Problem solving has always come naturally to Connie South. As a child, South’s father “taught her to tinker” and instilled in her a love of home improvement and woodworking.

 As a physical therapist, South gained a reputation for thinking outside of the box, striving to keep therapy interesting and exciting for her patients, and she was never afraid to try a new technique if she felt her patients would benefit. As a PAS coordinator, she is still problem solving and helping patients, just in a slightly different manner as she works to ensure patients receive the maximum benefits they can while at Encompass Health Rehabilitation Hospital of Utah.

“If we were working on walking in a therapy session, we’d play the Diet Coke game,” South said. “I’d set out cups, and if a patient stepped on a cup, they’d owe me a Diet Coke. If they completed the exercise without crushing a cup, I’d owe them a beverage of their choice—non-alcoholic, of course.”

It’s that creativity and positivity that earned South Encompass Health’s Outstanding Employee Achievement Award for the Company’s West region. Out of more than 30,000 rehabilitation hospital employees, South is one of seven to receive the award.

“She’s encouraging and has so much knowledge from her years of experience, and loves to share that with other therapists,” said Chuck Smith, hospital CEO. “Someone perfectly stated, ‘She’s like the LeBron James of therapy. She makes everyone better.’”

From a young age, South knew she wanted to pursue a career in rehabilitation, helping those who needed help the most. Her love of being part of a team is what led her to serve as the hospital’s director of therapy operations for eight years, before she stepped down to return to the frontlines of patient care a senior physical therapist.

Her years as a DTO not only gave her a new perspective on patient care, but also further instilled in her a passion for supporting her colleagues. To continue the basketball metaphor, Smith said South makes a great point guard, always willing to throw the pass to let others score.

“She doesn’t care about the credit, she just cares about getting the job done,” Smith explained. “People are receptive to any suggestion or nuance she may share, because they know she’s always got the best interest of the patient at heart.”

Now, South is caring for patients in a new way, taking on the role of PAS coordinator. Not only does the position combine her desire to care for both patients and her colleagues, South said, it also allows her to work more closely with departments she didn’t interact with as frequently as a physical therapist and demonstrate how a team is strongest when all its players are working together.

“I’ve always tried to be a team player,” South said. “At our hospital, we are a team and I can’t do this alone. Not one person can manage a hospital or one patient alone. It takes all of us to succeed. I’m all about making sure everyone feels comfortable, positive and valued.”

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