The root of all evil.

The root of all evil.

We’re nearly a week into 2020. The past six days have honestly been a blur. For no real reason in particular. Just a blur.

I’ve been bustin’ my butt to make some money over break. Between promoting the race Josh & I are directing in 12 days and restarting work as a classroom aide, there really hasn’t been a dull moment. I’m fairly certain 80% of my classmates are either vacationing or binging Netflix over winter break – honestly, neither of which I would prefer that I was doing. I’m not the person that can sit still and have things handed to me. I just prefer to go go go.

There’s no denying that as a graduate student, loans are adding up and my bank account is dwindling. I feel like I’m floating in the middle of an ocean holding onto an inner tube that is slowly leaking.

I told Josh on New Year’s Eve night that one of my goals for 2020 is to not run out of money. As hilarious as that sounds, it’s a real fear of mine. I know I know I know I KNOW that money doesn’t define happiness, but it sure does seem like it defines survival.

How ironic was it that less than 24 hours after I announced one of my 2020 goals that we discovered one of my car tires was basically flat? Two months ago I replaced all four tires because they were bald. Now, here I was at the mechanic shop praying I wouldn’t have to fork out too much money. It wasn’t that bad at the end of the day (I honestly feel like the guy cut me a break when I told him I’m a college student).

I only spend money on things that I absolutely need – food, gas, car oil, textbooks (UGH!). I don’t buy clothes willy-nilly. I never go on extravagant winter/spring break vacations. I don’t have a Netflix, Hulu, or Amazon Prime account. I don’t go out to clubs or bars every weekend (or ever for that matter). I don’t sign up for races every weekend, every month, or even every other month.  I am blessed that Josh will meet me half way between his house and mine so I don’t have to add miles to my car or spend more money on gas.

I am trying to live as inexpensive as possible for the next 12-15 months until I get a job that provides me with a steady income.

So why does it seem that everyone else is relaxing on winter break and I’m busting my butt so my bank account will never read $0.00?!?!

I’m not here to throw myself a pity party. I’m hear to remind myself (when I look back on this one day when I have a full-time job with benefits) that I’M DOING WHAT I HAVE TO DO. It doesn’t matter what everyone else is doing or where they’re going or how they’re spending their weekends. This is what I NEED TO DO. I need to do this for myself. I need to do this so I don’t have to ask anyone for money. I need to do this so that I can get to December 31, 2020 and still have at least one penny to my name.

I feel guilty regularly that I can’t help Josh buy food for our weekend meals together. I feel guilty that I can’t help my parents buy groceries. It is a mental battle for me to accept this type of financial help – on things that are a necessity. I keep promising myself that once grad school is done and I have a full-time job that I will be able to help with groceries or that I will be able to go out for dinner on a Friday night guilt-free. This financial guilt is temporary.

So here I am. I will shamelessly self-promote the race I am directing every day until race day. I want people to have fun and put their trust in me that all my planning and logistics will give them an amazing experience to start of 2020. I will say “yes” to every classroom aide opportunity presented to me in the next two weeks even though I’ll have no idea what classroom of students I will have to work with.

I will work. my. butt. off. so that come December 31st, 2020 AND the day I say “yes” to a full-time job every damn sacrifice will have been worth it.

 

Occupational Therapy Month: Gait

Occupational Therapy Month: Gait

Letter “g” is for GAIT!

From an occupational therapy standpoint, gait promotes functional mobility. For individuals who can walk, gait provides opportunities to explore the environment and complete tasks within the environment as needed.

It important to note that occupational therapists look at gait from a functional perspective. Is the individual able to ambulate to the bathroom without falling? Can they move around the kitchen to prepare a meal? Can a child ambulate from the classroom to the bus or playground? Gait assessments and gait improvements are in the realm of physical therapy, not OT; therefore, gait issues alone should be referred to PT. From a functional standpoint, OTs investigate how one’s gait affects one’s ability to complete necessary and meaningful tasks.

I leave you today with a picture of my friends walking (proper gait and all) which from a functional standpoint allowed them to get from lunch back to class.

