OT Chronicles Chapter 7: Oh, grad school

OT Chronicles Chapter 7: Oh, grad school

Grad school is hard.  It’s overwhelming.  It’s stressful.  Yet, through it all, I know it’s going to be worth it.

I’m not sure how it got to be the end of October already.  Honestly, I remember looking at my planner at the end of September thinking, “how am I ever doing to survive October?”.  Yet, here I am.  Still alive, still surviving.  October has been good to me despite the workload.  I got to race a mountain bike race, watch Eagles games with Josh, and this weekend I’m trying out a cyclocross race for the first time – that should be interesting!

School wise though….group projects have taken over my life and that’s ok.  We’re all surviving together, aiding in each other’s progression day by day and week by week.  Some projects have challenged us more than other (don’t even get me started on Colombia, South America!) and some of our toughest projects of the semester are still looming over us.

Do you know how empowering it is to sit in a classroom with 29 classmates who all have the same passion, motivation, and end-goal as you do?  Every day, despite stress and worry, I feel invigorated by the fact that I am working towards a dream.  I want to have “OTR” after my name, and every day, every class, every stressful project, all 3 exams I have on back-to-back-to-back days next week are pushing me towards those three little letters.

My attempt at blogging every week has obviously not worked.  My life has been consumed by projects, studying, readings, and various other assignments.  Running has been put on the back burner and some days it makes me really sad.  Many days I force myself to run 2 miles because in my mind taking a 20 minute break is 20 minutes less I have for schoolwork.  Yet, I complain on a daily basis that my neck and back chronically ache because I sit in the classroom and in front of my computer and books for an excessive amount of time each day.  It’s ironic, isn’t it?

Every sacrifice, every hardship, every challenge is bringing me closer to my goal.  I try to be mindful of this daily and I am lucky to have a support system who reminds me of this when I can’t seem to shake my negative and worrisome thoughts.  My mind is oftentimes too tired to formulate descriptive words of my experiences so far; so, for now, you’ll be left with a scattered blog post to decipher.

For now, I have three exams to study for for next week, a 20+ page group paper to finish by the first Monday of November, a community observation assignment to complete, a lifespan task analysis video to film, a wedding to attend, I can go on and on.

This is grad school.  Grad school is unrelenting.  This is my life.

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OT Chronicles Chapter 6: Week 1

OT Chronicles Chapter 6: Week 1

Our first full week was way more overwhelming than our half-week, rightfully so.  We had three more “1st days” which is probably why I’m feeling a little more overwhelmed with everything that needs to get done.  However, I am continually reminding myself to take it one day at a time.

One highlight of the week included having our first SOTA meeting where we discussed upcoming conferences, volunteer opportunities, fundraising ideas, and elections.  I decided to run for a position but I wasn’t elected.  The election did not include speeches or even introductions; therefore, most votes were based on first-impressions or a game of eenie-meenie-minnie-moe.  I’m ok honestly with not being elected.  I started this blog without being elected with the full intention of advocating for the OT field.  I will advocate on this blog, my social media pages, and to anyone that wants to listen to me talk about what I learned in class so far.  Here, I can voice my opinion on my own time, in my own way, and with intrinsic purpose to self-reflect and teach others.

This week I also attended an adult autism support group where I interacted and played board games with the attendees.  It was a very relaxed environment and I know that the individuals enjoyed seeing a new face in their group.  I plan on trying to volunteer at the support group 1-2 times per month because I know how much they enjoyed having new people to play board games with!

This week we were assigned an activity log in which we have to record every activity we do in a day and how much time we spend doing it.  We then categorize each activity into one of the eight occupations listed on The Framework.  Once they are categorized, we have to make a pie chart.  A lot of my time (obviously) is spent doing educational occupations.  This has been a tedious assignment but it’s helped me become more familiar with The Framework.

Also noteworthy is that our professors have forced us to change where we are sitting every class and who we are sitting next to.  They’re teaching us not to get comfortable all the time with routine and to get to know our classmates better.  I was a little hesitant at first because I liked sitting on the left side of the classroom, but after moving to the other side/middle, I’m ok with it!

We also had two guest speakers who worked at a community-based mental health organization nearby to the university.  We participated in a “Hearing Voices” activity for about one hour to gain a better understanding of what individuals with schizophrenia experience on a day to day basis.

