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Spotlight On...Occupational Therapist Kerry Coyne

Kerry Coyne grew up on the South Side of Chicago. She always knew she wanted to work with kids in some capacity. Being the oldest child helping out with younger siblings, she imagined herself working in a daycare. Fast forward to high school. A career counselor, knowing Kerry was interested in the medical field but hated the sight of blood, recommended occupational therapy. 


“I immediately loved it and then realized I could specialize in pediatrics. I thought, this is perfect. ”


She studied Exercise Science as an undergrad at the University of Dayton in Ohio, then pursued her Masters Degree at Lewis University in Romeoville, Illinois. Back to her beloved Chicago. When asked what she loved about Chicago, Kerry admits it is the change of seasons.

“I love and hate the extremes, you definitely feel every season. The snowy winters are nice until it isn’t anymore (she laughs). The lake (Lake Michigan) is so nice to have, and then I just enjoy all downtown Chicago has to offer,” she says.


Directly after graduation in May of 2021, Kerry started with TeleTeachers in her first posting out of grad school. She says starting off her career in telehealth during the COVID-19 pandemic has uniquely prepared her for anything that comes her way. 


“I’m really proud of it (teletherapy experience) because I think it’s something that a lot of OT’s are afraid of. I’m glad I have that experience so early because I believe it will always be a part of my career going forward. I’ve found with telehealth you can still have so much impact and you have access to so many more students.”


Kerry says her driving factor in choosing occupational therapy is the idea that she can help people solve their own puzzles. She says every client is unique, and just because they have the same diagnosis doesn’t mean they have the same solutions. Kerry loves looking at hobbies, routines and strengths and being able to put it all together to come up with a plan for a client. The goal for the plan is to make a client more independent based upon the things in their lives that are important to them. Seeing the impact that achieved independence makes in the lives of her clients, and in the lives of their families, is what fuels her love of OT. 


There are challenges, Kerry says. One of her greatest challenges has been working with multiple schools with different schedules and collaborating with teachers to ensure all the pieces fit together for each student. And her biggest learning outcomes to date? Kerry says that would be the importance of communication, and making her sessions engaging for her students. 


What is your favorite part of your job?

With pediatrics, a lot of it looks like play and really is play. So it’s fun but I love being sneaky and adapting games to be beneficial toward skills goals. I like hiding the work behind a “play session”. It taps into my creative side. 


Even though it’s early in your career, what is something you are proud of accomplishing?

It’s been nice to get so comfortable in telehealth with it being such an up-and-coming practice area. In grad school, we were basically told, it exists. But we didn’t think anyone would do it because the assumption was it would be so much better in person. So challenging that assumption and getting the experience to get so good at it has been something I’m really proud of. 


Do you have one big goal you are working towards?

My biggest goal is to work in the NICU setting (Neonatal Intensive Care Unit). The road to achieving that is quite a long road. Sensory integration is a large part of it, so that’s why I’m working in a sensory integration clinic now, for the experience and training. Then I most likely have to go into acute pediatrics in a hospital setting and then transition into NICU. It’s long but I’m up for it. 


What would you be doing if you weren’t an occupational therapist?

I love this question. I would be a baby photographer, dressing them up and putting them in scenes. That would be really fun. I enjoy photography, traveling and taking photos and every time I would nanny or babysit I would send the parents a million photos of their kids. I love doing it!