Donna’s Story: Visually Impaired Provider Connects with Patients Through Valant EHR

Donna Offield, M.A., LPC

Working at Valant, we often hear inspiring stories from our customers. Here’s a special example from Donna Offield, M.A., LPC.

The Beginning

Donna Offield did not come into this world easily. While her father was serving in the United States Army in Vietnam, Donna’s mother went into labor – two and a half months early. When Donna arrived, she weighed just two pounds and two ounces, during a time when few infants born so early and small had a chance of survival. During the first few days, Donna put her doctors through their paces. She was expected to be blind and suffer from a series of developmental issues. The doctors were not confident she would survive the first 24-48 hours. The news reached her father in Vietnam and he was granted a hardship discharge to come home to his newborn daughter. After two months in the hospital, she was released – healthy, but blind.

The young family had just settled in at home when Donna’s father received news from the military. “Shortly after I was discharged from the hospital to go home, my dad’s entire platoon was blown up. Most of the men did not survive. I look at my blindness as a blessing, getting my dad out of harm’s way. I tell my dad I wouldn’t trade my blindness any day because it kept him alive. I don’t want to just look at a picture and not know who he is. It really was all part of God’s plan.”

Practicing at Healing Waters Counseling Center

It is this faith that leads the counseling philosophy at Healing Waters Counseling Center of Cedar Bluff, Virginia, where Donna has worked for nearly a decade. Healing Waters is an outpatient mental health practice that serves around 75 clients a day in its three locations. Healing Waters is scheduled to open a 4th location next month. The practice was founded by Brad Kinder, LPC, CSAC in May 2010, the same month and year Donna graduated with her master’s degree in marriage and family therapy. That coincidence is not lost on Donna. “I really believe God created a job for me. This is where I’m supposed to be.”

Being a blind therapist requires a few modifications to the norm, but Donna doesn’t think of herself as handicapped or impaired. Her days begin with an hour-long public transit commute on multiple bus lines. “Whenever I’m having a down day or a pity party, I just think about Donna because she is such an inspiration, she never complains” says Brad. In fact, being blind gives Donna unique advantages when working with her clients – she likens it to a superpower. “I’m able to pick up things, like someone moving in their chair, playing with a piece of paper…you can tell when they are feeling uncomfortable. It’s like calling your friend on the telephone. You can tell when they are having a bad day.” And her patients are thankful for it.

Instead of worrying about missing non-verbal cues, Donna takes a different approach. “I tell my patients right away that I’m blind and they need to talk to me because I can’t see their head nod or shoulders shrug. I also tell them that I understand what they are going through because I know what it’s like to go through some things. I know what it’s like to not be in control. I know what it’s like to be left out. I know what it’s like to feel excluded. I can relate to what it’s like to go through some painful things.”

Tools of the Trade

While there are daily challenges for Donna, she has yet to face one she can’t overcome. Tools such as JAWS® (Job Access With Speech), which she uses with Valant EHR, give her the power to work effectively in the digital world. JAWS screen reading software, developed for computer users whose vision loss prevents them from seeing screen content or navigating with a mouse, provides speech output while navigating the Internet, writing documents, reading emails, creating presentations, etc.

Donna has been using the program since the early 90’s. “I really started using it after undergrad when I got more formal training in it. Unfortunately, most of the Electronic Health Records we’ve used over the years just did not work with JAWS. It never recognized anything on the screen and would just say ‘blank, blank, blank.’ Valant has been absolutely awesome. This is the first EHR I have been able to use with JAWS. I use the mobile notes feature for my documentation. With the help of my husband, Valant, and Brad, I’ve been able to set myself up to use it and it is really easy for the visually impaired. I like being able to use our EHR just like everyone else.” In addition to using Valant EHR with JAWS, Donna uses BrailleNote, a Braille notetaker, for adjunct note taking as needed.

Healing Waters and Valant

“As a practice, we’ve gone through several EHRs,” notes Brad. “As the business grew, nothing really met our needs. Once we started using Valant in 2015, we haven’t looked back. We like that it is built for mental health, by mental health…We can’t wait to see what the company comes out with next.”

You can find more info on Healing Waters Counseling Center here.

We love our customers and we love hearing your stories! If you have one you’d like to share, please connect with us by emailing info@valant.com.

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