Thrive by IU Health

April 26, 2024

Occupational therapist first explored her career through dance

IU Health Methodist Hospital

Occupational therapist first explored her career through dance

Julie Baughman’s interested was piqued by a dance student with special needs. She wanted to learn more about how to engage the girl.

By TJ Banes, IU Health Senior Journalist,

Julie Baughman was a competitive dancer throughout middle school and high school. Dancing was her passion - hip hop, tap, jazz, ballet, contemporary. As a student at Triton Central High School, Fairland, Ind. Baughman also taught dance.

“I had a little girl with autism coming to my class and I was fascinated at trying to find different techniques I could use to help her succeed in the classroom and in dance,” said Baughman. She began researching careers and came up with Occupational Therapy.

During Occupational Therapy Month, Baughman shares her career interest and areas of specialty. She joins a team of therapists working with inpatients at IU Health Methodist and University Hospitals.

Baughman received both her undergraduate and doctorate degrees from UIndy. She joined IU Health five years ago. She completed her Capstone Project working with Kids Dance Outreach, a program committed to offering inclusive dance for children with physical, cognitive, and developmental disabilities.

“Initially, I thought I wanted to work with pediatric patients but during my rotations I had time in neurology and I fell in love with adults. It’s so fulfilling to creatively help people modify and adapt to getting back to the things that are important to them after a diagnosis or injury,” said Baughman.

She describes one 19-year-old patient who was a pedestrian struck by a car. He broke both hips and had a significant traumatic brain injury, she said. She worked with him on dressing, bathing, toileting but because of his brain injury he had difficulty following through. Memory lapses disrupted his flow of daily care.

“Working with families is another level of the care. In his case, he didn’t have insurance to go to rehab outside the hospital so I worked with his family to make sure he had the support he needed,” said Baughman.

In addition to working with patients who have experienced strokes, traumatic brain or spinal cord injuries or tumors, Baughman also works with patients who have ostomies.

“With occupational therapy, the biggest job is to help people get back to their day-to-day lives. One of those things is toileting, which includes ostomy management. That can be people with new ostomies or people who have recent ostomies,” said Baughman. A diagnosis or injury can cause a patient to have limited use of arms and hands. Baughman works with various team members to help patients manage that special care. She trains new hires and also works with engineering students from Purdue and IU who manufacture products to assist with adaptations. In one case they designed special scissors with larger handles and in another case they designed a device that can cut using one hand.

Outside of work, Baughman enjoys spending time outdoors with her Golden-doodle.

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