For an hour, we all wore earbuds and listened to an audio recording of voices that individuals with schizophrenia have heard themselves.  The guest speakers rotated the class through three distinct activities – an individual 10-question test on a packet of information we were given on hurricane preparedness, a 20 minute game of Scrabble with four classmates, and an interactive task with someone on campus.

This experience resulted in empathy and a better understanding of what individuals with schizophrenia experience daily.  It was very eye-opening for me because it can be very hard to relate to someone who experiences auditory hallucinations.  This activity provided me with a hands-on learning opportunity to gain insight on how difficult it can be for individuals with schizophrenia to socially interact or complete necessary tasks on a day to day basis.  A few days later, I spent at least a half hour teaching Josh all about schizophrenia to bring better awareness and understanding of the disorder.  (If anyone is interested in learning more about “Hearing Voices” please reach out to me!)

This weekend I have been overwhelmed by readings to prepare for next week’s classes.  I have tried to find occupational balance by taking mental/social breaks.  I went for a bike ride today because I wanted to spend 30 minutes outside on a beautiful day.  I set aside time at the end of my day to write this blog.

Tomorrow I plan on going through the remainder of a Powerpoint recording I need to finish for Monday’s class, reading more for Monday’s Group Process class, going for a run/bike in the morning, and finishing all supplemental material for the beginning of the week.

My Friday & Saturday nights aren’t going to be very exciting for the next few weeks but I’m ok with that.  This aspiration of mine requires a lot of sacrifice, persistence, and determination and I’m fully committed to succeeding.  I’m living my dream.

 

OT Chronicles Chapter 5: The Half-Week

OT Chronicles Chapter 5: The Half-Week

I STARTED OT SCHOOL THIS WEEK!!!  CRAZINESS!

This week was met with a lot of nervousness, a lot of excitement, and so much gratitude!  I spent my Labor Day weekend before classes started stressing over the anatomy & physiology competency exam scheduled for Day 1.  I busied myself with organizing my binders, books, backpack, and checking emails repetitively.  I reviewed the A&P information religiously until Tuesday night when I turned to Josh and said “I just can’t keep looking at this”.  So, instead of staying up late studying feverishly, I spent the night before classes started relaxing, preparing my belongings for the morning, and spending time with Josh who insisted on sending me off on my 1st day of grad school (side note: my parents were in Utah visiting my brother so they weren’t home all week so I am extremely grateful that Josh was willing to be my support system for my 1st day jitters!).

Wednesday morning Josh & I were up early because he had to leave my house early in order to get to work in time.  My mom insisted she needed a 1st day of school picture so before Josh left my house he was snapping awkward 1st day of school photos at 6 o’clock in the morning.  I stood next to a smiley face balloon that Granny had given me the day before.  Quite comical if you ask me!

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After Josh left, I ate a hearty breakfast and packed my lunch.  I kissed the dogs goodbye and headed out the door for my 50-minute commute.  I left my house two hours before class started because I was worried about finding parking and didn’t want to feel rushed.  Five minutes into my drive, I approached an unexpected detour.  Just my luck!  I found my way around the detour and continued on my intended route.  I also took the wrong jug-handle at one point in my drive.  Oops!  Nevertheless, I arrived before 8 AM, there was plenty of parking, and I wandered through campus to calm my nerves.

I got to class 30 minutes early, sat next to a classmate I remembered from orientation, and settled in.  We all chatted amongst ourselves which was a wonderful way to distract ourselves from the looming competency exam.

We took a class picture (the most awake and put-together we will probably look all semester).  We did an ice breaker activity called “speed dating”.  This was super fun!  We also reviewed for the exam in an untraditional way which I enjoyed!

By mid-morning, we were taking the competency exam.  This was pass/fail scoring.  You either passed or you didn’t.  After turning in the exam, I knew my weaknesses and what I needed to improve on moving forward.  I was confident I had passed but knew that I still had plenty of room for growth!

We had an hour lunch break so I printed a few things and relaxed outside.  The remainder of the day included a review of the class readings we had already been assigned.  Also…. I had passed the competency exam!  YAY!

On the second day of classes, we reviewed the syllabi, discussed our reading assignments, and began a case study on schizophrenia.  I am excited to continue to learn about my cohort and the material for each class.  I know it will be challenging but I know it will all be worth it!

