November 19, 2017

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Jim Andresen Shares His Memories from 29 Years as a Physical Therapist with ACMC

After 29 years at ACMC, physical therapist Jim Andresen is hanging up his lab coat and taking his first step into retirement. As a beloved member of the ACMC physical therapy team, Jim will be greatly missed for his ability to provide professional care with a hint of humor.  During his time at the clinic, Jim has seen new faces, new locations and changes to physical therapy that has kept him on his toes and made each day a new challenge. Through it all, Jim credits his success at ACMC to a few key factors that he utilizes daily: a little bit of luck, a whole lot of learning and just the right amount of laughter.

After graduating from Physical Therapy school at Mayo Clinic School of Sciences, Jim took his first job working at his alma mater in June of 1975. After a short stint in Rochester, Jim and his family moved to Fargo, ND where Jim had done his undergraduate at Concordia Moorhead.

There he worked in two small area hospitals, Dakota Hospital and St. Ansgar, both of which have since closed. He spent only a short time in the Fargo/Moorhead area, working with Concordia’s athletic trainer, Bob Ulrich. “I didn’t have an opportunity to advance in my position,” Jim recalled. “Bob was young and I knew he wouldn’t be leaving so there wasn’t room for me to stay, but it was a good place for me to learn.”

Jim’s Path to ACMC

It was then that Jim made the move back to Minnesota, accepting a job in Glencoe as the hospital’s sole physical therapist. Working in the 50-bed hospital, Jim worked with individuals both in the inpatient and outpatient settings. It was while working in Glencoe that Jim met Larry Lohn, a physical therapist from Hutchinson. As the only therapists in their respective hospitals, Jim and Larry developed a friendship while covering for each other when another therapist was needed. So, when Larry made the decision to relocate to Willmar, Jim wasn’t far behind.

ACMC opened their Physical Therapy department in 1986, appointing Larry as the department’s first physical therapist. The practice grew quickly and the need for physical therapists found Larry reaching out to his old acquaintance. The opportunity to work at ACMC was an offer Jim couldn’t refuse. “I had always wanted to work in an outpatient, orthopedic setting and ACMC gave me that chance to do that,” Jim explained.

Jim began working at ACMC on the first day of February in 1988. He was hired to cover and develop the sports medicine aspect of the PT department, traveling with the Willmar high school football team. At the time, there were just three physical therapists including Larry, Jim and their colleague Dave Danielson along with two athletic trainers, completing their department of five.

The team worked in a conference room in ACMC’s main clinic with exam rooms made from curtains dividing the space. “When you think about today’s HIPAA rules there weren’t many back then,” Jim joked. “So I could be examining someone in one room and I could hear exactly what was going on in the next room over. That was just the way it was.”

In addition to the lack of privacy in exam rooms, the department’s first gym area gave their patient’s an interesting “experience” at each visit. “Our gym was across the hall from our exam rooms but the only way to get there was by walking through the cast room,” Jim explained. “There would be patients waiting and cast saws buzzing but we would just walk right through.”

ACMC Physical Therapy Today

In the past 30 years, the physical therapy department has continued to change and evolve with each passing year. After bouncing from area to area in the clinic, physical therapy made its first big move to the Willmar Skylark Center in 2006 to accommodate both the clinic’s and the PT department’s growth.

This transition allowed for physical therapy to grow more than ever, thanks to effective recruiting. A department that began as five employees has grown to nearly four times its size with 11 therapists, three physical therapy assistants, three athletic trainers, and two occupational hand therapists. “There is a lot of longevity at ACMC,” Jim said. “The clinic does an excellent job of taking care of their employees and it’s a nice working atmosphere.”

Jim has found that the people on the PT team make his job as the head of the department easy, working with a staff that functions effectively as a team. “There are many realms of physical therapy,” Jim explained. “But we are all here because we want to provide high-quality, orthopedic-style care. ACMC allows us to practice with the freedom we need to pursue our interests and allows us to develop new programs.”

As for patient care, Jim has also seen drastic changes to the specialty over his 42 years as a therapist. “Physical therapy is a team approach now, much more than ever before,” he explained. “We can’t get along without the physicians. We depend on them to rule conditions out which is important because we want what is best for the patient.”

Jim says with the increase in research, treatment methods continue to evolve and this will be an important measure for physical therapy moving forward. “That is why we call it “practicing” medicine because we still don’t have it right yet,” Jim said. “We keep practicing and learning every day, changing treatments so patients receive the best results.”

As Jim’s time at ACMC comes to an end, he is optimistic about the future of the physical therapy department thanks to the staff he has built around him. “The people who work in the PT department are great people and even better clinicians,” Jim explained. “I sit in my office and listen to my staff interact with patients and they are doing great which makes my job easy.”

The Future

For Jim, his retirement isn’t just the end of his time at ACMC but the beginning of his new adventure in the world of retirement. He and his wife will be moving to Maryland to spend more time with family including their three-year-old grandson. They also look forward to spending time with their granddaughter in Arizona.

Although he considers himself “retired”, Jim hasn’t quite given up on physical therapy just yet. He has received his license to practice in Maryland and is keeping his options open for what his future may hold. “If I get bored I will look for somewhere to work a few days a week just to fill my time and meet new people,” Jim said. “I don’t plan on quitting all together just yet.”

Jim admits this will be an interesting endeavor as the education and experience of physical therapists today isn’t the same as when he began practicing. “When I look at advertisements for physical therapists now everyone has a bunch of letters behind their name with advanced degrees and certifications which is a little intimidating,” Jim confessed. “But I think my ace in the whole is my ability to talk and connect with people.”

This is what he says he will miss most about Willmar, his patients and the relationships he has developed over the years. “I have been here long enough to establish clientele so I have the people who will request to come back and see me,” Jim said. “Obviously, I don’t know everything but I’ve establish that relationship and they trust me which goes a long way. So, that is the biggest reward of all for this profession.”

As for his time at ACMC, there are many things Jim will miss but he is thankful for what the clinic has given him over the past 29 years. “The time has gone quickly,” Jim shared. “You move through the motions then suddenly one day you wonder where the time has gone. But I have no regrets. I have been lucky, I have been healthy, and I am so grateful for my experience at ACMC.”