Day in the Life: Sue Rutherford, Physical Therapist

Sue Rutherford moved to Fort Collins in 1973 when she was 7 years old, and says she was immediately captivated by Colorado State University.

“When I pictured myself attending, I thought I would be wearing a headband, peace beads and bell bottom pants, and that my biggest concern would be the sprinklers,” she recalls. “By the time I got here, fashion had changed and sprinkler systems no longer seemed so novel.”

Rutherford avoided the sprinklers while she earned her degree, and has served as a physical therapist for 26 years at CSU, plus 3 years as a work-study student before becoming State Classified staff.

Wide range of patients, diagnoses

The physical therapy clinic in the CSU Health Network provides physical rehabilitation to students who may be experiencing pain or have had an injury or surgery.

Over the years, CSU Health Network physical therapy has collaborated with other CSU departments to develop preventative health seminars and screenings for employees and students. Patients arrive at the physical therapy clinic from around the country and around the world, which means the clinic’s referral base is also that broad.

Sue Rutherford
Sue Rutherford

Rutherford’s typical caseload includes patients with all types of injuries and pain diagnoses. She also treats patients with vestibular diagnoses or who have had concussions.

Twice monthly, Rutherford assists local hand surgeons in providing onsite evaluations. By virtue of her involvement with this clinic, she treats a fair number of hand patients. In addition to her work with patients, she supervises eight to 10 work-study students who fill the role of physical therapy aides in their clinic.

“I am privileged to work where I have had unique opportunities to contribute to the CSU community,” she says. “Nowhere else in Northern Colorado would I have seen surgical patients from such diverse specialists.”

Rutherford says a favorite part of her job is working with international students. In a single day, she may treat people from five or six different countries.

“I have learned so much from these clients. They have broadened my world view.”

Challenges during COVID

In the early phase of the COVID-19 pandemic, the CSU Health Network saw limited numbers of patients in person, prioritizing those with acute fractures or injuries, those who were post-operative, and those with chronic neurological impairment. Once telehealth was approved for the delivery of physical therapy, staff were able to see the remainder of clients virtually.

“I found telehealth stretched my creativity and provided a good challenge to deliver health care in a field that is so hands-on,” Rutherford says.

She remembers back 24 years to when their department handled a different type of obstacle.

“Following the flood of 1997, the health center relocated to an empty dormitory,” she says. “Talk about another time when creativity in providing health care was called for!”

As the county and state guidelines changed, the clinic could begin to see patients with all diagnoses in person, but capacity was limited. By July 2020, capacity had increased and staff were able to provide more students with in-person care, minimizing the need for telehealth. Rutherford emphasizes her gratitude for the patience and flexibility that clients showed throughout all the trials presented by COVID.

“Their mutual respect for our safety and their recognition of our challenges to provide a safe environment is to be commended.”

The Classified Personnel Council extends our appreciation of Rutherford’s ingenuity, positivity, and years of service as a State Classified employee at CSU. Her dedication to the wellbeing of our community is evident.

In her own words: “I have loved being part of CSU for all these years and am proud to be a CSU Ram.”

Day in the Life

“Day in the Life” features the stories of State Classified colleagues to help the CSU community get to know and recognize their diverse responsibilities and duties.

To recommend a State Classified individual or group for a future “Day in the Life,” visit the Classified Personal Council website. Follow the CPC on Facebook at facebook.com/ColoradoStateUniversityCPC.