Expanding Occupational Therapy’s Role in Acute Care

Acute Care OT Series 2

This is the second post in a series about occupational therapy in acute care. Read the first post in here.

One of the constant refrains of my occupational therapy program’s faculty was that we were all “change agents” with the power – and responsibility – to see and do things differently in order to achieve optimal outcomes for our patients and our profession. As a change agent, I make an effort to give my best and make positive change wherever I work, even when it’s easier to stick with the status quo. This is especially true in the acute care setting, where time, financial, and resource restraints can be huge barriers to holistic, occupation-based OT practice.

To be perfectly honest, I’ve had more meetings with management than I care to admit during my brief tenure at the hospital, typically to discuss my goals and plans of care for patients with needs that were deemed “not appropriate” to address within the acute care setting or goals that other team members “wouldn’t be able” to address after my initial evaluations (apparently because they weren’t BADL or exercise-based goals…). It hasn’t been easy, and each meeting is a valuable learning opportunity for me to learn what others think OT is or should be – and a platform for me to provide education and advocate for my profession and scope of practice. Without going into too much detail, I’ll simply say that I think there is a long way to go before truly holistic, progressive, and occupation-based occupational therapy is the norm – rather than the ideal – in most hospital settings.

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Taking OT to South Korea: My Journey to Become a 2018 Winter Olympics Volunteer

Send Lauren to South Korea for the 2018 Winter Olympics!

Check out my Fund My Travel page for updates, information, and to donate!

As an occupational therapist, I help individuals of all ages increase their independence, engage in meaningful activity, and achieve their personal goals. In addition to being a dedicated healthcare professional, I am an avid traveler. I’ve been to places all over the United States, Puerto Rico, and even Nicaragua! However, I’ve never had the opportunity to travel to the eastern part of the world and experience the culture, language, and opportunities that exist there. Between working, spending time with family, and volunteering in multiple organizations, it’s been difficult to find time to travel. But I’m always on the lookout for great opportunities to serve and explore the world!

Several years ago, I was watching the Olympic Games and wondering how such a large-scale, high-stakes international event was organized every couple of years. After doing a little research, I learned that Olympics volunteers were a huge part of the equation, and that thousands of people from all over the world were selected as support staff for each Olympics event!

Then my wheels began to turn…and it all made perfect sense! Healthcare professional + Avid traveler = Olympics volunteer! As soon as the 2018 Winter Olympics volunteer application opened in July 2016, I entered my information and buckled down for the long wait.

Click below to learn more about my journey to becoming a 2018 Winter Olympics volunteer, and how you can help send me to South Korea!

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Turning Energy into Action: 6 Tips for Maintaining Momentum after an OT Conference


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I’ve been fortunate enough to attend AOTA’s Annual Conference for four years in a row now, and this year’s Centennial (#AOTA17) was my first year attending as an official OT practitioner! There were about 13,000 attendees in Philadelphia this year, and it was truly an amazing experience. I was able to present an AOTA-sponsored session with my Emerging Leaders mentor, deepen friendships with my Emerging Leader cohort, develop skills in my new practice area, and learn about cool things happening in the world of OT. I had a great time and I was sad to finally leave Philly, although I was SO ready to sleep in my own bed again! Still, in the week that I’ve been home, I’ve been making an effort to keep all of the OT energy from Conference going strong!


By this time all the Conference attendees have headed home and everybody has likely settled back into their daily grind. And while you may not be attending any fun educational sessions, dance parties, or networking events in the near future, there are several ways you can continue making the most of your conference experience even after you’ve returned home.

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16 Ways to Motivate OT Clients to Participate

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During my observations and on my OT fieldworks, there are always clients who don’t want to do therapy. They come in all shapes, sizes, and ages, and trying to get them to participate in treatment can be like pulling teeth. It seems like no matter what you say or what you do, they are determined to remain in bed or in their rooms.


