Dr. Michelle Bateman comes to therapeutic recreation with a background in research and degrees in sports and wellness management, exercise science and recreational therapy. She has also done extensive clinical research on military veterans with PTSD. She took a few detours before landing on recreational therapy as her career niche.
"I was one of those late bloomers," said Dr. Bateman, assistant professor in Northwest Missouri State University's School of Health Science and Wellness. She is wielding her knowledge and expertise as a strong advocate for Northwest's Master of Science in Recreation – Therapeutic Recreation online program.
She presented two papers at the 2021 Midwest Symposium on Therapeutic Recreation, helmed by Northwest's School of Health Science and Wellness.
In her presentation on Strategies for Coping with Patient Trauma, Dr. Bateman drew on her clinical research to discuss the risk factors recreational therapists (RT) face when providing services for people who have experienced psychological or physical trauma. She argues that an RT's ability to develop a strong rapport with patients may lead them to indirectly experiencing the patients' trauma themselves. The presentation also covers ways to use different coping skills and mechanisms to deal with secondary traumatic stress and avoid compassion fatigue.
Her second presentation, The Non-Linear Process of Evidence-Based Practice, focused on the decision-making process in treatment and its reliance on research, clinical expertise and patient preferences to reach optimal patient outcomes. Dr. Bateman guided conference members through a case study to provide hands-on experience in evidence-based practice (EBP).
Perspectives on Active Learning
Events like the Midwest Symposium provide crucial opportunities for professionals working in the field of recreational therapy, according to Dr. Bateman. She sees continuous learning as one of the major benefits of the conferences.
"Healthcare is a progressive field," she said, "and if you don't progress with it or stay current or keep up with professional development, then you're going to get left behind. You get to attend sessions where academics are presenting research that they've done or maybe a presenter is talking about a case study that they had in a real-life practical setting."
She asserts that the benefits of conferences are not limited to working RTs and is a proponent of current students attending opportunities like the Symposium as well.
"I always have my students attend the conferences and then write a reflection," she said. "It gives them this newfound respect and excitement for the profession and the field of recreational therapy. We get a lot of students who are still kind of unsure, but after attending those conferences, they really see it and are re-motivated and reinvigorated to do better and be better in their practice."
Dr. Bateman's enthusiasm for teaching and mentoring future recreational therapists stems from her own education, research and practical experiences in the field.
"I am clearly fond of education, but I think it stems more from knowing that I'm training people who are going to play a really important role in someone's life. So that's important to me. Some of my most rewarding experiences involved working in clinical settings. That's what fuels my passion. I want to create and instill that same passion into all of my students."
Why Online for an MS in Therapeutic Recreation
To students seeking a career jumpstart in the field of recreational therapy, Dr. Bateman offers some guidance.
"They can complete their master's degree but also get that in-person practical experience," she said. "Maybe not as CTRS [Certified Therapeutic Recreation Specialist], but in some similar field or they can work under a CTRS while simultaneously getting their master's degree. The online degree seems to be very attractive to a lot of undergraduate students because they want that work experience."
As a professor, Dr. Bateman understands that many students are eager to gain momentum in their careers.
"They don't want to go get their Ph.D. They don't want to have a research assistant position for three years and no practical experience. They want their master's degree," she said. "They want to get it quickly, and they want to start actually helping people and working with people."
Dr. Bateman views the online M.S. in Recreation – Therapeutic Recreation at Northwest as an option that offers several benefits RT professionals might not experience in other programs.
"It's very attractive in terms of affordability," she said. "You can do it at home and can still have the community aspect. You still get that one-on-one component; I know that's how I am with my students. There are other online programs where they're sometimes a little bit less personal and bigger. The opportunities are kind of limitless with online learning. And you get what you put into it in terms of networking and learning. At Northwest, I feel we definitely go above and beyond with the students first and create that sense of community, even online."
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