic is located within an existing facility on East Beltline Avenue, the nearly 4,500-square-foot space on the second floor of the two-story building underwent a roughly $115,000 renovation. Funding for the renovation project came from donations from friends of Calvin College and additional college funds set aside for new strategic initiatives.

The space features amenities such as a group therapy room, seven clinical rooms, two soundproof audiology booths and a physical therapy gym.

“I want to acknowledge the wonderful community support for this clinic,” said Vanderkamp. “We have had a lot of people share opinions and ideas about this clinic; we have had people donate actual funds toward the building of the clinic. We have been incredibly blessed.”

The clinic opened to patients earlier this month and is currently working through a three- to four-month process to achieve credentials to begin working with insurance companies. Vanderkamp said the hope is to be able to bill insurance companies by the end of the calendar year for patient visits.

“Some insurance companies, you can jump right on board, such as Medicare and Medicaid, after going through all the hoops,” said Vanderkamp. “Then there are other health care plans where you have to apply to participate, and some of those plans have certain periods of the year where you can apply; however, if they are completely full with therapy providers, they may not ask us to come on board.”

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