So my first week of OT grad school is officially over and I’m about to embark on Week 2! After a while I’m sure the days, weeks and months will all start to run together, but for now I’m feeling refreshed and ready to rumble through another week of 9-4 classes and 5-12 homework. 😛
One thing that’s true of OT school – and something my former OT supervisors tried to tell me about – is the insane amount of group work we’re required to complete. In all of my classes, we’ve been required to work, collaborate and present as members of a group at least once during the 3-hour class periods. In doing so, we’re supposed to be learning what it will be like for us as practitioners who will be working on healthcare teams with a variety of other professionals or in settings with multiple other therapists and coworkers.
During the past week, I’ve had some really fun and some pretty frustrating group work experiences. Sometimes I’ve worked with classmates who laughed and joked as we got the assignment done, and on other days I’ve felt like banging my head against the wall after the group’s official “scribe” ignored my comments and failed to write another one of my suggestions on our paper. -__-
And although every group work experience hasn’t been great, I have definitely learned something important about working in a group from each one.
- Make sure everybody’s voice is heard. Everybody in my program has a different point of view, idea or thought to share, and listening to each person’s perspective has led to some very stimulating and engaging conversations about the material being discussed or discovered by the group. In order to make sure you benefit from exposure to as many ideas and conversations as possible, be sensitive to the quieter people in the group, and ask for their opinions if they don’t seem to be participating as actively as the more talkative members.
- Don’t be afraid to shine! If you majored in neuroscience and biology and you can offer some great information, mnemonics, study tips or other helpful tools to your classmates during an anatomy class, don’t hold back! While you should take care not to out-talk the professor or correct the textbook, do make use of the information you have at your disposal and be a resource to your classmates as well.
- It’s OK to be wrong. During a case study review in my “anatomy” class, I was 100% certain that I knew what the term “anticholinesterase” meant. My group wrote down my very confident answer…and then Google told us it was totally wrong. I felt pretty embarrassed about my mistake, but my group members just laughed it off and kept working. And I learned that even if I’m 100% incorrect, there’s always something (accurate) to be learned from my (or others’) mistakes.
- If group work gets tough or goes poorly, try to figure out what went wrong and how to fix it. After a particularly tense and rather unfruitful group work session, one of my classmates asked the group what we thought went wrong and how we could improve the situation in the future. It was a little awkward for me to speak up and express my opinion about how I think group members could have better handled the assignment, but I think the constructive criticism that I and others provided was ultimately helpful. Part of the learning process is learning how to accept and give criticism, and you might as well start practicing now!
- Make good use of your time while having a good time! During group activities, some people get “tunnel vision” and get too focused on finding answers and completing the assignment, to the exclusion of all other conversation or interaction. Obviously you’re in class to get the work done, but that doesn’t mean you can’t make it fun! While the main focus of your group should clearly be the assignment at hand, you can still use the opportunity to work with a small number of your classmates to get to know them a little better, exchange a few funny stories from your undergraduate experiences or discuss how the assignment relates to an experience you had at a previous work or volunteer site. Remember – all work and no play makes group work a very painful, boring task!
I hope this tips are helpful to anyone embarking on a journey through OT school, undergrad or any other setting in which you have to work with others often. Throughout school and afterwards, I’m going to keep developing my clinical skills through group work and learning from the people around me, so I’ll keep Tip #5 in mind as classes begin again tomorrow and my education as an OT continues onward!
Do you enjoy group work or is it typically the bane of your existence? Do you have any tips for working in a group?
Well, even almost a week after conference I’m still basking in the glow and wishing I could go back. But I’m taking comfort in the fact that hopefully I will be headed to Nashville for the 2015 conference next year!
The following blog post is the first half of a two-part post on my conference experience. This first part will cover my own personal experiences and duties as a conference volunteer and “junior attendee.” In the second part, which is coming soon, I will discuss more of the pragmatic and practical aspects of conference-going (at least as I experienced them).
