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OTA Program Director Terrie Nolinske Has Made Her Career Combining Science & Creativity

by South University
November 13, 2017
An image of a healthcare professional assisting a woman.

For Terrie Nolinske, PhD, OTR/L, the South University, Tampa Chair of the College of Health Professions and Director of the Occupational Therapy Assistant program, the mix of applying scientific knowledge with creative problem-solving is what first drew her to the occupational therapy profession.

"Occupational therapy requires an extensive knowledge of anatomy, physiology, and medical conditions, but also requires the therapist to be very creative in engaging the client in the OT process," she explains.

Expertise & Experience in Occupational Therapy

As an occupational therapist, Nolinske has 40+ years of experience in evaluation and rehabilitation for burns, cancer, orthopedics, arthritis and neurology with individuals of all ages. She has worked with patients in their homes, community centers, hospitals, mental health centers, rehabilitation centers, schools, and communities for independent living, assisted living, and memory care.

"I enjoy the challenge of quickly assessing the strengths and limitations of new clients, finding out what’s important to them, and working with them to establish a unique plan of care and timeline for achieving treatment goals," she says. "Coming up with activities that are meaningful to the individual and that will keep them engaged and successful at each step and every session, that is where the creativity comes in."

Administratively, she has served as the Director of Occupational Therapy in a 450-bed hospital in Chicago as well as Chair of the Physical Disabilities Special Interest Section for the Americation Occupational Therapy Association, a role in which she developed educational procedures and a research symposium for thousands of therapists nationwide.

Educating Students, Peers, Patients, and the Public

Nolinske has long been an educator, from supervisory positions guiding the development of occupational therapists, to teaching patients how to achieve independence in daily tasks, to supervising students in the classroom and on externships.

Her first university position came in 1978 at Northwestern University Medical School’s Prosthetics-Orthotics Center. As an Associate and Assistant Director, in addition to teaching lectures and labs, she created orthotics course manuals and instituted the use of case studies and problem-based learning across courses. Since then, Nolinske has taught at numerous universities, even spending a semester teaching in Poland in 2002. In 2012, she joined South University, Tampa and founded our Occupational Therapy Assistant program.

Her educational experience outside the classroom is no less extensive, including working in textbook publishing and serving as editor for a national occupational therapy newsletter with a weekly circulation of 60,000. As an occupational therapy expert, she has led large organizations like the Lincoln Park Zoo and Tampa’s Museum of Science and Industry in creating entirely new experiences for people with disabilities , ensuring that everyone has an opportunity to learn, engage, and interact with their surroundings.

She has also written over 150 articles for magazines, technical publications, peer-reviewed journals, and newspapers and has been elected into the prestigious National Association of Science Writers.

Nolinske's Teaching Philosophy

As an educator, Nolinske is committed to incorporating activities for all learning styles. In her classes, she uses lectures, discussions on current events in healthcare, individual and group work, demonstrations, hands-on activities, presentations, case studies, and role playing. She encourages everyone to participate and openly discuss their differing viewpoints. Doing so, she believes, will help to develop the communication, creativity, and problem-solving abilities of her students—skills that are essential for working in occupational therapy.

"I want all students to feel welcome and to always be connecting what they learn to their past knowledge and personal experiences. I also aim to instill curiosity, so that my students are questioning what they learn and asking why something works (or doesn’t)," she says. "I take great joy in seeing my students do things like considering context, embracing diversity, challenging assumptions, and exploring alternative possibilities."

Explore our Occupational Therapy Assistant program today, or learn more about how you can change lives by working in occupational therapy.

by South University
November 13, 2017
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