In this season of crazy political antics, fierce debates about our nation’s future, and the approaching election, it can be difficult to understand why you as an OT student or practitioner should get involved in any sort of political activity. Trust me, I get it! After over a year of listening to politicians tearing each other apart and being forced to hear the political opinions of virtually every person I’ve come into contact with, I want to get as far away from all the madness as I possibly can. However, in my past two years as an OT student and (soon to be) new practitioner, I’ve learned that you can’t spell politics without OT.
Before OT school, I believed being a “political person” meant being a Young Democrat or College Republican, marching in protests, or volunteering at voter registration drives, for example. I generally understood politics and legislation as complex subjects that were beyond my comprehension, and had pretty much resigned myself to simply voting each year and being a passive victim of whatever happened afterward. Essentially, I believed that politics was something that existed “out there,” but not something I was able to participate in or influence.
However, after reflecting on my graduate education and professional development experiences over the past two years I realized that at some point along the way I had become a “political person.” This realization was shocking at first, but then it occurred to me that my experiences participating in formal advocacy events like AOTA’s annual Hill Day, working for my state OT association, and treating clients all represented my engagement in the political process – even though I wasn’t a lobbyist, campaign worker, or public official. It took me a while, but I now understand each of these seemingly unrelated activities as different forms of political engagement that helped deepen my awareness of occupational therapists’ role as advocates for clients, practitioners, and the profession.
Read on to find out more about how my experiences as an OT student and professional brought about this change, and how becoming “political” can make you a better clinician.
Summer will be over before you know it, and many OT/A programs and SOTAs across the country will be welcoming a brand new class of students into the fold! In my program, we hosted a welcome picnic for students, faculty, and family members at the start of the semester so that everybody can get to know each other. Everybody always has a great time getting to know one another in a less formal context, and I’m definitely going to miss welcoming the new class of students to campus this fall.
If you’re looking for a fun way to get to know your new classmates, try holding the OT Olympics! Basically, it’s just a fun way to learn more about the people you’ll be spending the next couple years working and learning alongside while enjoying a little healthy competition. Divide up into teams of 4-5 people, create team names, and let the games begin! Continue reading →
Hello out there! It’s been over a month since I last posted, and since then I have:
Graduated from OT school
Started my final Level II fieldwork at a local continuing care retirement community (CCRC)
Applied to the AOTA Emerging Leaders Development Program
Been spending as much time as possible with friends and family
…all of which explain my internet absence! (Not that anyone noticed I was gone, I just like to explain giant gaps between posts, lol) Since I’m working full time on a variety of projects this summer, I’ll likely be posting a lot less often, but I’ll do my best to inform the interwebs about my ongoing experience as I transition from OT student to new grad and beyond!
In the meantime, here’s what I’ve been up to over the past month! (Note: Only half of it actually has anything to do with OT).
Graduating from OT School
On Saturday, April 30, I was officially done with all of the academic requirements for my OT program and I became a near-graduate of the UNC Chapel Hill Master of Science in Occupational Therapy program’s Class of 2016! It was such an amazing experience to be a part of, especially because every year the OT program students plan our own private graduation ceremony and celebration that is separate from the University’s events (because our program isn’t actually over until August, after our final Level II fieldwork, we aren’t technically allowed to walk with the rest of the University’s students in May). My classmates did an amazing job of designing a program that celebrated each and every one of our classmates and allowing us all to come together with our instructors, friends, and family members to celebrate this amazing achievement.
Friends and Family Galore!
I love blogging, but I love my friends and family much, much more! For my graduation, my uncle from California flew out to surprise me at the ceremony – no joke, I turned around and saw him walking up and I CRIED. It was amazing! After graduation, I was able to spend a few days hanging out with him and my mom and grandparents, which made for an awesome start to the week I had off between graduation and fieldwork.
Right after my uncle left, one of my best friends came down from New Jersey to visit me. We entered a lip sync contest at a local bar and KILLED IT, so we won a free $100 bar tab! We performed to “Crazy in Love” by Beyoncé and Jay-Z, and it was amazing! We also took a trip to the nearby Botanical Garden, where we saw tons of wildlife and cool carnivorous plants!
After Shaylin left, my OTHER best friend Laura flew in from Missouri to prepare for her upcoming wedding. She’s getting married in Yellowstone National Park (I KNOW, RIGHT?!?) this summer, and I’m so honored to be her maid of honor! It’ll be the furthest west I’ve ever been, and I can’t wait to make the trip! We also had her bridal shower and bachelorette while she was home, and that was a ton of fun!