I also met with my professor for my graduate assistantship.  I was given some of my responsibilities for the semester and I’m excited to get started on this!

Our professors also continuously reminding us that the cohort & faculty are a team.  Three-hundred people had applied to the program but only 30 were given seats.  We are no longer competing against each other because we all deserve to be where we are.  We will help each other succeed and overcome challenges.  We will work together because we all share one common goal – to become occupational therapists.  The faculty wants us to succeed so they will help us when help is needed.

We’ve only had two days of classes (hence why this blog is titled “The Half-Week”).  I spent today developing a weekly “agenda” (basically a check-list for each class) of readings, assignments, quizzes/tests that are “due” the upcoming so that everything can be somewhat organized.  I am using this as a supplement to my planner for the time being so that everything is organized in a clear and concise way.  I’m not sure if this is something I’ll stick with in the long-term, but with so much information in the last two days, I feel this is the best way to move forward.

I have so much gratitude the start of this new, exciting adventure.  I can’t wait to continue to learn, be challenged, and develop strong relationships with my cohort and professors!  I am grateful for Josh being there for my 1st day of grad school and the support of my parents/family from afar.

I’m sure that this blog posts won’t always be this lengthy, but for now, I hope that you’ve enjoyed my rambling!

Summer Self-Reflection

Summer Self-Reflection

Where has this summer gone?!?!  Time felt like it was standing still until about two weeks ago when I realized the start of grad school was rapidly approaching.  The last two weeks have included a staycation, several family/friend/social events, a mountain bike race, and studying for classes.  I doubt that this blog post will have much flow because I feel that my thoughts have been scattered for weeks now.  I’ve felt the need to blog out all of these thoughts but haven’t committed to typing them until right now.  I have no prediction as to where this post might go.  Here we go!

For over a year now, my life has been “on hold” for grad school to start.  The application and acceptance process was tedious and lengthy.  In the interim of deciding I wanted to go to grad school and actually starting grad school has been a whirlwind.  The whirlwind has included many successes, many failures, and many opportunities for personal growth.  I think it might be valuable to “vocalize” these experiences for my own personal self-reflection and your own… “enjoyment”.

First, I launched health coaching services as a means to utilize my undergrad degree and ACE certification.  I created a logo, a Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter page, and business cards to establish myself and to try publicize what I had to offer.  I spent hours developing material for the Facebook page in order to showcase what I had to offer.  I created giveaways to engage the community.  I did all of this with the hope that I could make people live healthy, successful, satisfying lives.  Despite my good intentions, I was given unenthusiastic reactions.  Yet, I persisted because I was passionate about trying to help others.  My services didn’t expand the way I had envisioned and that’s ok.  I still got to coach a handful of people that did trust my beliefs and values.  I saw them achieve goals they didn’t think they could achieve.  At the end of the day, if I hadn’t persevered, I would have come up short on one of my meaningful aspirations.

Second, in attempt to prepare my bank account for tuition, I worked retail for several months.  It was miserable.  I felt degraded and purposeless.  I sacrificed time with my family on holidays, time with Josh on weekends, and time with my clients. I knew deep within my heart that this job was temporary.  I knew that soon I would be pursuing a meaningful career aspiration.  I tried to stay positive for as long as I could but with each passing day, I became more and more frustrated and impatient.  So, I resigned.  I was told by Josh, my family, and my dearest friends that I would soon be moving on to something bigger and better.  Don’t ever feel stuck.  Sacrifices are temporary.  Some sacrifices can be minimized when you have a strong support system; for that, I am eternally grateful.

It’s so cliche, but when one door closes, another door opens.  I closed the door on retail and walked through a door labeled “wine”.  This brings me to experience #3.  A winery 2.4 miles from my house needed help at festivals and in their tasting room.  I am fortunate enough to have a mutual connection with the owners which kind of gave me an “in”.  I knew little to nothing about wine which scared the heck out of me.  I asked questions, I took notes, and I spoke to customers with the knowledge I had accumulated.  Working at a winery can actually be quite satisfying.  Wine makes people happy.  I like making people happy.  I pour wine; therefore, making people happy!  Winery work isn’t stressful to me and after working there over the summer, I really took a liking to it!  Trying something outside of my knowledge realm was stressful at first but I realize I had nothing to be worried about.  It has given me the courage to try other new things.  I walked through a “new” door because I was brave enough to try something new.

