Thriving in a career a world away: Meera Riner

Meera Rinaa’s first post-university job was as an occupational therapist working with children suffering from cerebral palsy and polio in the slums of Mumbai. Her parents may carry the children around town on their backs to care for them.

At the time, Riner might be in Australia or a remote African village, but always imagined working with children.

But an unexpected call from a Florida hospital recruiter changed the trajectory of her career. That led her on her journey to becoming Chief Operating Officer of her Nexion, a long-term care provider with 50 facilities across the United States.

Like any major decision in life, moving to the United States in 1991 required a pause. Reiner called his father. he said. America has a culture of innovation and technology. Why not improve your toolkit and come back here to make more of a difference?”

On Thanksgiving Day, Riner boarded his first plane and began his life as an OT at Winter Haven Hospital. Two years later, she joined a nursing home rehab company. Here she experienced another moment that changed her life.

“I had never seen a nursing home before,” she recalls. “I met a patient who was a military veteran recovering from a heart attack and never looked back. I fell in love with the elderly.” where she met colleagues who supported her and became lifelong mentors and collaborators.

When colleague Fran Kirley left to start Nexion, Riner joined him in the startup organization. Rinner developed his reputation as an emergency preparedness expert by safely evacuating and returning more than 900 of his residents during Hurricanes Katrina and Rita.

She has also implemented innovative quality and worker satisfaction programs that have earned her respect and admiration. All the while, Rinner’s home life was a struggle. Trapped in an abusive marriage with two young daughters, one of whom was in and out of hospitals with asthma, and with her family more than 8,000 miles across the globe, Riner often felt lonely.

“When I sit down and think about it, it’s like I’m listening to someone else’s story,” she recalls. She said, “She’s from India, and as a woman in leadership positions, there was an element of thinking that she had to work on herself and get through this.”

After 18 years, she separated from her marriage and met Marathon. So what if she just ran to her mailbox?She found a group of local runners and started her training. Within six months, she ran her first marathon. She’s been running them ever since.

Rinner says her story isn’t about surviving domestic violence but about thriving after it.

Reflecting on his father’s old advice, Riner is willing to move back to India. However, she revives to learn that he has supported her career in aged care. Linell remembers him reading a magazine article about her work at the end of her life.

“He said, ‘It’s amazing what you have achieved there. I hope one day you will come back to India and do more to advance senior care.'”


1991 Diploma in Occupational Therapy from GS Medical College, India

1991 Worked as an OT at the Spasticity Society of India, Mumbai

1991 Became an OT at Winterhaven Hospital, Florida

1993 Joined Symphony Rehab as OT

1996 Joined Integrative Health Services

2000 Co-founded Nexion, appointed COO

2019 Received MS in Health Leadership from Western Governors University

Named to McKnight’s Women of Distinction Hall of Honor in 2021

2022 Mary K. Ousley Champion of Quality Award from AHCA/NCAL

From McKnight Nursing Care News January/February 2023 issue

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