Left to right, Lauren Farnsworth, Payton McGee and Kristie Parrish share their Bearcat pride and their therapeutic recreation skills in their roles at Truman Medical Center's New Frontiers outpatient program. (Submitted photo)
By Leah Newell, communication assistant
Three Northwest Missouri State University alumni are applying the experiences they gained as undergraduate students to their careers at a Truman Medical Center outpatient program in Kansas City, Missouri.
Kristie Parrish, Payton McGee and Lauren Farnsworth work as recreational therapists in Truman’s New Frontiers program for patients battling mental illness.
“The quality of the services to clients provided by Kristie, Lauren and Payton is exceptional,” Mark VanMeter, New Frontiers’ behavioral Health Manager, said. “They take a personal interest in each client, elevating and instilling hope and offering an education that gives each client the skills they need for survival and advancement along the path toward mental health recovery.”
Parrish, a 2015 Northwest graduate, facilitates purposeful and structured treatment groups to teach clients more about their illnesses and how to cope with their symptoms. She also supervises therapeutic recreation interns who are completing their practicums with the program.
She says Northwest prepared her for her career through hands-on experiences, such as an Exploring Recreation Resources course led by Dr. Sue Myllykangas, a professor of recreation at Northwest. The course is a 12-day, high-impact experience in Colorado that provides students with opportunities to observe and participate in a variety of professional activities in parks and recreation. Because of her experiences, Parrish encourages others interested in therapeutic recreation work to keep an open mind and put the person – not their disability – first.
“Dr. Sue and Dr. (Terry) Long were always bringing in real people to give us that experience, and the Exploring Recreation Resources class was super helpful in showing the broadness of our field,” Parrish said.
Farnsworth, a 2016 graduate, works to provide services that increase life skills, improve quality of life and encourage continued recovery. Before working at New Frontiers, she was an expressive therapist for Truman’s inpatient behavioral health unit.
Farnsworth says she also benefitted from an internship at a children’s center where she practiced recreational therapy with children and adolescents who suffered from trauma related to emotional and physical abuse.
“Northwest was able to give me all the resources I needed for after graduation but what I didn’t expect was the family I gained,” Farnsworth said.
McGee, who graduated last spring, assists therapeutic groups at the outpatient center with activities such as art, choir, gardening, visits to the public library, self-esteem, physical wellness and mindfulness. She began full-time work at Truman after interning there last summer.
McGee says playing soccer at Northwest also taught her the importance of being a team player and helped her develop leadership skills.
“The biggest lesson Northwest has taught me was that new and challenging situations will be the only way to help yourself grow,” McGee said.
Northwest’s therapeutic recreation program prepares students for national certification as certified therapeutic recreation specialists. Students learn to assess, plan, implement and evaluate recreation programs that meet the therapeutic goals of individuals with special needs.
In April, the University will host the Midwest Symposium on Therapeutic Recreation in St. Louis, Missouri.
Dr. Terry Long, the director of Northwest’s School of Health Science and Wellness, said stories like those of Parrish, McGee and Farnsworth reveal the quality of the University’s therapeutic recreation program. The alumnae reflect Northwest’s efforts to provide and engage students in profession-based learning opportunities early on and throughout their college experiences.
“Profession-based learning can provide tremendous growth opportunities and help ensure that students are career ready,” Long said. “Truman Medical Center has been a model partner, which has benefitted everyone involved – the University, the hospital and the students.”
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