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Occupational Therapy Month: Client-Centered

Occupational Therapy Month: Client-Centered

It’s day 3 of the ABCs of OT challenge! “C” stands for client-centered!

It is my duty as an aspiring occupational therapist to make evaluations, plans, and interventions based around what my clients want to do and need to do. That is called client-centered practice. While focusing on the client, OTs recognize that each individual has their own unique set of roles in life. Parent. Sibling. Friend. Student. Volunteer. Athlete. Employee. Care-taker. Grandparent. Dog mom. Cat mom. The list goes on! Client-centered interventions led by an occupational therapist help individuals engage fully in the roles that are meaningful to them.

Consider an individual who just had an upper extremity amputation. This individual is a mom to a toddler, a wife to a loving husband, and a volunteer at her church. Because of the recent amputation, occupational therapists can teach her how to hold her toddler and how to change his/her diaper using just one hand. Adaptive dressing techniques can be taught so that she can dress independently prior to heading out the door for her volunteer shift at her church. An occupational therapist can provide her with an adapted cutting board so that she can still independently cook up a date-night dinner for her husband.  If all of these occupations and roles are important to her, it becomes the occupational therapist’s responsibility to teach her how to do these things successfully.

OT practice is completely client-centered. We focus on what’s meaningful for you. We give you the tools, strategies, and education so that you can live life to its fullest capacity.

I leave you today with a picture of me with my parents and boyfriend out mountain biking on a beautiful spring day last year. Some of my roles include: daughter, sister, girlfriend, grandchild, graduate student, pet owner, friend, runner, and cyclist. Some of my most meaningful occupations include: spending time with Josh, family, friends, and my dogs; enjoying fresh air while running or biking; cooking healthy meals; attending grad school; and, (the reason why you are reading this), blogging.

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2018 in review

2018 in review

Every year I start my yearly recap with intentions of making it flowy and descript. As I try to recall everything that has happened this year, it’s quite a blur. However, I can testify that 2018 has offered me travel experiences, running memories, cycling achievements, and new beginnings (GRAD SCHOOL!) that have continuously shaped me into who I will be starting off as in 2019. This year has gifted me new friendships and strengthened existing ones. I’ve become a more grateful, more mindful, more persistent, and stronger person because of my experiences and support systems. Without further ado, let’s review…

Within the first week of January, southern NJ was hit with something they call a “bomb cyclone”. I still don’t know what this weather term defines, but I do know that I went out for a run in it. Classic me.

Being a Philadelphia Eagles fan in January became a very exciting time. Nick Foles became our hero.

I was picked as an Altra Ambassador for the 2nd year in a row. Altras are my favorite!

Josh got a new bike – the Rocky Mountain Element in smoke-on-the-water black. I’ve yet to be able to compete with the affection he shows for this bike.

I was offered an interview to my top choice for grad school which I scheduled immediately and as soon as possible. One step closer to following my dream.

On February 4th (everything good happens on the fourth day of each month & I have a whole list to prove it), the Philadelphia Eagles won the Super Bowl for the 1st time in team history. Completely shocked because these championships are few and very far between in Philly, I cried, I screamed, I banged pots & pans outside of Josh’s front door. What a time to be alive!

Four days later, I called out “sick” from work to go to the Super Bowl parade with millions of other Eagles fans. We parked haphazardly in some random grassy area we discovered. We went into a Dunkin Donuts that was sold out of 75% of their stock. We stood along Broad Street and watched people climb trees, drink beer, and wait anxiously for the team caravan to pass by. It was the best morning ever for Eagles fans! Later we went home and watched Jason Kelce’s historical speech on the art museum steps from the comfort of our couch. Still to this day, I believe that his speech was the most relatable speech ever for Philadelphia sports fans.

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Eagles Super Bowl parade!

I attended my interview for grad school and prayed that they would accept me.

Josh & I passed the time by going for trail runs in the cold.

I also took Gwin on a hike with Jess & McGee. Gwin prefers running, not hiking.