Starting my Final Fieldwork
After taking a way-too-short week off to hang out with friends and family and decompress from what was actually a really stressful last semester, I started my final fieldwork placement at a local CCRC. It’s a very unique place, and I’ve been working with older adults with a variety of conditions and abilities. I’m learning a ton, and it’s been a truly challenging experience for myself as a (budding) clinician and fieldwork student. More to come on my experience later this summer!
As you can see, I’ve been keeping pretty busy outside the blogosphere! However, I plan to come back soon with more posts and ideas, so check back soon for updates!
Happy OT Month 2016! Four years after initially learning about OT, three years after going through the wildly difficult OT school application process, two years after starting OT school, and just FIVE MONTHS before the end of my time as an OT student, I’m still as passionate about this profession as ever!
Although of course I celebrate OT all day every day, this month is a great time to advocate for OT, educate others about the profession, and celebrate the achievements of OT students, practitioners, educators, and supporters! And since I love to celebrate, for OT Month 2016 I’ve created a guide to products, publications, and projects created by OT practitioners from around the world!
Read on to learn more about products created by and for OT and OTA students and practitioners across practice areas!
Today was my last first day of OT FWI EVER!!! That’s super exciting, because it means I’m one fieldwork closer to living the dream as an OTR!
My last week-long Fieldwork I experience is at a local Program of All-inclusive Care for the Elderly (PACE) facility, and I absolutely LOVE it! The interdisciplinary teamwork, long-term relationships with clients, family involvement, and beautiful facility (with TONS of financial and other resources) are all factors I’m looking for in a potential workplace, so my FWI placement is a great fit. This was my first clinical experience that was focused exclusively on practice with older adults, and although I am on a federal training grant that will require me to work mostly in pediatrics for at least four years, I can definitely see myself working with older adults sometime in the future.
As of October 2015, there were 116 PACE programs in 32 states. Most are concentrated on the East coast, with very few existing in the Midwest and more rural states west of the Mississippi. (Click here to see a map and find the PACE program closest to you!) The goal of PACE programs is to provide comprehensive, interdisciplinary care to older adults to help them continue living safely in the community. The National PACE Association also asserts that “The PACE Model of Care is centered on the belief that it is better for the well-being of seniors with chronic care needs and their families to be served in the community whenever possible” (National PACE Association, 2016).
PACE participants receive primary and nursing care, skilled therapy, medical equipment, transportation, and many other services that are often very costly or unavailable to older adults who are paying for them out-of-pocket or through Medicare or Medicaid fee-for-service plans. According to a federal website, “The PACE model of care is established as a provider in the Medicare program and as enables states to provide PACE services to Medicaid beneficiaries as state option” (Medicaid.gov).
I’m excited to get a chance to work with people in one of my favorite populations, and I’m looking forward to spending a week here. Read on to get the rundown of my first fast-paced day at a local PACE program!
…well, it’s almost over. On Friday, December 18, I will officially finish my first Level II Fieldwork and I will be a free woman once again! (At least until classes start in January…)
For the past week or so, my coworkers have been giving me Christmas cards and candy, well-wishes and thank-you’s. However, some of the best things I’ve gotten from this fieldwork experience don’t fit in an envelope or a box – things like mentorship, confidence, kindness, and a deep appreciation for the people and opportunities I’ve had in my life.
An Amazing Mentor
I was SUPER nervous to start my fieldwork, especially after hearing my FW supervisor refer to it as “VR at the ER” during our initial conversation (even if it was a 100% accurate description of the chaos that reigns throughout the office every day!). However, now that I’ve come to the end of my time here, I couldn’t be happier with my supervisor and the gifts of time, experience, and guidance she’s given me. My supervisor is amazing, and she has been largely responsible for helping me find opportunities to expand my knowledge and develop practice skills that will be instrumental as I continue through OT school and my career. Without her, I wouldn’t have had the chance to participate in OT driver evaluations, explore career opportunities that fit my non-traditional interests, and gain valuable insight into the kind of clinician I want to be. I know that not all students are fortunate enough to have a fieldwork supervisor they view as a mentor, or even a supervisor who they get along with for 12 weeks. So I’m super grateful that my supervisor and I turned out to be two like-minded peas in a non-traditional pod, and I’m hopeful that I’ll be able to continue cultivating the relationship we established in the years to come!
I’ve had the amazingly good fortune to complete my fieldwork in an office with 23 of the nicest people you’ll ever meet! All of my coworkers helped make it worth it to come to work every day, and they always lent a helping hand when I needed help or didn’t know what to do. They were even kind enough to decorate my door, give me gifts, and buy me lunch for my birthday, which was beyond amazing and super thoughtful, especially since I sent my birthday away from friends and family. Several people even gave me clothing they no longer wore, which is how I came to own several cashmere sweaters, lovely dresses, and a nice-as-new North Face coat that I never would have gotten on my own [as a budget-conscious grad student]!
