Toa Zoko’s enthusiasm is contagious. As a physical therapy assistant at New Community Extended Care Facility, Zoko works with nursing home residents who are recovering from surgery or an illness and need to regain their strength and mobility, specifically in their lower body and core.
Barry Palmer has been receiving therapy and working with Zoko since December of 2012.
“She really pushed me when I first came here,” said Palmer, 62, who underwent hip replacement surgery recently. “She’s really good to work with, energetic, knows what she was doing.”
As a physical therapist assistant employed by Activa Rehab at Extended Care, Zoko works under the direct supervision of a physical therapist. She said she reviews a resident’s plan of care and his or her goals, and then maps out a plan of action to help the resident reach his or her previous level of function and independence. She’s quick to laugh and share a joke, making those around her feel at ease, even if the therapy exercises are anything but easy.
On a recent Tuesday, Zoko accompanied resident Elizabeth Hairston as Hairston steadily walked down the hallway with the assistance of a walker.
“I love to see the progress from the first day to the end,” Zoko said. “A little bit every day is what gets you to your independence,” she added.
To that end, she works each day with residents like Hairston and Palmer, focusing specifically on their lower extremities. Her goal is for them to increase their mobility, coordination and overall strength, which allows residents to live independently. And seeing their eyes light up when they notice their own improvement is reward enough for Zoko.
“I like seeing how the patient’s respond to their own progress,” she said. Robert Smolin, administrator of the nursing home, said that Zoko “is responsible for some very good outcomes with the residents during their therapy time.”
Zoko said she enjoys learning and regularly takes continuing education courses to expand her knowledge and incorporate new exercises into her physical therapy sessions. Her love of learning extends beyond her day job and has motivated Zoko to teach herself about real estate and become a licensed realtor. A native of the Ivory Coast, Zoko said that her dream is to open a medical clinic in Africa with her husband in the future.