Earlier this summer I was working with a 93 year old woman in a SNF. She had a severe cough that racked her body as she lay in her hospital bed, complaining of various aches and pains. When I first asked if she would come to the therapy gym for an occupational therapy session “to build up her strength,” she refused to get out of bed and said repeatedly that she didn’t feel well. After a few minutes of my coaxing and her refusal, I was going to just give up. But then, in an effort to simply get her talking (and with the hopes of leading the conversation in a therapy-related direction) I started asking her questions about what she did for a living. It turns out that she had been a hairdresser for over half of her life, and that she spent almost all of those years standing on her feet and doing hair! Using this new knowledge of a valued occupation as motivation, I asked her if she could stand up for me so we could get to her wheelchair and visit the beauty shop that was just around the corner in the SNF. She agreed, and off we went!


During our nearly hour-long session, I also learned that she loved gardening and being outside and that she had been raised on a farm. As I wheeled her outside in the sunshine, she pointed out the different types of plants growing around the building, and smiled as she told me about her childhood spent on her family farm. From the minute I helped her into the chair to the minute we got back in bed, she didn’t cough once. (For the record, it wasn’t just a leisurely stroll; she had a wheelchair positioning goal!)


This encounter was a lesson in the motivating power of occupation and how introducing meaning into a treatment can take an unsuccessful session in a totally different direction. And while many of the strategies below have been helpful to me as I’ve worked with clients of varying ages and in various settings, it’s important to note that none of them will work if you haven’t laid a good foundation for treatment. Specifically, if you are working toward goals that are not meaningful, relevant, or achievable, you’ll just be wasting your time and theirs.


Remember that occupation = motivation. Your goals for a client should always be client-centered and occupation-focused. If you have a hard time getting clients to participate in your treatment sessions, take a look at your goals or intervention approach and revise to ensure that each one focuses on enabling a client to maximize participation in or return to meaningful occupation and incorporates occupation.


Once you’ve engaged in a process of self-reflection related to your goals and intervention approach, use the tips below to help motivate those “difficult” clients!  Continue reading

Funding Your OT Education, Part III: During OT School

This post is Part III of a four-part series to help occupational therapy students and practitioners find ways to fund their OT education.

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This post is full of tips, advice, and resources for current OT students who are looking to save money as they pursue their degrees! In case you missed them, you can read the first two parts of my Funding Your OT Education series for advice about how to find funding for OT school and what you can do before starting OT school to make the most of your money.

Read on to learn about ways you can save as an OT student!
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Free Magazines for OT Practitioners


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Hello again! The holiday season has come and gone, and we have officially entered that time of year when people are pinching pennies, making resolutions to save, and crossing their fingers in hopes that they’ll get a tax refund and not owe anything back!

If any of these scenarios rings true for you, you’ll be excited to learn that you can honor your resolutions and save a few bucks by spending absolutely nothing to access these free magazines with helpful articles, job postings, and information for OT students and practitioners! Below is a selection of six free publications that OT/As can read for treatment ideas, discussion of professional issues, product recommendations, and more!

P.S. (If you’re strapped for cash and looking for a good gift for an OT/A friend or coworker, a free magazine subscription will make them happy while saving you some money!)

Even if you are a dedicated reader of AOTA’s OT Practice magazine, I recommend signing up to receive digital editions of a few more magazines to help you sharpen practice skills, gain new perspectives on the profession, and improve your interactions with clients and families.

Read on to find out what’s free for those who practice OT!

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Top 6 Reasons to Volunteer at the 2016 AOTA Annual Conference & Expo


Do you like…

Saving money?

Making friends?

Making a difference?

If so, then you should sign up to volunteer at the 2016 AOTA Annual Conference & Expo in Chicago, Illinois! I volunteered at the Baltimore conference a couple years ago for practically nothing, and it was easily one of the highlights of my early OT experience. I was also able to attend last year’s conference in Nashville, and the time I spent there just confirmed that I had chosen the perfect profession.

There were volunteers of all ages and stages at the conference, including retired OTs, veteran volunteers with 10+ years of experience, current and future OT students, and others. Don’t let your age, student status, or anything else deter you from serving in Chicago this spring! You don’t have to be an AOTA member to volunteer – but you’ll probably want to be one when you’re done!

In addition to helping support and promote one of the fastest-growing, influential, and dynamic professions around, there are several other benefits that come with being a conference volunteer. Read on to find out more about why volunteering will be the best thing you can do for yourself and your career in OT!

