Tony Sheffield has been a physical therapist at the Vereen Center and Colquitt Regional Medical Center since 2006. Originally from Fitzgerald, Georgia, Sheffield worked locally in South Georgia for 10 years before making the transition to Colquitt Regional.
Sheffield graduated from Georgia Southern in 1994 with a degree in biology. He then went on to graduate school at Georgia State University and received his degree in physical therapy in 1996.
His inspiration to become a physical therapist started when he was an active sports player during his youth.
“My introduction to physical therapy came as a ninth-grade football player,” Sheffield said. “I had a hand injury, and the surgeon said I was motivated enough to get back on the field and do my own rehab, and so I did. He said that he has had worse results from people who actually went to physical therapy, so I thought if I could do it to myself then I could help others.”
Sheffield’s motivation comes from helping patients return to a functioning lifestyle. He explained that the rehabilitation process is extensive and has patients working their hardest.
“It starts with an evaluation, finding were there’s deficits, make a plan, emphasize the areas that are most important to the patient in order for them to return to what they need to do, and continue to monitor their progress,” he said. “We continue to monitor changes in the patient’s condition without leaving out needed processes. You want to be sure that they can function properly. The functional aspect is probably the most important side of it.”
Sheffield mainly encounters orthopedic patients, but other cases peak his interest as well.
“I have a special interest in sacroiliac dysfunction, and I’ve tried to hone that skill for many years,” he said. “Postural improvement with a number of people, especially neck and shoulder patients, that creates a whole work load in its own right. We also see a lot of balance patients, a lot of patients who have a problem walking or maintaining their balance, (and) neurological patients, whether it be a stroke or closed head injury. But a large part of my day is devoted to orthopedic cases, lots of neck, shoulder and lower back patients.”
One of the most important aspects, Sheffield explained, in having a successful recovery for his patients is ensuring that they are comfortable throughout the rehabilitation process.
“I try to be a friend to them,” he said. ”To tell them that I understand they’re in pain, but this is something we have to deal with and something we have to work through, and we got a journey to make. I encourage them to be as active as they can in the at-home program, because the more involved they are the better progress there will be. It doesn’t matter how good a therapist I am. If you’re not doing your part, we’re not going to get where we need to be.”
Sometimes Sheffield has to demonstrate a small quantity of tough love to get his patients through the most successful treatment plan possible.
“Many times patients are unable or unwilling to push themselves, and that’s where we come in,” Sheffield said. “We have to have a unique way of taking them places they can’t take themselves. Within patients’ rights, we have to encourage them and be the strong vector in which they progress. But, I think the Vereen Center is uniquely staffed to get the most out of their patients.”
However, successful recovery is nearly impossible if patients do not trust their doctors, Sheffield said.
“To gain the trust of a patient can be difficult,” he said. “They’re in pain, they’re unsure, they’re scared. I try to present in a calm, confident manner. Education is huge, letting them know what to expect from what we’re going to do. Over 20 plus years of practice, I have kind of boiled that down to a pretty good script over that period of time.”
Sheffield’s favorite aspect of working at the Vereen Center as a physical therapist is that he has the opportunity to help as many patients as he can and gets to meet interesting people in the process.
“What I love most about my job is that I love to help folks to get back to whatever activity they wanted to get back to,” he said. “I get to meet a lot of people and interact with them. I enjoy the interaction with people in my profession. You get to be the educator, and the scientist, the coach, so it’s a wonderful feeling to see people get back to what they love to do.”
Sheffield believes that the Vereen Center has given him ample opportunities to expand his network of patient care and the medical equipment necessary to help all the patients he encounters.
“I think what makes the Vereen Center unique is first and foremost the staffing and support that we have,” Sheffield said. “From administration, we’ve been able to bring in some really neat tools. We’ve got the tools and the man power to provide an exceptional level of care.”
When he is not in the office, Sheffield enjoys spending time with his family and in the outdoors. He and his family are avid sports players.
“I’ve been an outdoorsman all my life; that’s gone away with children being active in a number of sports,” he said. “I’m an archery coach for Grady County 4H, just returning from state tournament where we won several medals. First place in the Cloverleaf division, and my son’s team finished second in Junior division. I also follow Westwood athletics; my children go to Westwood schools in Camila, and I work the sidelines there with friends that also have children there, and we spend a lot of time on the basketball side, as well as football and track. I enjoy spending time with my wife and children, whether it be traveling or spending time with other family members. We spend a lot of time on the road to attend sporting events, and that’s where the bulk of my time is as a father.”
One health tip Sheffield stands by is simple.
“If I could give one health tip, it would be to eat healthy, listen to your body, and don’t ignore any pains,” he said.