Olympia Orthopaedics Associates is well known throughout the South Sound as a comprehensive provider of musculo-skeletal care. Key components to that care are the two state-of the-art physical therapy clinics housed at the Westside and Eastside Clinics. In early March, Lisa Bowling, a Physical Therapist with over 36 years on the field, took the reins as the Rehabilitation Services Director for OOA, bringing her experience, knowledge and compassion to PT patients throughout the South Sound.
Bowling is a Washington native, growing up in Spokane, Washington as the youngest of 10 kids. She comes to the medical profession naturally – her father was a doctor and her first experiences with patients were alongside her dad. The family relocated to California during Bowling’s sophomore year in high school and it then her interest in the field of physical therapy began to grow.
“In 1979, my sophomore year in high school, I began working in the field, mostly with my dad in his clinics and in nursing homes,” Bowling shares. “I knew I had an interest in some sort of patient care early on, but I didn’t have a name for it. It wasn’t until my mom gave me a book on Joni Eareckson, the Olympic swimmer from Port Angeles who broke her neck, resulting in paralysis/quadriplegia. Reading about the process Joni went through, how she progressed through her therapies and became a successful artist, writer inspired me to want to be part of this process.”
Remember the “aptitude” tests given in high school designed to help you settle on a career path? Bowling’s test came back with physical therapist or teacher as professions she was suited for. “Well, you do both when you are a physical therapist,” she realized and her career was born. Her interest transitioned into formal training at California State Northridge where she graduated in 1988.
Bowling has vast experience in the field of physical therapy, working in a number of different settings. She spent the last 11 years working specifically with injured workers, becoming adept at navigating this complex system. She has done subcontract review work with LNI. In the years before, she owned her own clinic, working primarily with California based orthopaedists and their patients. While her family lived in Georgia for a time, Bowling worked with a neurology practice and the associated rehabilitation centers. All these experiences add up to a depth of knowledge that benefits the patients and other therapists at Oly Ortho.
Bowling returned to Washington State in 2000 and settled her family in the Olympia area. When the position of Rehabilitation Services Director came open last year, OOA knew Bowling would be a good fit. “Throughout my career, I have always worked very closely with doctors and it was something that was missing in my past job,” says Bowling. “I did that with my dad and it’s what I’ve always loved about being a therapist.”
Bowling also cites the location of the PT clinics in the same buildings with the doctors, and the physician’s dedication to working together with physical therapists, as a huge advantage. “Working with doctors who are excited about what they do and want to teach is amazing,” she shares. “Even after 36 years in the field, it’s pretty exciting to feel like you are always learning. That was the main draw here.” She also knew the clinic was growing and looks forward to the challenge of helping grow services to meet patient needs.
When asked what her favorite part of physical therapy is, she answers quickly. “It’s my clients. I love taking care of people and educating them. The ability to educate and empower someone through their own rehab and on their own journey back to health and function is such a boost for a therapist. Helping reduce their pain and their restrictions – honestly is kind of a rush,” she shares with a smile.
With 36 years in the field, Bowling says she still sees each patient as a puzzle. “I have never seen the same thing twice,” she assures. “The uniqueness and what happens with each individual body during recovery keeps my interest piqued.”
Currently, Bowling’s work as the new director means her day-to-day work is more administrative than patient care oriented. Her role will develop towards education of clients in pre-operative care as well as some post-operative needs. While she does miss the patients, she knows that the work she does to support the 13 physical therapists on staff translates directly into improved patient care.
Part of the growth since Bowling’s arrival is the new Hand Therapy Center in the Westside Clinic. Three dedicated hand therapists work with patients and the two talented hand surgeons at OOA. There are six general physical therapists on the Westside and seven working with patients at the Lilly Road site. Bowling oversees them all.
“Olympia Orthopaedics is unique in that there is so much direct contact with the doctors. Their want and desire to work with us, and our ability to literally walk over and talk to them to clarify an issue or get direction, makes a huge difference,” Bowling explains.
“What we do in physical therapy is tied so closely to motion,” explains Bowling when asked about getting a patient’s Life in Motion, an organization-wide commitment at Oly Ortho. “Life in Motion to me is not only helping people deal with the pain and fearfulness that comes with injury or surgery, it’s teaching them better movements – preventative care and adaptability. Injuries can leave residual effects, emotionally and physically. We help them find satisfaction and a full life.”