I’m going to be sad to leave this place, but I’m super excited to keep in touch with the friends I’ve made even after I’m gone!
Before starting fieldwork, I wasn’t sure if I knew “enough.” I considered myself to be somewhat unqualified, and I didn’t have much faith in my ability to actually help clients. However, over the past three months I’ve learned that not only do I have the “book knowledge” I need to be successful, but I have gained other skills that can’t be taught in a classroom.
For example, when a diabetic client came in and wanted assistance finding out what kinds of jobs would be appropriate for him, I asked whether he experienced any diabetic neuropathy that could limit his ability to complete certain tasks (i.e. handling or manipulating objects, standing for long periods of time). He hadn’t mentioned it during our initial interview, but he admitted that he had poor standing endurance and poor sensation in his hands. Understanding how a client’s diagnosis (and other life factors) could potentially impact his ability to work was a key component of my fieldwork, and I’m glad I was able to gain experience with developing a holistic understanding of how a client’s physical, emotional, and mental health ultimately impacted his ability to participate in work and other valued occupations.
I’ve also had great success building rapport and relationships with clients and family members throughout my fieldwork, even if I don’t always have the answers they’re looking for. Many of my clients have extensive experience dealing with medical, mental health, and social services personnel, and they can be somewhat guarded when coming to our office to apply for services. However, I’ve learned that if you just take time to hear someone’s story, empathize with him, and let him know that you care, the rest will fall into place.
This fieldwork has afforded me so many opportunities to meet people from diverse backgrounds and gain practical experience serving clients with complex needs. For example, I’ve had the opportunity to learn about the challenges faced by people who are recently released inmates, who have severe mental illness, who are homeless, who are chronically unemployed, who are drivers with disabilities, and who need assistance making their homes accessible.
It’s one thing to read a journal article or watch a film about the issues people struggling with homelessness or unemployment face, and another thing entirely to be in an office with a person who is sleeping in her car in between meetings and figure out how to best assist her. And it’s entirely different reading about the discrimination people with disabilities face in hiring than experiencing the frustration and rejection felt by people with degrees and 10+ years of experience being passed over for jobs just because they use wheelchairs.
It’s truly been a sobering experience I’ve had here, and because I’ve never personally struggled with many of these issues, it’s been hard for me to fully understand the trials my clients face. I don’t know where else I could have completed a FWII rotation that would have given me the chance to learn from people in these situations, and I’m thankful that every week has given me a new perspective on the many kinds of people and problems there are in the world that occupational therapy can help.
These are just a few of the many tangible and intangible gifts my Level II Fieldwork experience has given me, and I’m hopeful that one day I will be able to give the same gifts to future coworkers or fieldwork students of my own – a friendly greeting every morning; an inspiring conversation about the possibilities for a budding career; wisdom and encouragement for working with difficult clients; a birthday present for somebody far away from home.
Above all, the greatest gift my fieldwork experience has given me is the opportunity to do what I love every day and make a difference for the people I’ve worked with.
So as I prepare to clear off my desk, pack my bags, and say goodbye to the many people – clients and coworkers alike – who have made this fieldwork experience one of the best yet, I will do my best to remember the gifts that were so freely given to me and be just as generous when sharing these gifts throughout my career.
Hello! I’ve been gone from the blog for most of the summer so far, mostly because I didn’t have regular internet access between May and July, and a little bit because I just needed to take a break, relax, and not be behind a computer screen for a while. And although I haven’t posted recently, I’ve still been writing!
It’s a list of 32 creative ways that prospective and current OT students can gain experience related to OT, and I hope it’ll help students diversify their resumes and learn more about issues, people, and programs that can benefit them when they become occupational therapists. It feels really good to see my work in print, although it is kind of weird to have my pictures on the AOTA website, lol!
One of the benefits of being an AOTA member is receiving the monthly OT Student Pulse newsletter, and I look forward to seeing it in my inbox at the start of every month! The articles are usually pretty relevant to my life as an OT student, and they also include a helpful list of upcoming events and programs in each issue.
If you have an idea for an article you would like to see published, you can submit your article ideas HERE! It was a pretty simple process, but it took about a month after I first submitted the initial draft of my article to complete the editing process and get it published. Keep that in mind if you plan to submit an article of your own.
Here’s to having my first article published by AOTA, and to writing many more over my career!