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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The High Price of Becoming an OT


Hello all, and happy New Year! I’ve been out of the blogosphere for quite some time due to a series of very fortunate events in the past several months, including:

  • Graduating from OT school
  • Studying for and passing the NBCOT exam
  • Getting married to my significant other of 7 years (and counting!)
  • Going on an amazing honeymoon to sunny San Juan, Puerto Rico!
  • Applying and interviewing for various OT jobs
  • Traveling to visit family and friends
  • Accepting a position as a school-based OT for a large school system


As you can see, I’ve been keeping pretty busy! But I’m hoping that in the new year I will get back to blogging more regularly and keeping anyone out there who cares updated on my transition from new grad to new practitioner.

On that note, I’ve been keeping a close eye on what it has actually cost me to get to this point in my career (or rather on the cusp of my new career, which will actually start on Thursday!). I did not include the cost of my OT school tuition/fees, as this number varies widely across programs. However, I have calculated exactly what I spent as I journeyed from student to practitioner over the past several months to give current and prospective OT students a realistic assessment of what it costs to become an OT.

Although I had a vague idea of what it would cost to take the boards, apply for a license, etc. I was still blindsided by how much money I needed upfront to actually become a licensed, registered occupational therapist. In the grand scheme of things the amount below might not seem like a lot, when it comes directly out of one’s shallow grad student pockets within a couple of days, it can be quite the financial blow. In hindsight, I recommend that OT/A students who are approaching the end of their academic careers calculate exactly what they will be spending and begin saving for (or set aside) the necessary funds to cover these costs.


*The procedure for transferring exam scores varies by state, so confirm with previous program graduates or professors to ensure you are paying for the correct service in your state.

**Students in my program receive this book as a graduation gift from program faculty. Because it is so widely used by OT students preparing for the NBCOT exam, the value of a NEW book with digital resources (CD) is included here.



In addition to my actual costs to take the NBCOT exam and apply for licensure in my state, I could have paid hundreds more if I had purchased additional study materials, such as:

Other possible (but easily avoidable) fees are those charged for switching exam dates ($50), arriving late or bringing the incorrect documents to the testing center ($175), or failing to take the exam within the time allotted after the issuance of the Authorization to Test Letter ($75-175).

Because I mostly used “free” resources provided by my OT program faculty and a friend’s subscription to an online study tool, my actual out-of-pocket cost for study materials for 1.5 months of studying was only $46 – and I passed the exam on the first try! Depending on the type and amount of study materials you purchase, your costs may be more or less than mine. And while I can’t tell you how much is the “right” amount to spend on study materials, I do think the rates some of these services are charging are ridiculous and borderline unethical…

I believe that most OT/A programs are graduating students who are well-prepared to take the exam, even if they might need to spend time reviewing specific interventions, developmental stages, measurements, etc. to answer some questions. While I wasn’t 100% cool, calm, and collected on the day I took the exam, I did feel confident in my clinical reasoning skills, practical knowledge, and overall ability to pass.

Ultimately, actually becoming a licensed, registered OT isn’t easy or inexpensive. I spent the bare minimum on study materials and exam costs, and still it was almost $900 when all was said and done. I’m thankful that my family was able to help me cover some of these costs and help me complete the final steps in becoming an occupational therapist, and I’m proud to say that I am now Lauren Jones, MS, OTR/L!

Update 6/12/17: If you are making the transition from student to practitioner soon, check out this post from the OT Potential website for useful tips and resources that will help you find the right OT job for you!


How Becoming an OT Made Me a Political Person


(See my previous posts about my experiences with Hill Day and ways you can advocate for OT from your couch to Capitol Hill!)

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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.

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The OT Olympics: Great Games for OT Athletes

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Image Source: Wikimedia Commons

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

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

Catching Up

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!