A few minutes with Kelly Kivette, LRT/CTRS

Kelly Kivette, LRT/CTRS, is a senior recreational therapist at the N.C. Cancer Hospital and she's on a mission to help people stay active while undergoing cancer treatment.

A few minutes with Kelly Kivette, LRT/CTRS click to enlarge Kelly Kivette, LRT/CTRS, developed the Healthy Heels program to help UNC Bone Marrow Transplant and Cellular Therapy Program patients who have recently undergone transplants stay active.

Kelly Kivette, LRT/CTRS, is a senior recreational therapist at the N.C. Cancer Hospital, the clinical home of UNC Lineberger. Kivette is focused on helping people to stay active when undergoing cancer treatment and also cope with their hospitalization.

Building on research that has shown maintaining physical activity throughout and after treatment can improve a cancer patient’s quality of life, Kivette developed the Healthy Heels program to help UNC Bone Marrow Transplant and Cellular Therapy Program patients who have recently undergone transplants stay active. The program encourages patients to walk and engage in other tasks that promote physical activity while they are on the unit. Patients who walk a total of 26.2 miles during transplant recovery are cheered on by Kivette and the BMT team as they cross the finish line and they receive a medal for completing a marathon.

We spoke with Kivette to learn more about her, her position and what motivates her.  

What do you love most about your position?

“These patients are here for a very long time, and I see them most days. I have the opportunity to establish a really healthy rapport with many of them. It’s nice to be able to help them meet the goals that they have for themselves, see them succeed and move through treatment in a healthy way. I enjoy helping them identify their personal motivators and focus on the future, which often times can help them stay focused as they’re going through treatment.” 

What inspired you to go into your field?

“I knew I wanted to be in health care when I went to college, but, honestly, I wasn’t sure exactly what I wanted to do. I had a really good advisor who told me about recreational therapy and how it’s a holistic approach to care. Not only do we address the physical recovery, but we help a lot with coping and the adjustment to a new diagnosis or treatment they’re going through. I liked that it encompassed more of the whole person, focusing on overall wellness instead of just focusing on one particular avenue of recovery. I did my internship here in the Bone Marrow Unit when I was in college and absolutely loved it. A couple years later, I interviewed and got the job and here I am 17 years later.”

What’s the most rewarding part of your job?

“The days go by so quickly here. We’re always busy, there’s always something going on – but I do leave here every day feeling like I’ve made a difference. This is also a really amazing team to work with. I tell people all the time how fortunate I am to work with the best nursing staff and treatment team in the hospital.” 

What do you think you’d be doing career-wise today if you weren’t a recreational therapist?

“I would likely be doing sign language interpretation. It was my minor in college and was something I really enjoyed. I would love to be able to continue taking signing classes again at some point when I have more free time than I do at this stage of my life.”

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