Fourth:  I unprioritized running.  I know what you’re all thinking:  “you did what?!”.  Read it again if you need to.  I ran the Green Monster 50k which is still one of my top proudest running moments.  I trained for a trail series in the mid-Atlantic region but found myself unmotivated and rather uninterested.  I probably averaged 20 mile weeks this summer.  I still enjoy running.  I still LOOOOVE going out for long runs on the trails.  BUT… I’ve stepped away from the regimented aspect of running.  I usually just run whatever distance I want, whenever I want to.  I use my watch once per week.  I don’t have any races on my calendar which is saddening but freeing at the same time.  I still want to run an ultra but I know that time for training will be too limited.  Instead, I’m going through this “freeing” period of running in my running career.  I don’t have anything to train for but I still like to run at least 5 days per week.  I usually forget to record my miles in my training log and then I scramble to remember how far I ran two weeks ago on a Tuesday when I attempt to catch up.  Life goes on.  Miles will still pass by.  I will still lace up my shoes and head out for a run.

I’ve caught myself comparing my life to the highlight reel on Instagram one too many times.  Social media can be empowering, insightful, and inspiring.  But it can also be hindering, degrading, and challenging to my self-worth.  On days that I would refresh my feed dozens of times, I would feel as if I wasn’t living life right.  Days and days would pass on and with every refresh of Instagram, I would feel more and more pitiful.  Why wasn’t I posting killer workouts every day?  Why wasn’t I out exploring trails, peakbagging, or running past picturesque scenery every morning?  How did I get “stuck” living a life of repetitive boredom, unexciting views, and the monotony of waiting for something better?  Then, I would vow to stay off of social media for a few days.  Enough was enough.  I couldn’t keep comparing my life to the lives of others.  I couldn’t keep wishing for a better life because nothing about my current life is bad.  Don’t let social media devalue your worth.  Be grateful for what you have.  We all rise with the same sun.  We all sleep under the same moon.  Everything in between is a life of good – individualized good – for every single one of us.

I approached new challenges with determination.  I started cycling for fitness a few years ago and raced mountain bike races for the first time last summer.  It was something new and challenging for me and even though I wasn’t particularly good at it, I still went out there and did my best.  This year I’ve definitely road biked more than I’ve mountain biked.  This is a good thing but I often miss the challenge of the trails.  The road for me is a different challenge though.  I’ve always wanted to go with the fast group on our weekly group rides but never saw myself as capable of keeping up.  I was fast, but not that fast; plus I would be the only woman in that group and that intimidated me.  The first time I tried riding with the fast group, I failed.  I got dropped about half-way through the ride, but, I was ok with that.  I tried my best and I became even more determined to do better the next week.  The second time I went out with the fast group I got dropped with just 1 mile to go.  This was improvement.  Last week I stuck with them for the entire 20 miles, averaging my fastest ever 20 mile ride.  I never saw myself as “the girl who could keep up with the men”.  I still get crushed when we reach a Strava sprint zone, but that’s ok!  My only goal was to be able to ride with the fast group and I’ve been able to accomplish that.  I enjoy the challenge and I’m glad I didn’t give up on my goal after being dropped that first time.  If hard work doesn’t get you where you want to be, determination will.

I’ve also dedicated the majority of my summer to preparing for grad school.  I remind myself every day that I’m living my dream.  Some of the material and assignments have already challenged me and I sometimes feel overwhelmed by the thought of how much I’ll be challenged once classes start.  I know that it’s going to be hard, but I also know that it will all be worth it.  I’m feel like the luckiest girl in the world because of the people who continuously support my dream – Josh, my parents, my closest friends.  Every day I will be challenged in a new way.  I will face failures, I will celebrate successes.  I will experience personal and professional growth.  By mid-fall of 2020, I might even look back at this blog post and think about how naive I was, how unknowledgeable I was, and how undeveloped I was.  Only time will tell.

So here’s to all the things that taught me what I want (and don’t want) in life.  On the morning of September 5th, I will officially start my grad school career.  The next few days will comprise of pouring wine at work, spending time with Josh, studying for my competency exam, and getting ahead on class readings.

