Joan Sevigny Cramer: “Why a leader needs to master the skill of listening”

I had the pleasure to interview Joan Sevigny Cramer, MS, OT/L, CDRS. Joan received her Bachelor’s in Science in Occupational Therapy from Quinnipiac University and continued her education at the University of Hartford where she earned a Master’s in Science in Organizational Behavior. Joan’s career has involved work in various clinical arenas serving clients with […]

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I had the pleasure to interview Joan Sevigny Cramer, MS, OT/L, CDRS. Joan received her Bachelor’s in Science in Occupational Therapy from Quinnipiac University and continued her education at the University of Hartford where she earned a Master’s in Science in Organizational Behavior. Joan’s career has involved work in various clinical arenas serving clients with a variety of diagnoses. Her clinical expertise includes seating and positioning and home care consultation. After assisting her mother through the process of retiring from driving, she became intrigued with the specialty of Driver Rehabilitation. Her journey to become a Certified Driver Rehabilitation Specialist began in 2015 by attending a comprehensive seminar lead by Susan Pierce, OTR, CDRS, SCDCM. She attended additional training sessions hosted by The Association for Driver Rehabilitation Specialists (ADED) who supports those working in this field; they establish guidelines for best practice and oversee the process for certification in this specialized field of practice. In August 2017 Joan successfully passed the certification exam making her the only Certified Driver Rehabilitation Specialist in the state of Connecticut. She has recently been appointed the chair of an Ad Hoc Committee for ADED to assist with the development of training resources for those planning to take future certification exams. As the past President of the Connecticut Occupational Therapy Association, she continues to volunteer as a speaker at local conferences with a mission to heighten awareness of her peers as they guide their clients, young and old, in preparation to drive following injury/illness. Joining the team at The Next Street will allow Joan to offer comprehensive services to those in need across the state. She is excited to learn from her associates who specialize in driver training and to broaden her involvement with young adults who wish to drive. In her free time Joan values time with her family, spoiling her 5 grandchildren and making memories with her mom. She hopes to incorporate her love for service animals in her efforts to work with clients behind the wheel.

Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?

Asa young child I learned about the unconditional love between my family and 3 special cousins born with disability. Each taught us how to laugh and appreciate life; they continue to be examples of determination, friendship and compassion for others. My high school guidance counselor introduced me to the profession of occupational therapy, a career that has allowed me to care for many clients and those that care for them. I attended my mother’s driving assessment in her early stages of dementia and became intrigued with the concept of Driving Rehabilitation.

Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began leading your company?

Joining the team at The Next Street has been an opportunity of professional growth. I get to see clients with many different diagnoses of all ages. Starting this program from the ground up is allowing me to tap into my past experiences as a teacher. I learn by working with the licensed driving instructors and believe that integration of our skills will make an amazing difference in a person’s level of independence.

Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?

I recall working with a man in his home who was rather “unique” and clearly protected who he let into his home. As I continued to work with his physical limitations, I realized that he was not committed to doing any of his home exercises to promote improved function. It was when he told me “I like when you come here and talk too much” followed by an amazing smile and hearty laugh …. I realized at that time that he was controlling most of our sessions by asking me questions about many topics I had limited exposure to in my life. we always laughed about his limited hand function since he was a writer and could no longer hold a pen. I finally discharged my “friend” from therapy learning a week later he passed in his sleep in his beautiful home on the river. I have never forgotten to respect the person behind the patient. His funeral was a special day as his family asked that I attend with his nurse. I made a difference in many more lives than I realized at the time.

What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?

The Next Street is a company that is committed to providing OUTSTANDING service to customers and employees. My initial interaction occurred when providing services through a different program and recommending to a client to do some training as he had not driven for 7 months. I was contacted by the owner of The Next Street to report the individual’s training was very favorable. The client returned and performed wonderfully in his driving assessment which allowed him to return to independence. I knew that they were a caring organization.

Working with this dynamic company has allowed me an opportunity to educate many healthcare workers on the options available to their clients wanting to drive following a medical condition. Guiding individuals looking to create a plan of independence driving an adaptive vehicle has been rewarding and humbling. The Next Street has been committed to creating a comprehensive Driver Rehabilitation Program that meets the needs of all clients.

Are you working on any exciting new projects now? How do you think that will help people?