So if you’re ready, I’m ready! AOTA Conference Recap: Part I – GO!
My Life as a Volunteer
With this blog, it is my goal to add new perspectives and information to the wealth of knowledge that is out there about the wide and wonderful field of occupational therapy. To that end, I’m first going to discuss my experience as a conference volunteer – something I was unable to find ANY information about prior to attending!
The “OT Observations” feature describes my experiences observing and learning from various occupational therapists in practice. Currently I am volunteering at an outpatient therapy clinic and observing the work of the therapists there.
This past October, I began volunteering in a local pediatric and adult outpatient therapy clinic. Multiple therapeutic disciplines are represented, and there are adult and pediatric occupational, speech and physical therapists at the clinic. I spend the majority of my time observing and/or playing with the clients of the therapist I’ll call “Helen.” Helen is an amazing therapist, a fantastic role model and another person who has been instrumental in helping me learn about and become more passionate about occupational therapy!
Just a little bit about Helen, for context – she’s been an OT for 17 years and she works with children and adults. She’s worked in home health, hospital and private outpatient settings, and has the vast amount of experience one would think goes with such a long career in OT! She is the first therapist who I’ve seen administering feeding therapy, early intervention with an infant, sensory integration treatments and basically any kind of pediatric therapy. I thought I wanted to work solely with adults in the future, but Helen has had a large part in changing my mind about that!
Initially, I only planned on volunteering until the end of the semester, in order to meet a graduate program’s volunteer hour requirements. However, being able to see all of the therapists and their different styles in action has kept me there for the past 6 months! I don’t know what I’m going to do when I have to leave, but I’m glad I have had the chance to see and learn about so many different things while I’ve been there.
I’m creating this “OT Observations” feature so that I can record and keep track of what I’m seeing now and perhaps link it to things I will learn in the future. Although my observations will be heavily inundated with my own commentary and musings, I hope they will be helpful for anybody interested in learning more about occupational therapy as well.
In case you didn’t know, the American Occupational Therapy Association (AOTA) Conference is happening next week in Baltimore, Maryland! When I found out about it several months ago, I applied to become a volunteer for this year’s conference. After a month-long wait, I was elated to open my email and find my volunteer assignment waiting for me!
I have never attended a major professional conference before, and I am looking forward to the chance to attend this important event and see what’s happening in the wide world of occupational therapy. I’ll be volunteering at the Hospitality Booth and as a Room Monitor, and then I’ll earn free access to the Expo on Friday. It’s going to be a great trip to Charm City, I’m sure!
While I’m in Baltimore, I have several goals. First, I would like to meet one of my OT role models and the person whose job I’d like to take — Captain Erik Johnson, who also goes by “Army OT Guy.” I’m so excited about the opportunity to meet and network with him, but I can’t imagine what I would even say to somebody like him. I think I might like to work with wounded warriors and veterans in the future, and his website, videos and news articles have been a constant source of inspiration to me. In case you’re interested, here’s the link to his website: http://armyotguy.com/armyOTguy.com/Welcome.html. Ultimately, I would like for him to schedule a visit to my graduate program sometime in the next year or so. He goes “on tour” and travels around the country visiting OT programs and talking to students about his experiences and expertise and I would love the opportunity to hear from him!
Next, I want to start networking with the students, faculty and alumni of the graduate program I will be attending. Because I tend to be overexcited and can never wait for anything, I wrote and asked if I could attend some of events my future classmates and professor would be attending — and they said yes! Clearly they don’t mind that their program has just accepted a super-creeper… O__O
In any case, I think it will be great to hang out with some of the first and second-year students and see the impact people in my program are making in the field.
Finally, I just want to take this time off from school to relax! My final semester has been a very hectic one, and I’m glad for this mini-vacation to help break up the last semester until I graduate. A couple days at Conference and hanging out in Baltimore will be just what I need to get recharged and ready to finish my senior year strong!
I’ll be posting next week about my experiences in Baltimore and at the Conference, so stay tuned!