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  1. Meet some of the most influential people in the profession. As a conference volunteer, you have the chance to meet the people whose blogs you read, whose papers you’ve referenced, and whose Twitters you follow in person! Rubbing elbows with such accomplished (and really nice) people is a major high and a can’t-miss networking opportunity!
  2. Cut the cost of attending Conference. Conference attendees must pay nearly $300 simply to attend, and that’s the student rate – not including travel, food, lodging, and other expenses! But volunteers can view special exhibits, attend one or two sessions, and see the posters for FREE. As a volunteer, you won’t necessarily be able to attend the session of your choice or participate in all events, but you will get to experience many of the best parts of the conference without paying for much of anything! Pro Tip: Check with your OT program, graduate student association, or employer to see whether there are special funds available to help cover your travel and other expenses. 
  3. Attend the Expo for FREE! Where else in the world can you get a TON of free stuff in exchange for just a few hours of your time? Just think: in the time it took you to sit through one overly long OT school class, you could be having fun, making friends, and earning your way into the Expo. You don’t have to be a math whiz to see that this is too good a deal to pass up! Note: Only AOTA Marketplace/Member Resource Center volunteers can earn this privilege. 
  4. Diversify your resume and grow your professional experience. Volunteering at the national conference shows that you are involved and invested in your national professional association and your profession as a whole. Whether you are planning to apply for a leadership or volunteer position with AOTA, a position in your state OT association, or even a job, having a record of service to the profession will definitely give you a boost.
  5. Make a difference and be an advocate for OT. Have you ever wondered how all those bags get stuffed, how all those signs get posted, or how an event with thousands of attendees seems to run so smoothly? It’s not magic – it’s volunteers! By serving as a conference volunteer, you can be a part of the team that makes the AOTA Annual Conference such an amazing experience for attendees from across the U.S. and around the world and have a great time while you do it!
  6. Network with students and faculty members from OT programs across the country. While I served as a conference volunteer, I had the opportunity to talk with fellow OT students, meet instructors from numerous OT programs, and exchange ideas and information with a variety of people. Volunteering at conference is a great way to meet people who may have similar interests to yours, so be sure to keep those business cards handy!

…well, what are you waiting for? Visit the AOTA Volunteer Signup page today and find your place! (And click quickly, because spots fill up fast!)

See you in the Windy City!


Everyday Ethics: Productivity and Ethical Practice

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This is Part II of a two-part mini series on ethics in OT practice. This post discusses productivity requirements and how they impact practice for OTs and other rehabilitation professionals both in and out of the workplace. Click here to read Part I, about my experiences with ethics as a FWII student.

In my current vocational rehabilitation (VR) fieldwork setting, the VR counselors and others have productivity standards measured by how many cases they successfully close, which is typically defined as clients becoming employed. Although right now I am working in a non-traditional setting, there is a much larger discussion taking place about ethics as they relate to productivity standards in the rehabilitation and skilled nursing facility (SNF) settings where a large percentage of OT/As work. The argument being made by professionals in several different fields, including PT, OT, and SLP, is that the extremely high productivity standards to which they are being held takes an extremely negative toll on the quality of care they are able to provide, as well as placing them in ethically compromising situations.

The ongoing issue of productivity as it relates to ethics sheds some light on a grim reality of occupational therapy practice that students, new grads, and others may not be aware of as they enter the profession and begin practicing. After my initial FWI experiences in a large teaching hospital and outpatient pediatric clinic last fall, I became very aware of the pressure put on therapists to see 8-10 patients – and complete documentation, attend meetings, and coordinate case services – during the workday in order to meet unrealistic standards of 75-90% productivity.

It was a sad reality check, seeing the “dark side” of the fun sessions and client interactions I observed that initially drew me to OT. However, now that I have been in OT school for over a year and seen all sides of the therapy process, I’m coming to realize that it’s not all sunshine and successful sessions.

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OT and Oncology

OT and Oncology

Oncology is described as an emerging practice area in the world of OT, and currently not many OT/As are working with people with cancer and their families. There are certainly efforts to change this, but for right now many people – both within and outside the profession – are very unfamiliar with how occupational therapy can help people with cancer. How does oncology fit with occupational therapy? Read on to find out!

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