CHT in the Making: Mackenzie Auten #HTW2022

In honor of Hand Therapy Week 2022, Axes celebrates hand therapists everywhere. Hand therapists (CHT) are experts in managing acute, chronic and post-surgical conditions of the upper extremity resulting in the loss of function and inability to perform daily activities. From our newer grads to seasoned hand therapists, we are so incredibly proud of the 12 highly-skilled clinicians that make up our Hand Therapy team.

Our Hand Therapy team has grown and expanded with our steadfast, company-wide dedication to continuing education. Axes Physical Therapy has developed an in house mentorship process that pairs therapists new to hand rehabilitation with highly experienced hand therapists. This goal of this process is to assist in furthering his/her hand and upper extremity rehabilitation knowledge base and patient care, while also serving as preparation for the Certified Hand Therapist (CHT) exam. Special congratulations to Axes therapist, Matthew Williams, MS, OTR/L, CHT, ATC – who earned his highly esteemed CHT designation last week! Thus far, Haley Finnegan, OTR/L recently completed her mentorship program (she has been dubbed the Queen of Splints by her mentor, Julie Freiner), Mackenzie (Kenzie) Auten, OTR/L is well into the process, and Megan Mason, OTD, OTR/L began in June ’22!

Last week, we sat down with one of our current mentees, Kenzie Auten, to hear about her journey to become a Hand Therapist and her time in the Axes Hand Therapy Mentorship Program. Let’s hear from this CHT in the making and a few of her mentors…

Kenzie, Tell me a little bit about yourself. Are you from St. Louis? Where did you go to school? What about college?

“I grew up just outside of St. Louis, in Troy, Illinois, and went to Triad High School, so St. Louis area is home to me. After, I went to McKendree University to get my Bachelor’s Degree in Biopsychology, with minors in Occupational Therapy and Leadership. I then moved to Iowa for Graduate School and received my Master’s in Occupational Therapy from Allen College.”

You’re a pretty new grad! Congratulations on all of your hard work paying off. What made you want to work in the field of Occupational Therapy? Moreover, what made you want to become a Hand Therapist?

“I had always been interested in healthcare, specifically the rehabilitation world. When I learned what occupational therapy was, I began shadowing various settings and fell in love! While shadowing a super cool hand therapist (Laura Jenkins at Axes Hazelwood 😉), I found my passion for the outpatient setting and was later hired to be a rehab aide while in school. From that point on, my interest hand therapy just kept growing and I set myself a goal to become one!”

Choosing a place to start your career as a Hand Therapist was a big decision! What made you choose Axes?

“I was welcomed by the most kind and supportive mentors here at Axes.  I really got the feeling that Axes would be a great fit for me to begin my professional career  and grow as a hand therapist. I was fortunate enough to get a hand therapy fieldwork placement with Axes at the end of 2021. “

Who are your professional mentors?

“Oh, my. Well, to name just a few: Laura Jenkins, Sarah Schroeder, John Teepe, Julie Freiner, Shawn Heck, Chantell Unnerstall, Matt Williams, and so many more here at Axes that have taught me SO much. Very thankful to work alongside such a great team and learning from the best!”

What about your job is your “Why”?

“Helping individuals of all ages and diagnoses return to doing what they love within their daily lives with as much independence and as pain free as possible. My ‘why’ is that I know our work truly improves lives. I also just love meeting new people, so getting to know each patient and hear all the stories, jokes, and life advice is a huge bonus.”

Do you plan to sit for the CHT exam? 

“Yes! I will sit for the exam I am as soon as I am eligible, in just about 3 years.”

What advice would you give to young students that are considering becoming a Hand Therapist?

“Start getting your feet wet and do some observations with a hand therapist. Start learning about the outpatient setting and the profession of hand therapy, then reach out to any hand therapists in your area and see if you can get in a clinic to shadow them for a few hours. For me, it made the process a no brainer.”

Not only did we get to hear from Kenzie, 3 of her mentors had quite a bit to say, too…

We are so proud of you, Kenzie, Megan, Haley, Sarah, Matt, Laura, Julie, Chantell, Sara, Shawn, Sharon, Annie…  of our entire team of hand and upper extremity experts that we are building at Axes Physical Therapy. Thank you, Hand Therapists everywhere, for your dedication to serving and improving the lives of your patients and your communities. Happy Hand Therapy Week!

If you are experiencing pain, symptoms, or limitations – we encourage you to have your condition evaluated by a Certified Hand Therapist at one of our 10 Greater St. Louis area locations offering hand therapy services. We understand the physical and emotional toll that accompanies these injuries and we are here for you. After all, helping you is what we do.

To schedule an appointment with any of our expert physical therapists, request an appointment online today.