• Article
  • February 1, 2021

Finding Inspiration in Challenging Times

A pediatric physical therapist learns to lean on his coworkers.

By Grant Heiman

Dan Schaefer guides Milaya toward a video call with her parents.
Dan Schaefer guides Milaya toward a video call with her parents.

Dan Schaefer is a physical therapist at the inpatient rehabilitation center at the Cleveland Clinic Children’s Hospital for Rehabilitation in Cleveland, Ohio. This photo is featured in CHA’s Stronger Together: Children’s Hospitals During COVID-19 photo series.  Here, Schaefer discusses his career and what it means to work in a children’s hospital.

Creating new protocols. We’ve all had to make adaptations to care delivery during the COVID-19 pandemic. Since visitors are restricted in physical therapy, we set up video calls for families to dial in and watch their kids’ progress. They’re also then engaged in the process. For example, if a patient is working on walking, we will set up the screen and have them walk towards their parent on the other end.

We’ve been given a chance to explore options to best deliver care, whether it’s incorporating telemedicine or at-home exercises, and we are better for it. There are just so many things we’d never had to think about before and adapting our work has been a great learning experience.

Career love. I wasn’t sure I was going to cut it as a pediatric therapist. But as a student, I got the chance to come and work here, and I just fell head over heels in love with the work, the patients and their families. Having adorable, happy patients certainly doesn’t hurt. Parents and families come to us in what can be dark times in their lives and seeing the realization of what their kids can do is really inspiring. To help a child maximize their potential and help them fully realize everything they can do is the best part of the job.

Coming together. You can’t fly solo here. Everyone across Cleveland Clinic Children’s has collaborated and come together in some way throughout the pandemic. It’s a team effort and a real testament to the quality of caregivers.

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