Marissa Pisarri-Conti: Master manipulator
Published: Thursday, May 26, 2011, 12:46 PM
STATEN ISLAND, N.Y. — ALL SHORES — Marissa Pisarri-Conti and her husband live in Old Bridge, N.J., and own a peppy, white, short-haired German shepherd named Moose. This makes sense if you know that when Mrs. Pisarri-Conti was a young girl, she was certain that she wanted to be a veterinarian when she grew up.
Staten Island Advance/Irving Silverstein
Marissa Pisarri-Conti is an occupational therapist at Staten Island University Hospital, Prince's Bay.
But that was before she realized that being a vet might involve more than treating and caring for animals.
"I went for a job as a veterinary assistant, but realized I couldn't put animals to sleep," she admitted.
Instead, the former resident of Staten Island's East Shore – Arrochar, South Beach, Dongan Hills and Grant City – decided to help people.
After graduating from New Dorp High School, she went on to get a bachelor of arts degree in occupational therapy at the College of Staten Island and a master of arts degree in the same discipline from New York University.
These days, you'll find her in the basement at Staten Island University Hospital's South site in Prince's Bay three days a week – Monday, Wednesday and Thursday – and at the hospital's North site in Ocean Breeze on Tuesday. On Monday and Wednesday, she works a 12-hour shift; on Tuesday and Thursday, it's just an eight-hour day.
Occupational therapists are trained to help patients with physical and mental impairments learn, or re-learn, daily activities, like cooking, cleaning or job skills.
Mrs. Pisarri-Conti said she works with people who've suffered strokes, brain injuries and tumors. She also handles a variety of orthopedic cases – like injuries to shoulders and hands. Patients come to her primarily with a physician's order, and she'll work with children as well as adults.
She said that "children are a little different" to work with. Many of those she sees have visual and perceptual delays. "Sometimes, their brain may not be aligning numbers, for instance, which makes copying from a board difficult," she explained.
One of the things Mrs. Pisarri-Conti likes best about her job – other than the hours – is that the work is never routine. Each patient is an individual, which means adapting treatment to suit different personalities and problems.
"A lot of times, (occupational therapy) is done more by goals, based on what's important for them to be able to do," she said.
She thinks occupational therapy is a good career for anyone "who wants a little bit of a challenge."
"I've been working for 12 years, and there is always something new to learn," she said.
The last new thing she discovered came from a professional journal, she said. "Different parts of the body – like a gall bladder – can refer pain to your shoulder. It's not just muscular-skeletal," she explained.
Occupational therapists rarely get pigeon-holed, said Mrs. Pisarri-Conti. They are employed by departments of education around the country, mental health facilities, hospitals, even companies that deliver home care.
She admits that her success is, in part, dependent on the patient. "Motivation is totally a factor," she said, adding that she bases her therapy program on "what they can perform."
And she's not telling secrets when she says that not every one of her patients does what he or she is told. "Not everybody listens," she lamented.
Still, the job is far more rewarding than not, as she is able to help get people up and functioning better than they had been.
Mrs. Pisarri-Conti finds herself most interested in rehabilitating hand injuries, and said she is hoping to advance her knowledge in this area in the near future.
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