Forrest General Physical Therapist One of Two in Region With Special Stroke Certification

Physical Therapist Kristi Hatten, right, walks down the hall with patient Laura Broome one last time prior to Broome’s discharge from the hospital on Thursday. 

HATTIESBURG, Miss. (January 26, 2021) Kristi Hatten, PT, DPT, CSRS, recently added a new credential behind her name – CSRS. The acronym stands for Certified Stroke Rehabilitation Specialist. Hatten, who has been employed at Forrest General for 8.5 years, is one of only two who hold this designation within a 100-mile radius of Hattiesburg; the other one is in Louisiana.

The designation means that a physical therapist has an interest in stroke rehabilitation and stays current and up-to-date on topics and treatment. To achieve the designation, Hatten recently completed 28 hours of coursework, self-study, and a three-hour exam. Every two years she’s required to get 16 hours of Continuous Education.

Hatten happened upon the certification because it was recognized by the American Stroke Association. “In the last couple of years as Forrest General has added the neuro-hospitalist service, there’s been a lot of innovation in the area of stroke care here, and I’ve always loved that population of patients,” she said. “It’s been really inspiring to watch our medical side move to innovative treatments. This certification doesn’t say that I’m an expert in it, per se, but it gives me the accountability to know that I’m doing the best for the stroke population as well. It’s a way to stay current with treatment practices.”

Michelle Bellington, Hatten’s supervisor, said Kristi is an accomplished physical therapist. “Her knowledge and skill set inspires confidence and allows her to develop a strong rapport with her patients,” Bellington said of Hatten, who actively serves on the Forrest General Stroke Committee and is pursuing her Master’s in Healthcare Administration with Louisiana State University at Shreveport.

As a child, Hatten had some medical issues and spent some time in the medical setting. “Through that, I realized how important it was, not just to live and have a heartbeat and breathe, but to have the ability to function,” she said. After looking at the physician side of medicine as a possible career, Hatten found it more interesting to assist patients in figuring out how they could function to the best of their abilities.

 “To have the ability to give somebody their function back and a life back was just very appealing to me,” Hatten said. To her, physical therapists were people who worked in clinics, not hospitals. She said it was luck that brought her to Forrest General for a clinical rotation. “I went through PT school and liked it, but always just assumed I was going to work in a clinic setting, because that’s where I thought therapists worked,” she said.

It wasn’t until two months prior to graduation while working at Forrest General that she finally realized why she was a therapist. “I knew I wanted to do this, but I didn’t realize how good it was to be in the hospital,” she said. “To be that first person to walk into somebody’s room and say, ‘Sure, you’ve had a stroke; it’s going to be fine,’ I like that part of it. That’s what I like about the hospital setting.”

Laura Broome, a Forrest General patient who was discharged on Thursday following a bout with COVID-19 and a stroke, sings Hatten’s praises. “She made me have hope,” Broome said. “I’m a hard worker, but I was so depressed. I’m thanking the Lord I’m alive, but I was still so depressed, and Kristi would come in and tell me I was doing good. She gave me hope and encouragement. I needed pushing, or I would have given up. She made a difference.”

Through Hatten’s knowledge with her recent certification, she’s been able to relay information to some of her fellow physical therapists — Emily Sandifer and Nikki Dolan. Both of them are now in the process of getting the CSRS certification, as well. “It’s cool to empower patients and your coworkers, so they have the most up-to-date information,” she said.

“I’ve loved Forrest General from the beginning,” Hatten said. “I have seen it change lots. At the end of the day, I walk out of here, and I know I’m part of a good team. We’re part of real stories, and we’re changing lives. That’s why I’m here.”

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