My experiences in the interim have taught me that things worth having in life don’t often come easy.  We all face setbacks.  We all face hardships.  We all make sacrifices.  We all forge ahead with determination.  We all live our own lives – our best lives – in hope of happiness and fulfillment.  We can surround ourselves with supportive, caring, and uplifting humans that guide us through the darkness.  Through it all, we become who we are and who we strive to be.  Always be grateful and reflective.  Pursue your biggest aspirations with determination and never let go of your dreams.

Diz Runs Radio Podcast

Diz Runs Radio Podcast

I had the opportunity to be a guest on Denny Krahe’s Diz Run Radio podcast last week and I’m here to share my experience with you!  The podcast is available at www.dizruns.com/612

The podcast aired yesterday and I am thrilled with the final product!  I was nervous agreeing to the opportunity because I thought my life wasn’t interesting enough to be broadcasted on a podcast.  I procrastinated for a week or so before committing to a date and time to record the podcast.  Turns out, just like everyone always says, when it comes to conversations about running, you can talk for hours!

So there I was, mid-Thursday morning recording a podcast with Denny Krahe.  We talked about how I fell in love with trail running, cycling, the importance of progressive training, goal setting, and cross-training, and even my ambitions in occupational therapy!  Forty-five minutes flew by and before I knew it we were wrapping things up.

In retrospect, before the podcast aired, I was analyzing how much I thought I rambled or how my sentences seemed unstructured.  In reality, after listening to the podcast in its entirety, I’m proud of myself for trying something outside of my comfort zone.  I’m still definitely not the most interesting person in the world but, nevertheless, I enjoy sharing stories about running.

I am looking forward to doing another podcast in the future about running, cycling, goal setting, etc, because I feel like I have so much more to share!  We only graced the countless running experiences I’ve had.  Luckily, I have a blog where I can share stories whenever I feel like it.

If you or anyone you know loves to talk running and would like to share their stories, comment below!  I would love to continue to connect with the running community so we can all support and share our experiences!

For now, Diz Runs Radio Episode #612 is available for listening.  Check it out and let me know what you think!  I’m just proud of myself for doing something so outside of my comfort zone!

 

OT Chronicles Chapter 4: Waiting & Preparing

OT Chronicles Chapter 4: Waiting & Preparing

So you’ve been accepted, you’ve sent in a deposit, and now you get to start classes, right?  Well, it’s a pretty long process that requires some patience and mental preparation.  After getting accepted and securing my seat in my cohort, there seemed to be many months to go until classes started.  Securing a seat was the biggest burden off my shoulders.  My stress disappeared and reality began to set in (in the best ways possible).  Time passed by and I anxiously awaited to hear from professors about classes and other necessary summer requirements.

Around June/early July, information was finally emailed out on how to start preparing for the start of September classes.  I was SUPER excited and finally felt like I could start working towards my goal of becoming an OT.  A private Facebook page was set up for our cohort so that we could communicate with fellow classmates throughout the summer and throughout our semesters together.  All very exciting stuff if you ask me!

We also received summer anatomy & physiology material to review which we will be quizzed on during the first week of classes.  I’ve followed my own studying plan to review & study all of the information and as of right now I have one more week of material to review.  However, in the remaining weeks leading up to the start of classes, I will religiously review all the information over and over again.

In the past few weeks, professors have also started to send out emails with textbook requirements and syllabi.  So far, I have 8 textbooks in my room and I am waiting for a few more to be delivered.  I believe I will have 10 textbooks this semester for my five total classes.  Luckily, most of these books will be used over and over again for future classes so I’m hoping that the remaining semesters won’t be so costly on the textbook front of grad school finances.

I also have summer reading to complete and summer assignments – much of which have been dependent on receiving textbooks in the mail.  Even with all the summer work (and stress of reviewing anatomy), I am genuinely excited and intrigued to learn so much information throughout the MSOT program!  I feel like I’ve been out of school for so long which has motivated me to want to start learning again!

We also had orientation last week where I got to meet my classmates & a few professors.  We learned about our preceptors (advisors) and I also learned who I will be a graduate assistant for upon the start of the semester.  We were given our class schedule (18 credits, four 4-credit classes and one 2-credit class, 4 days/week) and have lots of exciting events to look forward to throughout our fall semester.