I decided not to train for an ultramarathon this year because I felt that my life schedule was too busy and unpredictable to fully dedicate to a long race. Instead, I opted for a nearby trail series in hopes of becoming a Regional champion for my age group.

By the end of February, I received my acceptance letter to my top choice for grad school! This was the best day ever because I was finally on the path of my dreams! I remember calling Josh to tell him first. Then I called my mom, who shared the news with my dad. I called my grandparents. I called Angela. And then I went for a celebratory run. Classic me.

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The day I got accepted to grad school

Josh & I attended more Flyers games together and ate big slices of stadium pizza.

As usual, I celebrated the first day of spring with a free Rita’s Water Ice.

On the second day of spring (my birthday), we had a huge snowstorm so Josh couldn’t come over. I made the most of the snowy birthday inside by playing board games. Once the snow slowed, I convinced my parents & Gwin to come out for a snowy trail run. We made it 1.5 miles from home, posed excitedly for a snow selfie, and 5 seconds later a snow-covered tree branch snapped, hit my back, and slammed me to the ground. Hello, 24th birthday! We spent the 1.5 mile run back towards home in fear of more falling branches/trees. The welt on my shoulder blade stayed for a few days. Nothing out of the ordinary for my life. Perhaps even an exaggerated metaphor.

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Infamous selfie before the branch hit me

I competed in the Xterra Brandywine 12k for the 2nd year in a row and defended my 2nd place finish on the podium.

I missed training for ultras.

I started a new blog section called “OT Chronicles” to document my experiences through grad school and beyond!

I raced a 5k for the first time in 3+ years and shared the #1 podium spot with Josh as the male & female winners of the race.

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Our 5k winnings

I really missed going to Hyner for race weekend.

Desiree Linden won the Boston Marathon in epic weather conditions. Sara Sellers came in 2nd and everyone in the running world was wondering who she was. Now she’s a sponsored Altra athlete!

I raced the Xterra Lums Pond 12k and finished 3rd overall female. I also fell ½ mile into the race and ran the remaining 6+ miles with bloody knees and an achy elbow. The paramedics took care of me at the finish line (infection prevention, people!). Josh & I then hustled to the NICA race the local mountain bike team was hosting and I hobbled around for the rest of the day while cheering the kids on.

I worked a race expo for Sparkly Soul all by myself for the first time ever. I even got interviewed by NBC 10 because they loved the unicorn headbands (which I absolutely hate so it was ironic). My interview was shown on TV and Josh came to the realization that he was dating someone famous.

I started working at wine festivals with a local winery. They were very fun but very exhausting to work. My right arm hurt after my first ever wine festival day from pouring so many tastings repetitively for 5 hours straight.

I attended the wine festival in Josh’s town with his family. Good company and good wine indeed!

Josh and I mountain biked together as much as possible. Trail therapy is the best therapy.

I continued to miss training for and racing ultras.

I ran the Xterra Wetlands 10k. It was muddy and I finished as the 3rd female. This was my least favorite race of the trail series.

Sneakers & Spokes hosted an Altra demo day and we had 15 people attend! It was great and my Altra heart was happy!

I stopped working in retail.

Josh & I flew out west and explored! We visited Angela & Phil in Colorado, explored Moab on mountain bikes, and visited Michael in Utah. I could go on and on about everything that we saw and did because it was truly the greatest six day adventure ever! But I won’t go on and on because I have two separate, lengthy blog posts about it on my blog already. Go check ‘em out!

I am still eternally grateful that Josh & I got to go on our Colorado-Utah adventure together. I am so glad that we got to see so many beautiful mountains with our hosts – the Dunn’s and Michael. We got to run and hike in places that were absolutely breathtaking. We got to mountain bike on trails that were challenging yet had rewarding vistas. I will also remember our trip together and the experiences we shared!

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Running in Colorado
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Mtb in Moab
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hiking in Utah

With altitude training on my side, I snagged some QOMs on my bike.

I started working at the winery’s tasting room once a week for the remainder of the summer. I worked one of the more quiet days of the week but I enjoyed the atmosphere and my responsibilities.

