A Model for Care and Support

Stephanie, Occupational Therapist

Stephanie Schneider is pediatric occupational therapist at Children’s National Hospital. The DC Firefighters Burn Foundation supports a portion of her salary so that she can build programming for burn patients and their families and maintain a database to connect patients to programming such as Burn Camp.

It is also because of support and sponsorship from the Foundation, that Stephanie has specialized in burn care.

Stephanie started at Children’s National Hospital in 2012 as a new graduate making her rounds as an occupational therapist through different units within pediatrics. She spent time in the burn unit, where the goal is to help a child regain mobility and function of their injured area in order to promote full participation in day-to-day and meaningful activities. The therapy the children endure is painful. Coaxing damaged skin to move and stretch through a full range of motion so a child can return to play, school, sports…being a kid, is tedious and strenuous. “Unfortunately, despite our best efforts to minimize discomfort during our sessions, therapy interventions can still be painful,”  Stephanie said as she reflected on those early career experiences. “It is hard to see children have to experience that and I didn’t think burn care would be the specialty area I would be pursuing.”

However, after being sponsored to attend her first American Burn Association annual conference, Stephanie’s whole outlook about burn care changed. Stephanie participated in workshops with other burn therapists and learned that the role of therapy goes far beyond the physical aspect of recovery. “My whole practice changed after going to the burn conference,” she recalls.

Then in 2017, the Foundation sponsored Stephanie’s attendance at the Phoenix Society World Burn Congress. This transformational event is the largest gathering of survivors, their families, burn care professionals and the fire service industry. The community of World Burn is unmatched and the experience of attending has a profound impact on people. For Stephanie, seeing survivors outside of the hospital and so many together and connecting with health care professionals and families in a space dedicated to burn survivorship was incredible. To better understand her patients daily lives once they leave the hospital shaped her approach to care immensely. “It really helped me to not shy away from talking about and through a patient’s and family’s fears about going home,” Stephanie says. “I was blown away by this experience and was so inspired and empowered. It really affected me.”

So much of the development of Stephanie’s education and approach to burn care was made possible by the Foundation paying for her expenses to attend these phenomenal conferences. “The support for providers has been a game changer,” says Stephanie. “I learn so much that I bring back to my patients both through clinical and social emotional skills that are so important for their journey outside the hospital. I have been able to network with other therapists across the country that I still reach out to when I need to talk through challenging cases.”

“The DC Firefighters Burn Foundation is a model for other burn support organizations. They hear about a need and they fulfill it. I can’t say enough about how much it means to me to have the time, through the Foundation’s support, to spend crafting programming that will be meaningful to families. “A strong aftercare community and connection are so important to the overall healing for burn survivors and their families,” Stephanie says. “I’m just so grateful.”