Lauren Geismar

Dec. 7, 2023
A photo of Lauren Geismar
Lauren Geismar

Occupational therapist helps patients find their way back to independent living

Lauren Geismar thinks her profession might be one of the most poorly named careers around.

As an acute occupational therapist (OT), she recognizes that many people, including patients, don’t know what she and her colleagues do, or the vast and varied types of help they provide.

“A better description is perhaps ‘functional therapist.’ We are helping patients regain functional cognitive ability and functional physical ability, as well as assisting them to become active participants again in their daily lives: Lives that have purpose and enjoyment for them,” said Geismar, who works at the UCHealth Anschutz Inpatient Pavilion for Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation.

Geismar, 39, has been an OT for 13 years, the past seven at UCHealth. The St. Louis native first became interested in the field during her teen years when she had an after-school job doing paperwork for an elderly friend who had a stroke.

Soon, it morphed into her preparing meals, helping around the house and assisting with other daily living chores: “I think I got exposed to OT before I even knew what it was. It seemed to be a good fit for me.”

Her passion and focus now is helping those with brain and spinal cord injuries, as well as stroke patients. Their needs can be challenging. For instance, she has patients who have poor balance and muscle control, patients with paralysis because of spinal cord injuries, or stroke victims trying to relearn tasks ranging from walking to feeding themselves.

Geismar recently was nominated for Celebrating You recognition after using her skill to help a husband and wife admitted to the same floor for different medical reasons achieve their goals.

After a long ICU stay, one of the OT goals for the husband was to utilize his upper extremities in a more meaningful way. One of the goals for his wife was to improve her nutrition.

Geismar helped the husband into a wheelchair and assisted him to his wife’s room.

“Lauren helped set up food for him to assist his wife to eat, since she required 1:1 assistance,’’ according to the Celebrating You nomination. “Lauren’s kindness and dedication to her patients made a meaningful impact on both patients and their family. Her demonstration of excellence is just one example of how Lauren goes above and beyond for her patients every day.’’

Geismar sees a big difference when they meet their goals, both short- and long-term.

“That might include everything from helping a patient sit up, to gain trunk control, to standing up, getting dressed, making a meal, taking steps and getting to the bathroom.”

Being able to physically master these daily life skills is just one component of therapy. She knows that patient must deal with complex emotional and psychological aspects too as they accept the new limitations they face, and as they prepare for future success and some failure.

“You’re having to help build them back up, and you need to be present for those difficult moments. You must be sensitive and help them see what their body is capable of doing.”

Providing acute care after a traumatic event such as a stroke, accident or operation, Geismar is often the first OT provider a patient sees before they are discharged home or to a rehabilitation center for further care.

She said the best part of her job is interacting with patients and being able to advocate for them as well as help them advocate for themselves.

“You have to meet the person where they’re at. What is their recognition level of their injury? You provide education, sometimes a little at a time, because there can be a lot of fear and uncertainty.”

A big fan of bluegrass music, in her spare time she enjoys participating in all the outdoor amenities that living in Colorado offers, including hiking, camping, backpacking, paddleboarding and snowboarding.

“I love it all,” she said.

You Make Extraordinary Possible

Together, we recognize and honor the qualities within ourselves by shining a spotlight on how each and every one of us improve lives in big ways and small.

Share a story

About the author

Mary Gay Broderick is a Denver-based freelance writer with more than 25 years experience in journalism, marketing, public relations and communications. She enjoys telling compelling stories about healthcare, especially the dedicated UCHealth professionals and the people whose lives they transform. She enjoys skiing, hiking, biking and traveling, along with baking (mostly) successful desserts for her husband and three daughters.