Josh & I planted our garden together for the 2nd year in a row. It was a sad garden this year because the wind destroyed half of our plants during a summer storm and nothing grew too well. I guess we needed to replenish the “special dirt” we got in 2017. Maybe next year.

I continued to coach runners and do personal training sessions with clients.

Lance, Josh’s dog, who was 15 years young passed away. His snuggles, prances, and love of human food will be cherished forever.

I also finished the 4th and final race of the Xterra series. I finished the Big Elk 1/2-marathon as the 4th overall female and 1st in my age group. I had achieved my goal of becoming regional champion and the long-sleeve they sent me a few months later was totally worth it! However, I’m going to give this series a rest for some time because 1) grad school and 2) I want ultras back in my life.

After the race, Josh & I ate brunch with Jess & Steve on Main Street. Those breakfast tater tots were the best!

Within less than two months, I started to miss Colorado and Utah.

I organized a road bike ride to a local Alex’s Lemonade Stand. We enjoyed water ice at 10 AM and got to enjoy a long bike ride on a perfect Saturday morning!

On July 4th, I ran the annual Pitman 4 Miler as a family tradition. My Altra Escalantes helped me run my 3rd fastest course time, finish 3rd in my age group, and finish in the top 7 female finishers. I also didn’t feel overly nauseous after I finished which is always a good thing.

After racing the 4 miler, Josh & I drove to the Woodstown 4th of July parade to ride in the parade with the Salem County Reactors. I felt sort of out of place but it was fun nonetheless!

Less than one week later, I raced my first mountain bike race of the 2018 and finished on the podium for THE FIRST TIME EVER! This was the highlight of my cycling year because I had never been on the podium at a mountain bike race before! Finishing 2nd was an awesome feeling, especially since I started in the back of the pack. I hope that in 2019 I can improve on my 2nd place and step up on the podium again!

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My 1st mtb podium!

I cheered Josh on at many mountain bike races and I took my job as his crew very seriously.

Josh & I attended a local food truck festival. We ate delicious tater tots!

I biked to a winery with the Sneakers & Spokes crew, did yoga in the vineyard, enjoyed a glass of wine, and then biked back to town.

I got really pissed off at township workers for talking down to me when I questioned what they were doing to a local trail. Idiots!

The Altra Superiors became my go-to shoe for trail running. I love them!

My dad hosted a women’s mountain bike clinic and it was so awesome! Fourteen ladies shredding the trail together?! It doesn’t get any better than that!

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Girl power!

I started riding in the faster group for group rides. The first time I attempted I only was able to hang on for half of the ride. The second time I attempted, I was able to hang on for all but the last 3 miles of the ride. I was so happy that I could keep up with “the fast guys”; this was an accomplishment for me!

Josh & I biked to a food truck festival at Fort Mott. Typical us.

I attended grad school orientation where I got to meet some of my classmates and professors. It made me very excited to start the semester!

Josh & I went for an after work trail run and got stuck in a torrential downpour and thunderstorm. No worries, we took shelter at The Loufa Hut.

Sneakers & Spokes celebrated its 3rd anniversary!

I ordered a total of 10 textbooks for my 1st semester of grad school. TEN!

I was offered a position as a graduate assistant to offset tuition costs. Thank goodness for financial aid!

I volunteered Angela to be a guest on a podcast and somehow then got persuaded to be on the podcast myself. It was fun and I really enjoyed talking about running and cycling with Diz Runs Radio!

I raced my 2nd mountain bike race of the year. My bike wasn’t shifting right but I got to crew Josh’s first endurance race which was more fun than racing myself!

Josh & I spent a staycation weekend together. We went mountain biking, had a lovely night out in Chesapeake City, and went trail running/hiking at a state park we had never been to before – Susquehanna State Park! It was a great way to end the summer!

I still think that my dogs are the most adorable dogs in the world.

On September 5th, I started grad school. My parents were in Utah visiting Michael so Josh stayed over the night before and took my 1st day of school picture! We also took a selfie together before he left for work. I was officially “a first year”.

