Occupational Therapy

Internships in Physical Therapy & Fitness

One of the stepping stones of a college education is the coveted internship. A chance to gain real life experience before heading off to live life as a working adult. At Northern we love the opportunity to mentor, train, and provide real world experience to our interns and student fieldworkers. Each semester we invite a handful of students to assist our physical therapists, fitness, and business administration teams. Their desire to learn adds an exciting element to our environment.


“My education has given me a great foundation, but it’s experiences like this (at Northern) that helped me succeed in the workforce.” Catherine Palazzolo, former intern (pictured far left)

If you’re considering an internship in the healthcare field, we invite you to read on, and send in a resume. Only eager and positive candidates need apply, we’ve got lives to change here in the clinic and we need the best of the best to assist us along the way.


“Participating in the Coopersville community expo gave me an opportunity to interact with exercise participants in a different setting, and to develop a deeper interest in the community. Being approached by community members about fitness and what Northern has to offer was a pretty cool experience.” Mick DeBoer, former intern

It means a lot to know that we’ve helped a young person grow and develop skills that were valuable in various aspects of their lives. Alex Hoffman started out as our intern and fieldwork student. Her positive attitude, ease at which she could work with clients, and ability to quickly adapt to various settings led us to offering her a job as a Professional Care Specialist upon graduation, but that didn’t last long. We could quickly see Alex’s ability to go farther and her path eventually led her to becoming a fitness instructor, mentor for current interns, and ultimately to her current role as the Northview Fitness Center manager in our Grand Rapids clinic.


Alex and her team at the Northview Fitness Center in Grand Rapids (pictured front, center)

When she looks back on her days as an intern with us she attributes Northern with allowing her to grow and discover her true potential.

“When I first started as an intern I never thought I would be teaching multiple fitness classes, let alone leading a running group. I absolutely hated running but after working here for just 18 months I was up to running half marathons! The amount of knowledge I gained while interning at Northern was untouchable. I was (and still am) surrounded by brilliant physical therapists and even to this day, I truly enjoy coming to work. We’ve got a great group of people that inspire each other to be their best and work hard. Without them I wouldn’t be where I am today.” Alex Hoffman, former intern and current Northview Fitness Center manager

intern_runfit“My favorite project has been helping to co-lead the RunFit class with Alex. The experience has been fun and challenging. Interning at Northern has been invaluable – it’s one of the first work scenarios where I’ve had the opportunity to apply more of my education in addition to learning new skills.” Alex Rust, former intern and current Professional Care Specialist (pictured front, center, in blue)


“Be open minded to all new experiences because you never know where they will take you.” Lauren Houghan, former intern and current Practice Manager (pictured right)

Lauren Houghan is another integral member of our team who started out as a fieldwork student and worked up to Practice Manager, which is the role she holds today. Along the way there were a series of promotions and some roles that Lauren never imagined she’d take on. While Lauren handles working full time she also does some personal training in her spare time, which is something that she’s really grown to love.

Lauren gives some credit to Northern for allowing her the time and experiences to recognize her personal strengths and interests, which ultimately led her back down the path to earning her Masters of Public Health degree through GVSU.

“I chose Northern for my internship because of all they had to offer to the community. The variety of exercise classes and workshops aren’t something many physical therapy clinics offer. I knew this internship would challenge me and I wanted to be a part of an amazing team. The staff at Northern are very helpful and extremely friendly which has made my internship even better.” Emily Mead, former intern (pictured far left)

We’re humbled to hear our interns tell their side of the story. It makes us feel great to know that we’re helping these students gain valuable experience and giving them the chance to grow personally and professionally. If you’d like to learn more or submit a resume, email Alex.

We’re Talking Senior Health and Driving on WZZM and My West Michigan

We all have parents, grandparents or friends that we care deeply for and we want to see them living a long and healthy life. As therapists we can have a positive impact in this stage of life. Gina and Lyn were recently invited to the My West Michigan studios at WZZM to talk about this very topic.

We had the opportunity to chat with Catherine Behrendt about how changes in our physical and mental capacities effect our driving skills as we age. Our DriveFit driver assessment program is done in the clinic to help older adults stay on the road as long as possible, in the safest manner.

We talked about warning signs, equipment that can be used to assist older drivers, and how we can help. Watch the segment in its entirety here. 

If you have questions on DriveFit, or warning signs when it comes to a loved one and their driving habits, contact us at the clinic nearest you. You can also check out our other WZZM segment on athletes and concussions here.

Best Work Injury Prevention Tip: Stay close to your work!

The physical and occupational therapists at Northern Physical Therapy often treat clients who have been injured while working. At NPT, we believe that education about prevention of re-injury is an important part of the rehabilitation of any injured worker.

Although injury prevention training is unique for each individual and their condition, a few techniques are applicable to many situations. One technique that applies to all work settings is to keep work within close ranges. This technique is simple to apply, but does require intentional effort. Here are some examples of how to use this tip:

1. Keep your upper arms parallel to your trunk while driving, keyboarding, using tools, and handling objects. This will allow you to maintain upright postures as well as minimize risk of injury to shoulders and elbows.

2. Long handles are an effective way to allow you to do work without reaching or bending. There are many options for lengthening or adjusting handle heights. Consider adjusting handles on carts, and using long handles on cleaning tools, kitchen tools, hand tools, yard/garden tools, office tools, sprayers, and shears.

3. Keep loads in your power zone to prevent back injury. Objects in your power zone will be close to your body, between thigh and chest level.

NPT has Occupational Therapists that specialize in work injuries and they are available to come to your office or workspace to make sure you’re working in the safest and most ergonomically correct environment possible. Contact any one of our five west Michigan locations to get more information.