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CARF is Coming Soon!

A survey team from CARF International* will be visiting Special Tree on April 11- 13, 2018.  We invited the surveyors to evaluate how well we meet international standards for quality. The survey will tell us what we are doing well and ways we might improve. As a result of this survey, we may earn or continue accreditation.  As part of the survey, the surveyors will interview people who receive services, their families, our staff, and others. Some questions the survey team members might ask people are:

  • Do we provide a clean and safe setting?
  • Do you receive the services you need and want?
  • Are you treated with respect?
  • Do you take part in planning your services?
  • Are you told what you need to know about your services?
  • Are your questions answered in a way you understand?
  • Do you know where to go with questions or concerns?

If you would like to talk with one of the survey team members or want to learn more about CARF International, please let one of our team members know. You may also contact CARF International directly.

*CARF International — A group of companies that includes CARF, CARF Canada, and CARF Europe.


PDF iconCARF-Poster.pdf

New In-House Lab Generating Better Patient Outcomes

Special Tree is proud to announce another step in improving the delivery of care for our patients.  Fully accredited lab services are now available at our NeuroCare campus in Romulus.   The new lab offers many common diagnostic tests and screenings including CBC’s, Electrolyte panels, BMP, CMP’s, Liver function Panels, and Lipid Panels for patients in our sub-acute and residential programs.  The lab is accredited by the CLIA, a regulatory division of the FDA.

“Having access to on-site lab services is very beneficial for our patients,” said Lela Hickonbottom, Chief Nursing Officer.  “The quicker we get results, the quicker we can diagnosis and implement treatment which results in better outcomes for our patients.”  Added benefits include the coordination of medical data all in one place and a decrease in the duplication of services.  All this improves control and management of client care for our consulting physicians and treatment team and reduces costs for insurers.  

Special Tree’s in-house lab team includes Kelly Barker P.A., Assistant Medial Director, Lela Hickonbottom, Chief Nursing Officer, Della Buchanan, Director of Nursing and Tiffany Thomas, Laboratory Technician.  

Recruiter Spotlight: Lashawn Slay, Senior HR Specialist

What are the most common mistakes you see on job applications?
It’s really important to make sure your job application is complete and information about previous or current employers is up-to-date.  If you’re using job search sites like Indeed or Zip Recruiter make sure your resume also has the correct contact information.  When applications are incomplete, it delays the process.   Having all the right information helps us access your skills set so we can match you up with the right career opportunity at Special Tree. 

What’s the best thing a job candidate can do to make an impression?
Be prepared!  First, make sure you’re clear on what position you’re interviewing for and where your interview is located.  Special Tree has 30 locations so it’s important to have directions to the right location ahead of time.   Do your research – visit our website to learn what we do.   After you’ve checked out the website, come to the interview with questions that will help you determine if Special Tree is a good fit.   Always bring your credentials to the interview. It’s also good to bring a hard copy of your resume along with any letters of recommendation.  I interviewed a nurse who brought in a letter from a family member of a loved one she had cared for which I appreciated because it gave me insight into her character. 

Why is Special Tree a great place to work?
Special Tree’s longevity says a lot about our company.  We’ve been rebuilding lives for over 40 years and are one of the leading rehabilitation providers for brain and spinal cord injury in Michigan.  In interviews, I always share that there are so many team members at Special Tree with ten or more years of service that we have an official Ol’ Timers Club!  There’s also a family-like feel to the work environment because of the close partnership between staff, clients, and families throughout the recovery process.  Special Tree has many opportunities for growth as well.  A majority of our management team is “homegrown” and our tuition reimbursement and training programs have helped many team members advance their careers here.  We’re very proud of our eight Top Workplace in Michigan awards from the Detroit Free Press which we achieved through high scores on employee satisfaction surveys. 

Be a part of our caring team at Special Tree.  Now hiring Registered Nurses, Licensed Practical Nurses, Certified Nurse Assistants and Direct Care Team Members.  Apply here.   

Vocational Clients Shine at the Big House

Special Tree’s InPro Enterprises wrapped up another successful season of running the condiment stations at U of M’s Big House during the 2017 football season.   With support from Special Tree’s job coaches, clients were responsible for filling and cleaning all condiment stations at the 100,000 seat stadium for six home games including the big games against Michigan State and Ohio State.

“Our vocational clients received glowing reviews from the health inspectors on the excellent cleanliness of the condiment stations,” said Rene Dell, Associate Director of Vocational Services.   

InPro Enterprises began managing the condiment stations at the Big House last season to help clients gain valuable work experience in the community.  Clients work on developing important job skills for competitive employment like following directions, working under stress, focusing on tasks, and being part of the team.