I have been fortunate to work with the owner of The Next Street on developing a program to guide young adults with autism or other developmental disorders in their pursuit of getting a driver’s license. Gaining the skills needed to operate a motor vehicle is a great deal of work and commitment for these individuals but most are fueled by motivation and determination. This program will offer many a chance to learn a skill which will allow them greater independence. Many reside in regions without public transportation so getting a driver’s license opens the doors to independence and exploring new employment opportunities.

What advice would you give to other female leaders to help their team to thrive?

Master the skill of “listening”. Respect that all people have different strengths and styles of communication. Take time to learn what systems work for other members of the team. Some individuals need extra support and encouragement to contribute to group process. Always remember that communication is required for effective outcomes and goal accomplishments.

What advice would you give to other female leaders about the best way to manage a large team?

Large teams often have “subgroups” based on skills and knowledge. Empower those with expertise to contribute to the overall success of the team. Educate the subgroups on the value of the other team members. Participate in the efforts to make things happen toward the common goal of the team. Always give credit to other leaders as you integrate the smaller subgroup contributions when presenting the work to the larger team.

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?

My father was an influential man to many of the men who worked for him. I was always touched by the simple but thoughtful things he did to help these workers gain increased peace, self-worth and better health. Many years ago, I was influenced by learning my patient was a friend of my dad’s. It took me off guard that the patient wanted to see my dad on my next visit. What a gift to observe my client reconnect with a friend — my Dad. The man I adored for his laughter, charisma and dedication to helping others was my best therapy offered to this patient. I know that my ability to work through the most difficult patient situations is modeled after my dad’s commitment to being kind to others, empathetic about their challenges and dedicated to offering guidance and ethical care.

How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?

My dad introduced my sisters and I to volunteerism. Over the years, I have been involved in many different leadership roles to enable others access to a resource. Whether serving as a leader for the original Hartford Marathon Committee or the President of the Connecticut Occupational Therapy Association I was always learning how to give back and model for others how to make things happen. I learned that inviting others to be part of my journey empowered them to influence others, often without. Volunteering has created many professional contracts that I would not have made without the experience of “getting involved”. Learning needs to be continuous. I live each day committed to an open mind for understanding differences — each has offered me an opportunity to grow wiser.

What are your “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Started” and why? (Please share a story or example for each.)

  1. Working in a busy environment requires the skill of blocking out distractions.
  2. It is important to respect that patients often have unexpressed fear of the situation, so it is important to monitor how much information is given in a single encounter.
  3. When switching positions/jobs it is important to “package the past and leave it behind to allow for new experiences to be optimal”
  4. Being happy at work will result in positive outcomes
  5. The only thing I can control is how I live and react to every experience I encounter. Opportunities to work with different people can be a scary transition if not surrounded by a common goal. Working on a team committed to making a difference in the lives of others requires sharing of information and The Next Street excels at providing quality services.

You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

Aging influences various functions of the body and skills for operating a vehicle can be affected. The government has spent thousands of dollars to define what teens must be able to accomplish in order to apply for a driving license. Having a second assessment at a certain age would identify those with age related changes which can result in possible risks for driving. Having a standard for clinical testing by a Certified Driver Rehabilitation Specialist at a certain age (consistent across all states) would provide an expectation for seniors making the process less stressful. Additional training may help people adapt their behaviors to allow them to continue driving and live a fulfilling life.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

“If you don’t like something, change it. If you can’t change it, change your attitude.” — Maya Angelou

During my journey in occupational therapy I have offered input regarding areas of practice that could be improved. Many were ignored and I had to accept the decisions of those in leadership positions. In my role as a leader at The Next Street I have been rewarded with the opportunity of influencing changes to how our program will influence many lives. The positive outcomes will influence the lives of clients, their caregiver/family and the individuals providing the services. Involvement with The Next Street Driver Rehab Services program allows me to work with many professionals across the state. Together with a caring team of professionals we are changing the availability of driving services for those challenged by medical and development challenges.

We are blessed that some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US with whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this if we tag them 🙂

Oprah Winfrey has offered support to so many women who simply needed to believe in themselves. She has supported many causes that have resulted in amazing benefits for people who would otherwise not have been influenced. I grew up watching her share “HEART” with so many people — from popular to poor, a person with advanced intelligence to a young person with innocent common-sense knowledge. Working in Driver Rehab has surfaced an awareness that for many people funding to support being assessed and/or purchasing adaptive devices is a barrier to independence. Identification of a funding source for research or ongoing driving instruction would allow The Next Street to provide services to individuals with medical challenges. Oprah has heart and these are individuals whose life can be transformed if we could get her involved in the industry of Driver Rehabilitation.

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