WHERE ARE THEY NOW? Edwards sisters are helping others with OT
Nevis alumni Cassie Edwards-Hoversten and her younger sister Nicole Edwards are both making a difference in the lives of patients in the field of occupational therapy.
They are the daughters of Rick and Kathy Edwards of Nevis.
Job shadowing led to a career in OT
Cassie graduated from Nevis School in 2009. “I knew I wanted to be in the medical field,” she said. “At first I thought I might be a pediatrician. In high school I did job-shadowing at the hospital in Park Rapids in a bunch of different areas, and decided I really liked therapy. I still stay in touch with some of my teachers at Nevis. It’s nice to have that community and school support.”
She attended Ridgewater College in Willmar for two years where she was on the volleyball team, then earned her bachelors’ degree from St. Cloud State in speech therapy and a master’s degree in occupational therapy from the University of Minnesota.
She now works as a full-time occupational therapist at Vibra Hospital, a long-term acute care hospital located on the seventh floor of the Sanford Medical Center in Fargo.
“I’m also the program director, so I manage the therapy programs at Vibra in Fargo and in Mandan, N.D,” she said.
What she enjoys most about her job is seeing patients make progress.
“Many of the patients come to us on ventilators,” she said. “Some have had strokes or brain injuries, where they are completely unresponsive, and as they progress they could be walking. The average stay is 28 days, so we get to see them go from being completely dependent to being as independent as possible.”
She treats an average of 8-10 patients a day.
Her husband, Eli, is a police officer in the city of Dilworth, where they live with their son Noah, who is 2.
“I love that it’s a smaller town and a close-knit community but we’re super close to Fargo for anything we need or want to do,” she said. “My job is super busy, but the hours have some flexibility.”
From graphic designer to OT assistant
Nicole Edwards graduated from Nevis High School in 2012. She earned her degree from the North Dakota State College of Science in Wahpeton, N.D.
“My first degree was in communications, arts and design from Alexandria Technology and Community College,” she said.
Her first job after college was as a graphic designer at Promotional Resources in St. Cloud.
“After a year I was tired of staring at a computer screen,” she said. “My favorite part about being a graphic designer was my opportunity to take a company that had not-so-great branding, turn it around and make it the best company it could be. Now I can help each person who comes in not doing so well, turn that around and get them home.”
Nicole is currently working as a certified occupational therapy assistant with Blue Stone Therapy in Iowa, which contracts to provide services to Eventide on 8th Street in Moorhead. She has been working there since August after transferring from a pediatric setting in Fargo.
She said her sister Cassie influenced her decision to follow in her footsteps into the occupational therapy field.
“What I like best about my job is the patients,” she said. “Some of them have non-weight-bearing status for their arms or legs. You work for them for a few weeks and see them being able to get out of bed and use the toilet by themselves. It’s amazing.
“In occupational therapy, we focus on the core muscles and the arms, where physical therapy focuses on the legs. OT and PT come together to help each patient. We each have our own goals, but we’re both working on getting that patient ready for their next setting.”
Her job involves helping patients after a fall, surgery or hospitalization. “A lot of the patients are elderly, and when they leave the hospital they go to a skilled nursing facility,” she said. “That’s where my job comes in. We help with retraining them to do things like dressing, getting on and off the toilet, getting out of bed and other basic needs, along with things like being able to do higher cognitive-level things like cooking and grocery shopping.
“Some of our patients do go home. We have an assisted living facility and a long-term care facility connected that we can recommend if they can’t go home.”
She said occupational therapy is also used with children, and there are a wide variety of jobs available in the field.
“I think a lot of students don’t know about occupational therapy as a job choice,” she said. “It covers so much. You could work in a school, nursing home or assisted living.”
In addition to her job, she said she enjoys living in Fargo and being close to her sister and her family.
“We’re both kind of homebodies, but we do go to some community events together and my parents come here all of the time,” she said.
She said the values taught at Nevis School helped her once she went out into the workforce. “We knew we could lean on one another if we needed anything,” she said. “It’s a small, tight-knit community.”