Rec Therapy Alumni Spotlight – Kristen Jones

February in National Recreational Therapy Month! Join us as we celebrate all month long and feature Recreational Therapy students and alumni.

Name: Kristen Jones

Graduation Year: 2016
How did you become interested in this field?
I actually started college pursuing a business degree, and although I was good at math and accounting, I quickly realized that I wasn’t fulfilled in that work. I started researching different majors and saw where one of my friends was pursuing an RT degree at UNCW. I saw that ECU also had an RT course and began to look further into it and fell in love with the ability to help others in a fun and exciting way, one that they can enjoy along their journey.
What were some of your favorite recreational therapy courses while studying here at ECU?
My favorite course while studying at ECU was definitely Physical Interventions with Dr. Loy. I loved learning how to adapt interventions to each skill level and the fact that we actually got to go out and practice what our potential patients would be doing so that one day, we would have the experience to better explain and help them, and also to understand some of the barriers that they have to overcome.
What aspects of recreational therapy do you enjoy the most?
I truly enjoy that recreational therapy is so versatile and that the profession itself can be adapted to any population and clientele, and that we can see and find value in every modality.  I think that kind of adaptability can have a profound impact on those we serve, and help us as therapists to be ever-learning and ever-growing.
Describe your job/role/current employer? 
I am the Community Life Director at the Fountains at the Albemarle. At our community, we strive to provide activities that are innovative and help our residents to learn, grow, and thrive. We are made up of Independent Living, Assisted Living, Memory Care, and Skilled Nursing and are blessed to have three RTs in our department. In my role, I oversee our Community Life staff and Transportation staff, I manage large events for the whole community, assist management team, develop our social media, plan outings small and extravagant, and completely manage all activities, assessments, and documentation for our Skilled Nursing.
What is a typical day like for you?
During a typical day, I manage any assessments and documentation of new admissions and write progress notes on all activity participation,  plan, manage, and implement activities that cover all dimensions of wellness, assist and support my staff in any capacity they need, and keep consistent contact with families. Each day is unique and different in this field and very rewarding, which is something I love! Everyday you get to know that you made a difference in someone’s life and that they have forever made a difference in yours.
What has been your favorite experience working in recreational therapy so far?
Thinking back, all of my favorite experiences, no matter where I was at, have happened when my team and I came from abundance, meaning we saw what was possible and not all the hindrances to get there. To most people, the things we do in RT can seem impossible at the start, but what I love is that we are able to find a way to get there. For example, in senior living primarily, many have the thought process that they should take things slow, they shouldn’t be out late, etc., but in reality, they want to have fun and have new experiences just like you and I. We have had our residents, one who was 100 years old, spinning a basketball on her finger with a Harlem Globetrotter on the court, we have taken residents using wheelchairs on the SkyLift at Busch Gardens, monster truck rallies, and on small cruises on the ocean. At one concert, it began to pour, and while many younger people ran to a dry spot, we made the best of it and danced in the rain, starting a conga line and inspiring others around us to live a little. Moments like these, seeing pure joy on our resident’s faces where many others would not have taken a chance, have had such a lasting impact on me.
Where do you see the future of recreational therapy headed?
I believe that RT has a bright future if we push to show how valuable our profession truly is.  RT helps to give our patients reasons to push through their trials, that brings them joy each day, but we have the burden  of proving that to other therapies, professions, etc.
What is the greatest challenge recreational therapists face?
The greatest challenge we face as recreational therapists is continuing to establish our profession among the therapeutic world. Unfortunately, we are still undervalued in some areas, so we must push to show our worth, value, and distinguish ourselves from other therapies.
What advice would give to students who wish to enter this field? 
Make sure to go out and get involved! The greatest thing you can do for yourself is to volunteer at as many different agencies as possible, because the profession is so diverse. You may think you only want to work with a certain population, but you never know until you try other populations out. Doing so will also make you more well-rounded and ready for any population, and any job you may get. For example, although we work in Geriatrics, there are many diagnoses within our population and we must be able to work with each one.