Mary Anne Moisan, MS, PT, OT/L, completed her Bachelor of Science in Physical Therapy at the University of Vermont and her Master of Science in Occupational Therapy at Colorado State University. Throughout her combined 32 years of experience, she has worked in a wide variety of settings as a PT including inpatient, outpatient, brain injury rehabilitation and homecare. As an OT, the majority of her experience is school-based and preschool intervention, in addition to teaching in the Master of Occupational Therapy program at University of Southern Maine/Lewiston-Auburn College. Currently, she is working for Miles and St. Andrews Homecare and Hospice out of Damariscotta, ME as a PT, integrating as much Tai Chi and Qigong into her home visits as possible. She enjoys kayaking, hiking, cross-country skiing and knitting with her husband, Dan, and growing family of young adults.
The IRQTC sat down with Mary Anne to find out more about how RQTC has influenced her life and work.
IRQTC: Hello Mary Anne! Could you give us an idea of what your family and work life is like?
Mary Anne: Right now, my family life is quite full! My husband and I got married 6 years ago and we have 5 children between us; the youngest two are 21, and the oldest is 27! I’ve always wanted a big family, so now I’ve got mine and that’s so fun!
When I got married I was able to cut back to working part time. It was really important to me because I needed space to breathe to take in these new changes in life. I feel very fortunate that I was able to step back in that way, and now I am working per diem as a physical therapist doing home care. I really enjoy it! I get to be out and about, not in the same place all the time, seeing people in their homes in a really meaningful environment. Working in home care, I am able to connect with people in a different way than in a hospital or clinic setting, because you’re in their home. It’s their turf. It’s a different kind of skill set. There is more of a relationship element to what you are doing.
IRQTC: Cool! And now here you are. How did you get into Tai Chi for rehab?
Mary Anne: I was getting kinda frustrated with a formulaic approach, if you will, to how we address people’s problems. You know, the same old exercises over and over again. I thought – we can do better than this! We can do a lot better than this. So I took a course that regained my hands on skills, which I kinda lost. We forget there are other things that we can do to help people move better and feel better.
Then, looking for more, I took your class in falls prevention, and that was really eye-opening to me. Here was another way we can go about approaching people, and hopefully for the patients, a fresh and different way than what they have experienced before — maybe it could help engage them a bit more. The biggest thing is to help them actually make some real changes in how they are able to interact in their environment and how to help people get around more safely at home, which has always been my focus in home care.
IRQTC: Has the Fundamentals course been your first exposure to Tai Chi?
Mary Anne: It was actually my second. I had a little stint, in between working with kids with behavior issues, and the public school, when I taught a class at the University of Southern Maine, and that was really fun. When I was starting to burn out, I started dabbling at University of New England, and they offered a Tai Chi class for their staff during lunch time, and that was my first experience. I had wanted to do it for a while, but I just didn’t bite the bullet for whatever reason.
That was a good very basic introduction, but I was able to look at it from a clinical perspective too, so that was fun. I do similar things, but maybe not as intentionally as Tai Chi, so I kinda liked the idea that what I was already doing, and I that’s what I really liked about your class – that I could take what I was attempting to do, which was attempting to provide a different way to work on balance, strengthening, and posture with people, but in a more systematic way. Another thing I love about Tai Chi is the research base that’s there to support it.
IRQTC: And now, you have completed, the fundamentals program, congratulations! How do you feel that the Fundamentals information has been valuable to you in your life and work?
Mary Anne: I really enjoyed learning about the newer ways of thinking about pain, because I deal with a lot of people – at least 80% of my patients – in home care deal with pain. Some just live with chronic pain. We have to rate their pain with every visit, they will say there’s no pain. Then they will go to get up, and groan in pain – and they don’t count that as pain because they are used to it. So I am fascinated – I even took a course on neural trigger point to help with pain issues, so for me this course is where my head is as a clinician.
That piece really spoke to me. In the fundamentals course, the issues around breathing stuck with me; we all know how important breathing is. But I learned EVEN MORE reasons why it’s really important to get our patients breathing well, deeply, and rhythmically. Just for their overall health, wellness, and healing. Now, we ALWAYS start with breathing, and we always incorporate breathing into the exercise.
IRQTC: Sounds like the breathing piece has truly impacted you and your patients. Since you’ve made that change with breathing, what effects have you seen?
Mary Anne: Immediately, there’s always a change in people’s posture. The physical act of a nice solid belly breath has helped to open people up. If you do nothing else but breathe with this intention, several times a day, that is good – it will help you – and people appreciate that; because we overload people with information and things they should be doing. To be able to give them something simple, with some background to it – they know it’s really important, that will help their whole body system, bringing oxygen and life to the muscles, and the areas that need to heal – to help with the pain. They know I’m committed to helping them get well.
IRQTC: Why would you recommend that people take the Fundamentals Course?
Mary Anne: A couple reasons. One, you walk away with actual techniques and things that you can do RIGHT AWAY, and you have a reference for that. If you forget, you can go back and look things up. We have instant knowledge we can bring to our patients. We have research to back up what we are doing, and new things we can try – which is always exciting and refreshing as a therapist.
Another piece to that, is that Brian does a really good job of pulling it together. It feels really holistic and connected. We aren’t just learning the moves, we’re not just learning the evidence, we’re not just looking at movement – we are looking at pain management, breathing posture – and everything is all in one package. When you go to implement the skills, it’s all in one neat piece. For busy therapists, who have productivity concerns – if you can do one activity that hits posture, balance, breathing, strength – that’s an incredible gift.
IRQTC: That’s wonderful to hear, it’s so good to hear you say that. Where would you love to grow your Tai Chi from here?
Mary Anne: My vision for Tai Chi is to turn it into more of a community based practice, whether it’s providing group classes or individual sessions, for people who do have concerns that might be addressed by a rehab professional. Maybe they fell and broke their hip, and had home care – but still need help. Doing local classes about balance and falls prevention, safety, mobility. I would love to transition out of a medical establishment, move to a community base – but still use my OT and PT knowledge.
Our patients aren’t always home bound forever, and they could benefit from similar help and support – they are still stuck, but not qualifying for medical care. Those are the people I think I could work with. People don’t always like the medical system – even though they need help, they are turned off from it a little bit. It’s scary to go to the hospital. It’s disjointed and people have to jump through hoops. It would be nice to have a wellness rehab place where people could go to and feel better about it. They might be more likely to go get some training if it’s not in a clinical setting. I would love to do your BEST training as a next step. It would give me some motivation to keep moving in the direction towards my motivation and skills.