Yakima Physical Therapist Rosio Vargas-Negri shares her journey to the healthcare industry and how her practice in neuro rehab has the potential to change lives.
Born to parents who immigrated to the U.S. from Mexico, Rosio Vargas-Negri PT; DPT learned at a young age how hard work takes a toll on the body. She went to work in the orchard with her parents every day. She didn’t know how she could help others, until she was introduced to physical therapy in her final years of college.
“It’s not really as known as it should be,” Rosio said. “I think it’s even more so in the Hispanic community where there’s just not that knowledge of ‘Hey, I don’t have to be in pain. There is an option for me to try something.’”
In this episode, Rosio talks about how her passion for caregiving led her to a career in neuro rehab – focusing on helping people recover from some of the toughest neurological injuries and conditions.
Connecting with patients
Once Rosio discovered physical therapy, she was immediately hooked. She loved the idea of getting to have more than the brief time a doctor gets to spend with any given patient.
“I wanted something where I could get to know the patient. I could see the progress. I could work with them,” Rosio said. “I just love the connection and the rapport you can build with a patient.”
This devotion to helping change people’s lives led Rosio to focus on neuro rehab. Treating people with brain injuries, multiple sclerosis, Parkinson’s and spinal cord injuries can be challenging, but that’s exactly what attracted her to the practice.
“I was just fascinated by the connections of the spine, the brain, and how something in the brain on the left side controls the right side and that type of thing,” she said.
Since many of her patients suffer from cognitive issues, Rosio has to approach each patient differently and with patience. She is always keeping in mind how memory loss or distracted behavior can factor into a session.
“Some days go better than others,” she said. “I think I’ve gotten kind of better at trying to redirect them and reading the environment.”
Seeing an impact
Neuro rehab is hard work. But, the outcomes are transformative for the patients who give it a try.
For Rosio, one particular patient’s story sticks out. She began working with a gentleman who was recovering from a stroke and was depressed at his situation. But once he began walking with Rosio and completing his exercises, he had an entirely different outlook.
“He was doing all these things that he couldn’t do before,” she said. “And so he was able to complete his program and go home with his wife rather than go to a nursing home.”
At the final day of his treatment, the patient became overwhelmed with happiness at all the progress he had made. Usually not an emotional man, he began to cry as he told Rosio how much the experience meant to him.
“He grabbed my hand and just looked at me and said ‘Thank you so much for taking the time to help me. And really just seeing me and being there and helping me through this process,’” she recalled.
Expanding its reach
Rosio hopes that more patients from different cultures can experience the same transformative life changes that physical therapy brings.
She said she thinks more Hispanic communities could access physical therapy if there were more people with their cultural background in the field. By breaking down language barriers, she believes more people could benefit from the practice.
“If it came from someone who’s speaking their language, maybe they would respond better,” she said. “I’ve had that with a lot of patients that I see here, they’re like ‘Wow, I’ve had therapy before and it wasn’t quite like this and you explain things to me really well.”
Rosio believes progress is possible. She said outreach in historically Hispanic communities and the mentorship of Hispanic students in physical therapy are keys to growing the representation in healthcare.
She sees the new physical therapy school in Yakima as a great place to start.
“I was the only one in my class. So I think that having that school there is gonna be a big opportunity as well.”
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