The Big House is one of many community enclaves that are part of Special Tree’s Vocational Rehabilitation program.  “The enclaves are a great bridge for vocational clients who are ready to beef up their job readiness skills in a work environment outside of Special Tree,” said Dell.  Special Tree/InPro Enterprises partner with local businesses and non-profit organizations to find paid, real-work experiences that clients enjoy and that they’re best suited for.   Prior to working in an enclave, vocational counselors develop an individualized vocational plan for each client through interviews, vocational testing, and/or in-depth vocational assessments.  Being familiar with each client's needs, interests, and goals helps job coaches to modify and adapt job tasks at enclaves so clients experience success and learn to work independently.

Learn more about Special Tree's Vocational Rehabilitation services.




Tips to Beat the Winter Blues

For some, shorter days and colder weather can trigger feelings of sadness and fatigue, common symptoms of seasonal mood disorder or (SAD).   If you find yourself in a seasonal slump, try these tips from Special Tree’s Psych and Social Work team to help beat the winter blues.

Seasonal Affective Disorder is a type of depression that recurs seasonally.  Typically, us Michigan folks are more likely to experience seasonal depression during the winter months, when our internal body clocks shift due to decreased sunlight; the colder temps don’t make things any easier.  While some of us look forward to all that winter brings, others will feel like ‘tis the season to be melancholy.  

In addition to feeling sad and down most of the day, nearly every day, this condition also includes symptoms of low energy, sleeping much more than usual, overeating and craving carbs, weight gain, isolating from others, lack of interest in enjoyable activities, etc. In severe cases of depression, people may have thoughts about suicide. The Suicide Prevention Lifeline (1-800-273-8255) is a wonderful resource for persons with thoughts about suicide or self-harming.

If any of the above symptoms sound familiar to you, here are some helpful tips for beating the winter blues:

  • Exercise – the more you move, the better you’ll feel
  • Go outside – being outdoors for as little as 5-10 mins a day will expose you to a good dose of natural light
  • Keep a consistent sleep schedule – try to get 8 hours each night and no matter how cozy and warm your bed feels, avoid oversleeping
  • Maintain healthy eating – it is easy to stray away from healthy eating, especially during the holiday season (and ESPECIALLY when your dad makes the best cheesecakes ever); don’t deprive yourself of yummy food, but remember what our lovely STRS dieticians say: “Everything in moderation!”
  • Invest in a light therapy sunlamp or sunrise simulating alarm clock – research shows that light therapy can be very effective and these items can be purchased on
  • Surround yourself with supports – fight urges to isolate, and make plans with family and friends
  • Have fun – engage in both indoor and outdoor activities that bring you joy, try a new activity you’ve been thinking about doing all year or, if possible, take a vacation to a warmer climate and get a break from both work and winter weather
  • Consult a professional – whether you want to speak with your physician about your Vitamin D level, or seek out counseling for additional support, professionals are there to help

Special Tree named Top Work Place for 8th year straight

Special Tree has been named one of the top places to work in Michigan for the 8th year in a row! We first achieved Top Workplace status as part of the "Mid-Size" category in 2010, and are honored to have earned recognition each year, continuing to achieve Top Workplace status even as we moved into the "Large Company" category in 2014 where we have remained since. 

Each year the Detroit Free Press teams up with Energage, a Human Resources Technology company based in Exton, Pennyslvania, to select the winners based on employee nominations and anonymous survey results. The winners were announced at the Top Workplaces awards gala held by the Detroit Free Press. Special Tree was represented in force at this year’s event held on Thursday, November 2, 2017. Go team!


Read more about the coverage at the Detroit Free Press website

Talking With Susan Wollschlager, RN, Subacute Rehabilitation Program

Special Tree’s nurses are an integral part of the rehabilitation process. Specializing in rehabilitation and post-acute care, our nurses play an active role in helping patients and their families through recovery from brain and spinal cord injury.  Our nurses strive to provide the highest quality care along with compassion, motivation, and hope to help patients achieve the highest quality of life.  

We spoke with Susan Wollschlager, a rehabilitation nurse at Special Tree’s NeuroCare Campus, to learn more about her role and the meaning she finds in her work. 

Q:  What’s a typical day like for you?
: It’s rewarding and goes by so fast!  The first part of my day is focused on medication passing.  The remainder is working with my patients to support their rehabilitation care and treatment. That includes not only the typical functional tasks of what nurse do, but also interacting with patients’ families to support them through the rehabilitation process.  My goal is to make it as best as it can be for my patients as they make progress in their recovery. 

