Our People

Why I Came, Why I Stayed: Occupational Therapist Diane Ryan Continues to Celebrate Patient Achievements

Published: July 27, 2023

In “Why I Came, Why I Stayed,” you’ll get to know people who are making a difference every day at Methodist and how they contribute to providing The Meaning of Care. To explore career opportunities at Methodist, visit bestcare.org/jobs.


Diane Ryan, OTR/L, CHT
Occupational Therapist 
Methodist Hospital, Outpatient Therapy Services

Tell us more about yourself and your background.

I have practiced occupational therapy for 43 years. Of that time, 28 years have been spent working for the Methodist Health System.  

I grew up in a small town in South Dakota. My father was a farmer, and my mother was a nurse. I was always interested in health care but didn’t feel nursing was for me. I was born with a slight foot deformity (metatarsus varus), so at a young age, my legs were cast, I wore braces at night, and I wore corrective shoes until I was a teen. I made multiple trips to see an orthopedic doctor and visit a physical therapist. My exposure to physical therapy initiated my interest in therapy as a career.  

When I graduated with a Bachelor of Science in occupational therapy (OT) from the University of North Dakota in 1980, there weren’t many OT job opportunities available in the Midwest. I had two choices: Omaha, Nebraska, or Billings, Montana. My father advised me to accept the job in Omaha. After practicing for 10 years at a different facility, I found my way to Methodist Hospital. Another OT, who was a close friend, was employed at Methodist and encouraged me to apply. I have never regretted my decision to join the Methodist family.  


Why Methodist? What attracted you to the organization?

I joined Methodist Health System in 1992. At that time, we were a staff of three occupational therapists. We now have over 35 occupational therapists working either full time, part time or with options. Over the years, I have worked in acute care, acute rehabilitation and now in the outpatient setting.  

I was attracted to the job because I wanted to work in acute rehabilitation. As our OT department grew, we developed the acute care and outpatient settings, and I expanded my knowledge and expertise in those areas. I have stayed in the outpatient setting because it's challenging and it pushes me to be a better therapist. I see a huge variety of patients and conditions, including hand trauma, orthopedic injuries, neurological impairment, Parkinson’s disease, stroke, arthritis, cancer and concussions. I'm never bored. Every patient brings new challenges. I love establishing relationships with my patients and learning about their lives. Working with individuals to help them achieve their personal goals for independence, returning to work and living life to its fullest is very rewarding. If I ever wrote a book about my experience as an OT, it would be titled: “Everything I Know Is From What I Have Learned From My Patients.”   

Even now, after working for 43 years, I still get excited when a patient moves their arm for the first time since their stroke, or when an individual gains 10 more degrees by straightening their elbow, or they can feed themselves with their dominant hand. Above my desk I have this quote by Sterling Bunnell, the father of American hand surgery: “For those who have nothing, a little is a lot." I think about that quote when I'm working with my patients. Every achievement for them is very important, and it’s my job to help them achieve those goals. 


What is it about Methodist that keeps you coming back?

I have stayed at Methodist because I truly feel that our administration sets a standard of excellence for their employees. As a therapist, I can work anywhere to provide my expertise to patients. I stay at Methodist because I'm empowered to be the best that I can be. Many times, my manager has asked me, “What can I do for you?” She is willing to support me in any way she can to help me achieve my career goals or to make a positive change in the work environment. The managers here at Methodist truly care for and support their employees. Over the years, I have experienced many ups and downs with health care trends. Some good. Some bad. At Methodist, we persevere through it because we work together as a family. I'm proud to say I am an employee at Methodist.