May AT of the Month - Cheryl Mann ~ Manitoba Athletic Therapists Association

May AT of the Month - Cheryl Mann

My name is Cheryl Mann and I am a certified Athletic Therapist currently working for Winnipeg Transit as the RTW Coordinator.

I moved to Winnipeg from St. John’s NL in 2001 in order to pursue the field of athletic therapy. It was my love for sports and working with others that led me to the program at the University of Winnipeg. After obtaining my degree I became certified as an Athletic therapist in 2005. Since that time I have had various experiences working in different environments and within the disability management field.
While working as a student in a multidisciplinary clinic in 2004, I became certified as a functional capacity evaluator. It was from there I became interested in working with occupational injuries, doing functional assessments and providing reports to insurers on RTW capabilities.  Once I became certified, I had an opportunity to manage a private clinic where I gained experience in occupational injuries and returning people to work. I continued to work with football teams, soccer teams, individual teams (ultimate Frisbee and volleyball) as well as personal training.

 However my passion for clinic and team work changed when I became introduced to the insurance industry and disability management. An opportunity arose to work with an insurer and as I had wanted a career in this industry I became a long term disability case manager for a private insurance company.  I also became a member of the claims association of MB which provided me with the opportunity to be a keynote speaker on chronic pain and back injuries. However to also maintain my connection with the athletic therapy community and to promote our profession I worked on the MATA board of directors for 2 years. 

After 4 years as a Case Manager, I decided my current role was the career path I wanted to stay on. Working for Winnipeg Transit has allowed me the opportunity to work with and help others, while still using my athletic therapy training when gathering information, assessing medical conditions, determining level of function and returning people to their pre injury lifestyle.

1.    As the RTW Coordinator I work as part of HR management and oversee and provide support for Employees who are injured or disabled. I develop RTW plans that determine direction and support to the injured worker while also providing accommodation in the workplace when necessary.  Part of my job is to also liaise with all stakeholders during the RTW process and schedule case management meetings. I case manage all employees who are away from the workplace due to injury or illness and obtain information regarding their medical condition in order to assist with RTW planning etc. My role is also to provide assistance and support on department wellness initiatives and preventative programs while also being the resource for ergonomic assessments and implementing stretching, proper postures, healthy lifestyles etc. Another part of my role was the design and implementation of functional assessments for pre-employment screenings for bus operator applicants. I am also involved with various committees in our department and at the corporate level dealing with strains, sprains , prevention of injuries, physical demands analysis’s and RTW /early intervention policies and best practices.

2.    Being an Athletic therapist helps with my job in that I am able to obtain detailed histories from employees regarding medical conditions, assess medical and functional information provided and also when recommending preventative strategies. It has also given me the skill set to perform ergonomic and back assessments and provide stretching and exercise programs to employees and staff.

3.    I would definitely recommend this work to other Athletic Therapists. I love what I do –there is also a great work /life balance as I have two small children. It is also very rewarding to be able to help others. It has also allowed me to work within HR and I am very passionate about this field. I have the opportunity to not only deal with disabilities but also the psychological, economic and social aspects of each employee.  There is also the ability to provide others with resources and consultation regarding injuries and prevention as well as general health and wellness.  I also really enjoy the committee work and being involved with policies, procedures and best practices related to RTW, injury prevention and early intervention programs.

4.    I have taken various on the job courses related to vocational training, claims assessment/management and disability and accommodation.  I have also participated in numerous RTW conferences and courses related to addictive behaviours in the workplace. I also have a certification in Functional capacity evaluations.  The next course I plan to take is my HR management certificate.

5.    The advice I would offer to students who want to get into the RTW field is to start working with all different types of injuries not just team or sports related. You need to experience working with all types of individuals with different mechanisms of injury that are occupational and life related. I also recommend working in more than one clinic while obtaining your hours and it should include a multidisciplinary clinic. In this environment you will get experience working with individuals who have chronic pain injuries. It is also imperative to familiarize yourself with WCB, MPI, and insurance policies as well as human rights legislations.  Networking is also very important in this industry as you will always cross paths with the same group of people. It is also very important to conduct yourself in a professional manner while working as a student because when you start applying for jobs in this industry, it will be remembered and may determine employment suitability.  I would also tell students to find the humour in situations and maintain a healthy work /life balance!

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