Q:  What do you like about working at Special Tree?
  The patients and my colleagues!  I work with a lot of amazing people.  We work well together and are very supportive of one another.  Special Tree still has that family atmosphere of caring because the Subacute Rehabilitation unit is smaller, but still large enough to offer our patients state-of-the-art therapy and care.  I’ve also really enjoyed learning about rehabilitation therapies and seeing the innovative treatments that Special Tree offers for brain and spinal cord injury rehabilitation.  The treatment modalities have come so far.   Special Tree has also been great about supporting my educational goals, which is a very big part of who I am in my practice.  When I’ve wanted to focus on areas of learning, our Director of Nursing has always gone the extra mile to get me information and has encouraged me to get my certification in rehabilitation nursing.  Special Tree invests in their staff and want them to be their best because that spills over into the best patient care.

Q:  What’s the most rewarding part of your job?
  Seeing patients make gains in their level of independence – whether they’re returning home or progressing to an assisted living situation.  Sometimes it’s the simple things that are most rewarding like when a patient is able to move their hand which they initially couldn’t do or when a patient gets up out of a wheelchair with therapy and starts walking.  It always amazes me to see the fortitude of our patients and to see how hard every patient, family, and clinician works to make strides in their recovery.   I’m inspired by them every single day.

Q:  Why did you want to work in a rehabilitation setting?
  I’d been a nurse in a hospital setting for 30 years and was looking for something new and inspiring.  Working in a rehabilitation setting was a new approach for me in nursing.  I enjoy working closely with respiratory staff, dietitians, physicians, therapists, case managers, and others to provide for clients' day-to-day needs.  I’m continually learning which is what I was also looking for in my nursing career.    Special Tree also has a great reputation for providing excellent rehabilitation services. 

Q: What advice would you give a nurse who’s considering rehabilitation nursing?
  If you’re the type of nurse who likes one-on-one communication then you’ll get that here.  As a rehabilitation nurse you really get to know the patients and families because they’re here for a longer duration.  You’re sharing struggles and successes with them which allows for a relationship to really build.  They become part of your family.  To me that’s what life is all about…being there for one another.

We need caring hearts like yours.  Now hiring RNs, LPNs, and Direct Care staff.  Apply online at 

Special Tree Expands Vocational Rehabilitation Program in Mid-Michigan

The goal of many people recovering from brain injury is returning to work.  Special Tree’s strong commitment to help our clients achieve the best possible employment outcomes is reflected in our wide range of vocational rehabilitation services that focus on each client’s individual goals and job interests.   That’s why we’re so excited about the new enhancements to our Vocational Rehabilitation Program in Mid-Michigan.   We’ve ramped up our program with more specialized services including Vocational Rehabilitation Counseling and Community-Based Employment Enclaves to help even more clients make a smooth transition back to work. 

“Our Vocational Services are an integral part of our outpatient rehabilitation program in Mid-Michigan” said Rene Dell, Associate Director of Vocational Services.  “Our Voc and therapy teams work closely together to provide a multi-disciplinary approach to support clients with a variety of vocational goals -- whether they’re returning to their previous job or exploring other alternative work options.”   

Mid-Michigan Therapy team members Heidi Nadobny and Kelly Hott are heading up the Mid-Michigan Voc program which is based at Special Tree’s NeuroSkills Center in Midland.   In their expanded role as Vocational Rehabilitation Specialists, Heidi and Kelly help clients manage the many aspects of working after an injury, from handling cognitive challenges and job modifications to vocational assessments and work training.  Heidi and Kelly are also developing Mid-Michigan’s Employment Enclaves which provide clients with paid community-based work training and job coaching at local businesses.   

“Our Voc team find an enclave based on each client’s individual needs and interests and then find a community employer willing to have them come as an enclave with job support,” said Rene.  Clients are currently working in community enclaves at the Midland Community Center, a hair salon, Midland Shelter House Resale Shop, and Valley Lanes Entertainment Center.  “Enclaves are a great way for our clients to try out different types of jobs in the community while also strengthening their job readiness skills.”  

Rene added that the Mid-Michigan Voc program will continue to evolve to help clients reach their highest potential.   For example, an in-house job was created for a client at the Midland NeuroSkills Center to develop skills for community-based employment. “We start fresh with each and every person to help them find the best placement for long-term success.” 


Special Tree SLPs help clients “See the Swallow”

Special Tree’s Speech Language Pathologists are using a new high-tech therapy to drastically improve how clients relearn to swallow following a brain injury. The Synchrony Dysphasia Solution is a revolutionary biofeedback device that enables clients to “see” their swallows through the use of virtual reality-enhanced images. Watch as Sarah Kapelczak, SLP, demos the new technology and explains how Synchrony is helping to improve outcomes and quality of life for individuals with Dysphasia.

Special Tree's Innovation Team Brings Great Ideas to Life

Special Tree’s Innovation Team is all about turning our employee’s great ideas into reality.  Whether an idea involves new and productive ways of doing things or meeting the needs of clients, the Innovation Team encourages employees to submit ideas both big and small and provides structured support to bring them to fruition.

Watch this video to see our Innovation Team in action as they take innovative ideas from zero to hero!