Olympia Orthopaedics Associates is well known throughout the South Sound as a comprehensive provider of musculoskeletal care. Essential to that service are the large, state-of the-art physical therapy clinics housed at their Westside and Eastside Clinics. Since early March, those clinics have been under the experienced direction of Lisa Bowling, PT.
Bowling is a Washington native who grew up in Spokane, Washington, the youngest of 10 kids. Her mom stayed at home keeping things running for the big family while her father saw patients as a physician. The family relocated to California in Bowling’s sophomore year and it was then her interest in Physical Therapy began.
“During my high school years, in 1979 specifically, I began working in the field partly with my dad in his clinics and in nursing homes,” Bowling shares. “I knew I had an interest in the medical field early on, but I didn’t have a name for it. It wasn’t until my mom gave me a book written by Joni Eareckson, an autobiography of a swimmer who broke her neck resulting in paralysis/quadriplegia, that the field of physical therapy was defined to me. Reading about the process Joni went through, how she progressed through her therapies and became a successful artist, writer inspired me to want to be part of this process.”
During aptitude testing done in high school, Bowling’s career path came up either teacher or physical therapist. “Well, you do both when you are a physical therapist,” she realized and her career path was born. Her interest blossomed into formal training at California State University, Northridge where she graduated in 1988.
Bowling’s experience over the years has taken her through a variety of clinical and non-clinical settings. Most recently, she spent over 11 years working with injured workers. She has done subcontract review work with LNI. Prior to moving back to Washington, Bowling worked in Georgia with a neurology practice as director of their associated rehabilitation center. She also owned her own practice, working with local California orthopaedists. These multi-disciplinary settings gave her a wide breadth of knowledge in the varied types of physical therapies patients may need.
Returning to Washington in 2000, Bowling settled her family in Olympia. OOA knew her experience would be a good fit for the position of Rehabilitation Services Director when it came open last year. “Throughout my career, I have always worked very closely with doctors and it was something that was missing in my past jobs,” says Bowling. “I did that with my dad and other work experience, and it’s what I’ve always loved about being a therapist.” The inclusion of physical therapy clinics within the Oly Ortho locations facilitates this close relationship, one that is valued by Bowling and patients alike.
“Working with doctors who are excited about what they do and want to teach is amazing,” she shares. “Even after 36 years in the field, it’s pretty exciting to feel like you are always learning. That was the main draw here.” Additionally Bowling sites the potential to grow the clinic, serving the wide variety of departments at Oly Ortho, as a big reason for her interest in joining the group.
When asked what her favorite part of being a physical therapist is, Bowling doesn’t hesitate. “It’s my clients. I love taking care of people and educating them. The ability to educate and empower someone through their own rehab and on their own journey back to health and function is such a boost for a therapist. Helping reduce their pain and their restrictions – honestly is kind of a rush,” she shares with a smile.
Bowling and her team look at each patient as a puzzle. With 36 years in the field, she has seen enough to say with confidence that she has “never seen the same thing twice. The uniqueness and what happens with each individual body during recovery keeps my interest piqued.”
Currently, Bowling is doing some client care but as the new director her day-to-day work is more administrative. Her role will develop towards education of clients in pre-operative care as well as some post-operative needs. While she does miss the patients, she knows that the behind the scenes work is invaluable to the care the fifteen therapists on staff deliver each day.
The Westside clinic now has a new Hand Therapy Center, serving patients with three hand therapists and an assistant; partnering with the talented hand surgeons at OOA. Five physical therapists work in the West Olympia clinic and six work at the Eastside clinic on Lilly Road. Bowling oversees both areas, travelling between sites.
“Olympia Orthopaedics is unique in that there is so much direct contact with the doctors. Their want and desire to work with us, and our ability to literally walk over and talk to them to clarify an issue or get direction, makes a huge difference,” Bowling explains. Additionally, she cites a dynamic partnership among all physicians and therapists, moving toward using meaningful descriptors to define standard protocols of care, producing quantifiable outcomes for patients and ultimately consistent healing.
Bowling is committed to the Olympia Orthopaedics goal of getting patient’s Life In Motion. “What we do in physical therapy is completely based on motion,” explains Bowling. “Life in Motion to me is not only helping people deal with the pain and fearfulness that comes with injury or surgery, it’s teaching them better movements – preventative care and adaptability. Injuries can leave residual effects, emotionally and physically. We help them find satisfaction and a full life.”