Olympia Orthopaedics Associates is well known throughout Southwest Washington as a comprehensive care provider, from broken wrists to MRIs to arthritis. An important part of that care are the two physical therapy clinics, one on Olympia’s Westside and one on Lilly Road at the Eastside Clinic. And as of early March, both areas have been in the capable hands of new Rehabilitation Services Director, Lisa Bowling.
Bowling grew up in Spokane, Washington, the youngest of 10 kids. Her mom stayed at home keeping things running for the big family and her father worked as a doctor. Most people assume her interest in the field grew out of her dad’s profession and being around his work as a child. But it was actually Bowling’s mom who turned her interest to Physical Therapy.
“I knew I had an interest early on,” shares Bowling, “but I didn’t have a name for it. It wasn’t until my mom gave me a book on Joni Eareckson, an Olympic swimmer from Port Angeles, who broke her neck resulting in paralysis/quadriplegia and reading about her therapies that the idea began to form. 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.” In 1979, when Bowling was a sophomore in high school, the family moved from Washington to California. It was here she began shadowing her father, working with him in his clinics and with patients.
During the testing done in high school to show your “aptitude,” Bowling’s career path came up as either teacher or physical therapy. “Well, you do both when you are a physical therapist,” she realized and her career path was born. She competed her formal training at California State Northridge graduating in 1988.
Over the years, Bowling has had a variety of experiences. She spent the last 11 years, prior to coming on board at Olympia Orthopaedics, working with injured workers. She has done subcontract review work with LNI. Before that, she worked closely with orthopaedists through the PT clinic she owned in California. While the family lived in Georgia for a brief time, Bowling worked in a neurology practice as director of their associated rehabilitation centers. This experience in multi-disciplinary settings gives Bowling a depth of knowledge in the varied types of physical therapies patients may need, particularly useful at OOA with its comprehensive care options.
In 2000, after a visit back to Washington for her parent’s 50th wedding anniversary, Bowling returned to her Washington roots, settling her family in Olympia. OOA knew Bowling’s vast experience would be a good fit for the new Rehabilitation Services Director position. “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 likes the location of the clinics within the same building as the doctors and values the close relationship among all staff.
“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.” Serving the wide variety of departments at Oly Ortho, helping the group grow to assist all patients was one of the main attractions for Bowling.
Bowling’s favorite part of her job is her patients. “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,” she shares with a smile. “Helping reduce their pain and their restrictions – honestly is kind of a rush.”
With 36 years in the field, Bowling can say with confidence she has “never seen the same thing twice. What happens with each individual body during recovery keeps my interest piqued.”
As the department director, Bowling spends less time with patients and more time in the office, handling daily details for the two large clinics. 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 behind the scenes work is invaluable to patient care and she loves supporting the talented therapists on her staff.
One new aspect of physical therapy, since Bowling’s arrival, is the Hand Therapy Center at the Westside Clinic. With two talented hand surgeons on staff at OOA and three dedicated hand therapists, patients seeking specialized care for hand and upper extremity issues cannot find better care in the region.
Bowling knows working at OOA is something special. “Olympia Orthopaedics is unique. There is so much direct contact with the doctors. Their 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. She also cites the dynamic work being done throughout the practice to align good practices and standard protocols as critical to her work. Being able to provide patients with quantifiable outcomes, letting them know clearly how their recovery is going, is a valuable and essential tool.
Throughout Oly Ortho, physicians, therapists, nurses and technicians are dedicated to a common goal – getting a patient’s Life in Motion. “What we do in physical therapy is tied so closely to motion,” explains Bowling. “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.”