After orientation, the second year students gathered the majority of my cohort for dinner at a nearby pub.  It was nice to mingle with my future classmates and get some advice from the second years.  I absorbed as much information as I could (and the nachos I had were pretty tasty too!).

Classes start in less than one month.  I am very excited.  But mostly, I am anxious in the best way possible (and “anxious” isn’t a word I usually use in a positive way).  I can’t wait to get to know my classmates & professors more.  I can’t wait to start learning and expanding my knowledge.  I can’t wait to officially start the journey of school for health care professionals (HCPs) because I know how much there is to learn and how many opportunities I’ll have in the future to make a difference in the lives of people who need guidance, hope, and whole-hearted care in their lives.

As I wait and prepare for the start of classes, I will continue to personally reflect on how grateful I am to be given this opportunity to become an OT.  The feeling of gratitude in the past few months have grown exponentially because every day I am reminded that I am one day closer to living my dream – and that will forever make my OT heart happy.

OT Chronicles Chapter 3: Observation Hours

OT Chronicles Chapter 3: Observation Hours

Observation hours are a typical requirement for applying to OT grad school.  Observations are beneficial for several reasons!  This is a great time to explore the field of occupational therapy.  It is a great time to learn if the career is a right fit for you.  Lastly, it is a wonderful time to start making connections with occupational therapists in your area.  You might find it overwhelming at first to lock down observation sites, but, with persistence, you can succeed!  I’ve organized this post into before, during, and after segments.. enjoy!

Preparing for Observations

I Googled occupational therapy services in a variety of settings and populations.  I Googled nearby schools, rehab centers, hospitals, assisted living communities, and nursing facilities.  I made an organized list of locations and contact information to start reaching out to occupational therapists.

My list was quite long; however, some sites didn’t have availability for observations and some sites required you to become a volunteer before attending observations (which included orientations, medical protocol, and the occasional fees).

It is probably in your best interest, especially if you are working part-time or are a current student, to avoid locations that require you to become a volunteer first.  This can be time-consuming and unnecessarily stressful.  I am not discouraging sites that require this particular protocol; however, personally, knowing that I would only be logging a few hours at such sites wasn’t worth the reward.  Instead, I found sites that welcomed me as I was – someone simply interested in becoming an occupational therapy student!

Plan to do more observation hours than what is required by the school you are applying to.  I personally logged over 60 hours at 7 different sites.  This provided me with so much time to learn and experience what each setting/population had to offer in the field of OT.  Added bonus: schools love seeing that you put in more time than you were required to complete!

When in contact with the OT you will be shadowing, there are several things you should verify prior to the observation date(s):

  • Observation Hour Totals:  Make sure to tell the OT you contacted how many hours you are interested in logging with them so they can provide appropriate dates/times for you to observe.
  • Dates/time: Some places offered full-day observations, some offered half-day observations.  Write down which day(s) you’re observing, when to arrive, and when you’ll be leaving so you know if you need to bring lunch/snacks.
  • Contact Person upon Arrival:  Some OTs you contact will be the OT you observe.  Some OTs you contact will send you off with a fellow colleague to observe them.  Make sure you know who to ask for when you get to your observation site.
  • Dress code: Most of the places I observed at wanted me to dress in business casual attire.  Make sure you ask what the dress code is because every site is different!

Always plan to arrive early to the observation site.  This gives you time to find parking, locate the entrance, and relax before heading inside.

During Observations

You’ve walked into the observation site.  Now what?!

Remember this: You are there to observe.  You are there to learn.  You are there to experience what OTs do everyday.

Allow the OT to do their job while they are with a patient.  Some OTs will walk you through each step of what they are doing and why they are doing it.  Other OTs will let you observe and then debrief you later.  Save your inquiries until treatment is over, unless the OT is providing an environment of open-communication.

I really enjoyed asking OTs about their educational background, their experiences in various OT settings, their experiences in the OT setting they are currently working in, and why they chose OT as their life-long profession.  Doing so created a relationship for broader learning.

In some settings, you will also get to interact with patients.  Some patients will tell you their stories openly.  If the OT opens this gate of communication for you, dive in!  Ask them what they’ve experienced so far through their OT treatment.  Observations are a great opportunity to experience therapy with both the OT and the patient.

