Physical therapist offers treatment, hope


Marcia Ratcliff


Monday, June 10, 2019

Marcia Ratcliff, a physical therapist at Nash UNC Health Care, is in the empowering business.

“There is no better feeling in the world than empowering someone to be independent and to believe in themselves,” Ratcliff said.

As a member of the physical therapy team at Nash UNC Health Care, Ratcliff and her coworkers see about 700 patients a week.

There are four areas where Nash UNC Health Care offers physical therapy and rehabilitation services: to patients receiving inpatient care at the Bryant T. Aldridge Rehabilitation Center, at the pediatric outpatient center, at an area for patients in the main hospital, and at the Nash Physical Therapy center for outpatients — where Ratcliff works. There are about 18 employees in the outpatient therapy center.

The center consists of a large open “gym” where patients receive their treatments. There are several treatment rooms along the edge of the center for treatments that need more privacy.

“For the most part, our patients love the open concept,” Ratcliff said. “It’s one thing if I tell my patient they’re doing well, but it really means something when another patient who knows exactly what they’re going through calls out encouragement or offers a word of praise. It can make all the difference.”

Ratcliff said she loves to see how all the patients encourage each other.

Ratcliff said physical therapy is hard work and patients have to be positive and hopeful to get the most out of it.

“We really are like a family. My co-workers and all the patients work together to urge those in need of encouragement to keep going,” she said.

Rocky Mount resident Kevin Jones knows first-hand what it’s like to go through the painful and slow-going process of physical therapy. Jones, recovering from a quadricep injury and subsequent surgery, has been one of Ratcliff’s patients for over a month. He says he sees Ratcliff as his best advocate for a full recovery.

“Marcia is very good at finding the balance that’s needed for a good PT experience. She gently lets me know when it’s good to ‘listen to my body’ but her firm reminders of ‘Hips in! Chest up!’ play in my head with literally every step I’ve taken over the last month as I work to regain my normal walking stride,” Jones recalled.

Another patient, “GB,” says his experience with Ratcliff also has had awesome results.

“The first moment I met her, she did not see a patient, but a person that was hurting,” GB said. “She was so understanding, listening to my issue, very professional, but yet so passionate to help me. After a few visits my health has improved greatly.”

GB said he has the utmost trust in Ratcliff and her skills.

“She explains so clearly what she’s doing and is excellent at doing it. Ms. Marcia is an awesome therapist and person,” he said.

Ratcliff said most of her patients are prescribed physical therapy to increase mobility after an injury, illness or surgery and to help with pain management. She also coordinates patient care for the Joint Replacement Center, which offers knee and hip replacement services. Ratcliff teaches the pre-op “Joint” class and makes sure all patients have labs completed and papers signed before surgery.

“It’s kind of neat I get to see these patients and care for them from the very beginning of their journey all the way through to their rehabilitation,” Ratcliff said.

For those facing physical rehabilitation when getting treatment at Nash UNC Health Care, Ratcliff said the patient sets the goals.

“We get the prescription for physical therapy from a patient’s doctor. We [the physical therapists] are part of your team — you are in charge of the team,” Ratcliff said. “For some, their goal is to live independently again. For others, they want to be able to do their hobbies again; others are seeking some pain relief. Our patients tell us what their goal is, and we have the skills and education and experience to help them get there. It’s a team effort.”

Ratcliff said she loves her job and there is nothing else she’d rather be doing.

“Being able to change someone’s life by reducing their chronic pain or helping someone be able to be independent when they thought their life was over, these interactions fulfill me,” Ratcliff said. “Being a part of people’s lives like that and seeing the joy it can bring … well, it just means the world to me.”

It means the world to her patients, too.