Skip to main

COTA Creates New Programs During COVID for Patients at a Psychiatric Hospital

Rachel Murphrey is a COTA who created two new programs to support patients at an inpatient psychiatric hospital.

Rachel Murphrey

Rachel Murphrey, BS, COTA/L

Occupational Therapy Assistant II, Psychosocial Rehabilitative Program, Cherry Hospital, North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services

Location: North Carolina

Certified in 2011

2022 NBCOT Innovation Award Winner

New Program Sees Compliance Double

Rachel Murphrey, a COTA from North Carolina, developed a program to meet patient needs during the beginning of the pandemic at Cherry Hospital, an inpatient psychiatric facility. It was important for the hospital to continue treatment in a manner that optimized patient care while also adhering to pandemic precautions. With this in mind, Rachel implemented a patient mask-wearing program. She used education materials, videos, and treatment strategies to teach patients the value of wearing masks and how to incorporate mask wearing into their daily routines. She also created mask modifications to reduce skin breakdown and enhance the comfortability of mask-wearing. These modifications included anti-ligature mask extenders with breakaway clips and hats with buttons for no-pressure fastening. The hats alleviated pressure on patients’ ears and allowed patients to express themselves. After Rachel’s program was implemented, mask-wearing compliance at the hospital increased from 40% to 85%.

Image 1: A face mask with an extender. Images 2 & 3: A model wears a mask with an extender. Images 4 to 6: A model wears mask headgear.
Examples of mask extenders and mask headgear.

Providing Patients With Authentic Experiences

The pandemic was challenging for patients at the hospital. To decrease risks, many routines and programs were modified, and therapeutic outings and community engagement experiences were reduced. COVID policies limited patients from receiving visitors. Rachel recognized that patient’s needed updated methods to provide real-life, hands-on, independent skills training. To enhance patients’ joy and support these skills during the pandemic Rachel created a second program called The Wellness Shoppe. This hospital store helps patients learn skills such as budgeting, visual scanning, decision-making, delayed gratification, prioritizing, problem-solving, and multitasking that support their recovery goals. It also provides patients with an authentic shopping experience, using preloaded debit cards, for self-care items.

A display shelf and table with clothing. In the background, two walls of shelves are stacked with clothes.
Inside The Wellness Shoppe

Since its opening in January 2022, The Wellness Shoppe has received markedly positive patient feedback. Patients have stated feeling supported as they learn and practice skills. They have also reported satisfaction with the variety of hair hygiene products that are authentic to their hair texture and cultural backgrounds. The interdisciplinary team at the hospital noticed that patients are more invested in their overall appearance. They can express their individual personality and style through purchases at the store, and they are not as dependent on the institutionalized clothing that is typically worn. A long-term goal is to develop specific job roles at the store for patients through the hospital vocational program, which will provide additional benefits to patients throughout the hospital. Rachel has presented her Wellness Shoppe program to two other psychiatric hospitals in North Carolina, and both facilities have expressed an interest in implementing a similar program.

“Rachel has proven to be outstanding in her field and in doing so, she has touched and enriched the lives of the people we serve. She exemplifies hope, care and recovery by displaying initiative and dedication in her OT service. Rachel has made a measurable impact over the last 4.5 years and is an integral member of our OT team.”

Lisa Smith, COTA

An Impactful Innovator

Rachel is driven by her personal commitment to providing excellent, innovative care and to address diverse patient needs that can be complex and challenging. She thinks outside the box and is a can-do, resourceful, and fiercely patient-centered practitioner and advocate. Rachel continues to pivot OT services at Cherry Hospital to make a difference every day. She embraces Cherry Hospital’s mission of providing excellent care to individuals who have the greatest need and the fewest resources. Her compassion, competence, and determination as an OT practitioner reflect NBCOT’s mission of serving the public interest in its diversity by advancing just, equitable, and inclusive client care through evidence-based practices.

Related News

August 17, 2022

Congratulations to this year's winners! We are inspired by your exceptional work.

August 30, 2021

The Innovation and Impact Award winners have demonstrated actions that truly support NBCOT’s mission of serving the public interest by advancing client care and professional practice.

January 26, 2021

NBCOT launched the Innovation and Impact Awards in 2020 to publicly recognize the exceptional work OTR and COTA certificants do in their daily practice.