If the opportunity arises, observe other colleagues who are therapists too.  I learned a lot about speech therapists and PTs while I was with OTs.  It was really eye-opening to see how all the therapists worked together.  Feel free to ask them therapy-related questions too!  Remember, you’re there to learn – soak it all in!

Before departing from the observation site, make sure to thank the OT or verify future dates/times you will be observing them.  This affirms the relationship you built with them and establishes gratitude in allowing you to be their shadow all day long.

After Observations

When your time at each observation site is complete, I found it very useful to take notes on my experiences.  I wrote down the name(s) of the OT(s) that I observed.  I wrote down what I observed in great detail.  I explained some of the challenges patients were facing and how the OT was striving to improve their success.

I also wrote down what I enjoyed about the setting and what I was unsure about.  Some settings I enjoyed way more than others!  Some settings were so educational that I can still remember what I learned from each OT.  Some settings I felt were limited by the OT’s enthusiasm to provide me with a strong educational experience.  However, some OTs made a lasting impact on my personal professional goals.

Below, I’ve created a list of the types of settings I observed at, the population I observed, how many hours I observed there, and a brief summary of what I experienced.  My observation journal is very detailed so I will do my best to provide a brief synopsis.

  • developmental center for children with developmental disorders:
    • Population: children with autism, Down Syndrome, and other learning disabilities
    • OT’s role in treatment: improvements on fine motor skills (i.e writing, use of scissors, learning shapes, working zippers) and gross motor skills (i.e coordination)
    • Priorities in this setting: classroom function, improving social skills, improving communication, improvements on age-appropriate independent activities
    • Total Observation Hours: 6.5 hours (one day)
  • hand therapy in out-patient rehab & adult day care:
    • Population: adults, geriatrics
    • OT’s role in treatment: fine motor skills via hand therapy, care for chronic pain, coordination
    • Priorities in this setting: ease symptoms of chronic pain via stretching & massage, improve ability to complete tasks independently
    • Total Observation Hours: 8.5 hours (2 days)
  • adult day care:
    • Population: geriatrics
    • OT’s role in treatment: pain management, memory testing/function
    • Priorities in this setting: ease symptoms of chronic pain via heat, massage, and stretching; evaluate memory function for potential return-to-home patients
    • Total Observation Hours: 9 hours (3 days)
  • skilled nursing facility (SNF):
    • Population: geriatrics, adults with psychological disorders
    • OT’s role in treatment: teaching ADL safety, memory/cognition treatments, fine & gross motor skills
    • Priorities in this setting: promote independence, maintain current memory/cognition functions, develop social skills
    • Total Observation Hours: 7.25 hours (1 day)
    • Special note: I observed a traveling therapist at this location who had ample experience in a variety of settings/populations.  Traveling therapy was intriguing to me and her past OT experiences were very informative.  I also observed a COTA who taught me that “everything is OT”.  I couldn’t agree more with her!
  • hand therapy in out-patient rehab:
    • Population: adults of various ages
    • OT’s role in treatment: fine motor skills, return-to-work skills, pain management
    • Priorities in this setting: strengthen fingers, wrist, and lower arm post-surgery/injury so that patients can return to work or their day-to-day activities
    • Total Observation Hours: 10 hours (2 days)
  • acute rehab
    • Population: adults of various ages
    • OT’s role in treatment: ADLs, use of adaptive equipment
    • Priorities in this setting: promote independence, transition from hospital to rehab to home
    • Total Observation Hours: 12 hours (2 days)
    • Special note:  This was actually my favorite setting because each patient was different; the OTs used different treatment plans for every patient because every patient needed something different before (hopefully) going home!
  • school/developmental center:
    • Population: children & young adults (with cerebral palsy and and other physical or developmental disorders)
    • OT’s role in treatment: adaptive classroom learning, promote communication with or without adaptive equipment, fine motor skills, gross motor skills, enhance appropriate social skills
    • Priorities in this setting: promote communication, teach play, teach classroom skills, teach behavioral skills
    • Total Observation Hours: 9 hours (2 days)

There you go!  Observation sites 101!  I hope that wherever you go or wherever you’ve been to observe has been a positive experience for you.  I am grateful for the locations I observed at and the OTs that took the time out of their hectic schedules to teach me what OT is all about!  Observing them just affirmed that this is indeed the right profession for me!