Clinician of the Month: Jim Wagner

Clinician of the Month: Jim Wagner

Clinician of the Month: Jim Wagner

Jim Wagner OTD, OTR/L, CHT, CPAM, CSCS, is the clinical coordinator and team leader at Guthrie Clinic’s hand care center in Pennsylvania. He has been practicing in the clinical setting for 28 years and a certified hand therapist for over 20 years.

Table of Contents 

Getting a Chance in the Profession

The Importance of Networking

Continuous Learning's Importance in Therapy

Occupational Therapy Changes Over the Years

What's on the Horizon for Occupational Therapy?

Performance Health's Impact

Dr. Wagner’s Must-Have Products

Getting a Chance in the Profession

When Wagner started college, the odds were stacked against him. He didn’t have much drive or direction in his first year, which would explain why he was voted most likely not to succeed in high school.

While working in college for a facility to help develop individuals with disabilities, Wagner first saw therapy up close.

“I did my first teenage bodybuilding competition at [age] 15,” he said. “I thought therapy was an easy transition into health and fitness.”

Wagner believes the reason he got into the physical therapy program was his interview, as his grades weren’t the best.

“He [the interviewer] gave me a chance,” he said. “A GPA doesn’t tell me much about people. It doesn’t tell me their intent or passion.”

Without someone taking a chance on him, Wagner wouldn’t be back teaching at his alma mater, Keuka College, 28 years later.

“You never know what you can become if you love what you do,” Wagner said. 

The Importance of Networking

Finding other people in your profession can help you learn about the latest trends and equipment. Plus, they can help you find other opportunities to elevate your career.

“I’ve had opportunities to do smaller in-services for other healthcare facilities, and travel teaching with HawkGrips, instrument assisted soft-tissue mobility, blood flow restriction training, and other topics,” he said.

What he enjoys the most out of these experiences is meeting new people. Wagner believes clinicians often get afraid to ask other clinicians for advice or insight. However, he’s learned the people who have been in the industry for a long time are not as unreachable as some might think.

“Ask questions to other people in the industry at events and build those relationships,” he said.

In his spare time, Wagner volunteers at the American Society of Hand Therapists and runs the education of the Webinar Committee on the American Society for Health Engineering (ASHE) Education Division. 

Continuous Learning's Importance in Therapy

Wagner believes patients deserve the best care, which is why he always wants to learn more. 
“They come to us for help so they can get better,” he says. “They want to know the person they work with has passionate about what they do.”

Wagner emphasizes with his students how much being a clinician can give them the ability to impact another person’s life.

“When clinicians realize how much time and power they have to change a life, for good or bad, they can begin to look at things a bit differently,” he said.

Wagner tells his students they’ll never stop studying or learning in the profession.

“I think constant learning should be a hallmark of what we do every day,” Wagner says.

Aside from reading two to three articles a week on rehabilitation and changes in the practice, Wagner is also studying for his International Academy of Orthopedic Medicine (IAOM) upper extremity certification.

What keeps Wagner in the profession and continuing to learn is knowing he can help a patient.

"Therapy should be fun, meaningful, and goal oriented,” Wagner says. “It’s not something you do to them, it’s something you do with them.” 

Occupational Therapy Changes Over the Years

Wagner says one of the biggest changes in occupational therapy during his career is the access to education, whether it be in person or online.

“There's a lot of really good information out there that's accessible, even on some social media,” he said.

In the last 10 years, Wagner also believes occupational therapy has taken a more holistic approach.

“I think we've seen a significant widening in various areas of the life cycle of the individual that we treat,” he said. “No matter where we work from, whether it’s health and fitness, to early intervention, or even end of life issues.”

Having these changes in the occupation, Wagner believes, has led to great opportunities that are available for rehabilitation, preventative care, and continuing education. 

What's on the Horizon for Occupational Therapy?

In the United States, Wagner says blood flow restriction training has really caught on in the last 10 to 15 years.

“It’s becoming more accessible to those in everyday fitness as well as a safe and effective treatment modality,” he says.

Several years ago, he was trained in KAATSU®, the original blood flow restriction, by one of the only KAATSU masters in the country, Dr. Jim Stray-Gundersen.

In addition to blood flow restriction, Wagner thinks WINBACK, a high-frequency current device, is a new technology therapists should embrace.

“Personally, I like to use the high frequency electrical current through the instrument assisted tool,” he said. “This allows you to get the effect through soft tissues, which has a significant impact on outcomes.”  

Performance Health's Impact

Wagner’s favorite instruments to use are HawkGrips, since he does a lot of soft tissue mobility work in the clinic.

“I would probably choose it over any modality,” Wagner said. “I utilize it with anything from my acute to my chronic patients.”

For strength conditioning, Wagner’s favorite options by Performance Health are the THERABAND CLX® and THERABAND High Resistance Bands.

These products allow clinicians to activate muscles that have been mobilized, then get patients moving with the products afterward.

Wagner also attributes working with Performance Health Academy as a doorway to meet clinicians like Phil Page, Shawn Berger, André Labbé, and others, that he now considers friends. 

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About the Clinician: Jim Wagner, OTD, OR/L, CHT, CPAM, CSCS


Dr. Wagner is an occupational therapist/certified hand therapist with 28 years of clinical experience working in the upper extremity orthopedic setting. He received his post professional clinical doctorate from Rocky Mountain University of Health Professions with a specialty in hand therapy.

Dr. Wagner is credentialed in physical agent modalities and is a certified strength and conditioning specialist. Jim is currently the team leader of the Guthrie Hand Center and an adjunct professor at an accredited occupational therapy program. Jim has been involved in competitive powerlifting/bodybuilding for 35 years and has been in 28 competitions. He has traveled extensively teaching on topics such as kinesiology taping, cupping, instrument assisted soft tissue mobility, orthotic fabrication, and blood flow restriction training.

Jim is a member of the American Society of Hand Therapists. He has been published in the practice forum section of the Journal of Hand Therapy and serves as the webinar committee coordinator for the education division of the ASHT.