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1st day of grad school!

After a very long Twitter hiatus, I decided to tweet once per day until I graduate from grad school. Some days I forget though but I always make it up by combining two days into one tweet….

I participated in a local 9/11 run for the 2nd year in a row. I wore my purple Altra Escalantes and red, white, and blue socks – a colorful combo.

School took over my life and I spent less and less time running and riding and a lot more time sitting and studying.

The Flyers hired Gritty. I still have mixed feelings about him….

Josh & I attended Oktoberfest in Delaware for the 3rd year in a row. I am always the DD.

I became more and more grateful for the time that I did get to spend running or biking, even if it was only for 30 minutes every other day.

I raced Shred the Edge – my 3rd and final mountain bike race of 2018. I crashed really hard within the first 1.5 miles. I spent the next 11ish miles in pain and I came in last; however, I did have fun! It was a good day for the local mountain bike race!

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Shred the Edge

The next weekend, I raced my first ever cyclocross race. I finished as the 3rd female and had a lot of fun! I hope that I can do one or two cyclocross races in 2019!

I made two new friends while writing a 26-page group paper on obesity with them! We promised each other brunch for a job well done on our paper.

My car surpassed 300,000 miles.

My family celebrated my cousin’s marriage. There was good wine and good dancing!

My car got flooded out on my commute to school after I drove through a very deep puddle in a jug handle. Classic me. That was an extremely stressful morning but luckily my dad was able to fix it. I only got to class an hour and 15 minutes late…

I attended the AOTA Student Conclave conference in Atlantic City in November. I learned a lot about occupational therapy practice in a variety of settings and with a variety of populations. I really really enjoyed learning about travel therapy! I also got to reconnect with a classmate I attended undergrad with who is also in OT school in Delaware! We got to meet Amy Lamb, the AOTA president, and attend sessions together. The Student Conclave was an awesome experience and I am so grateful that I got to attend both days because I learned so much and fell more in love with the profession.

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Student Conclave

Josh & I attended a Flyers game and tailgated beforehand with good drinks and frisbee. The Flyers lost that game but we had a great date day nonetheless!

I analyzed a video of my dad clicking a computer mouse for far too many hours. That project was the worst!

I celebrated my 5th year of vegetarianism.

On Thanksgiving day, I bundled up in 5 layers and ran 6 miles. Then Josh and I went to dinner at Jess’s with his family and then had dessert at my house with my family. I played Bananagrams with my cousin.

Classes got very stressful, but by one project at a time, assignments were being crossed off the list.

I made more OT friends.

I twisted my ankle trail running at night. I was very unhappy and my ankle was very swollen.

My mom and I volunteered at a Flyers charity event for military families. We got to meet a lot of Flyers and we helped military families celebrate Christmas together!

I was given my Level I Fieldwork placement for the spring semester. I will be in a school-based setting.

I survived finals week without becoming too sleep-deprived. Study groups kept me sane and I made more friends in the process!

Part of my class celebrated the end of our first semester by having brunch (the promised brunch from the obesity paper group) at IHOP. It was nice to bond with classmates outside of the classroom and to celebrate surviving our first semester of grad school together!

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IHOP with friends

School ended and I felt free to run and bike whenever I desired! It has been the best feeling ever to run guilt-free!

Josh & I went on a Christmas light run together through his town.

I organized a Santa run through Sneakers & Spokes. It was a success because 58 people went running festively through Woodstown and everyone had a fun time!

I supported local businesses while shopping for Christmas gifts. 85% of my gifts came from local businesses which I am super proud of!

My family cut down our Christmas tree from the front yard.

I got a new bike for Christmas and I love it!

I got to reunite with friends from high school while they were back in NJ for Christmas.

Angela came back to NJ from Colorado so we got to run together!

I initiated a shoe recycling program for retired shoes as a fundraiser for the local mountain bike team. I’m excited about this because I feel guilty throwing my retired running shoes out. I’m glad that my collection of shoes can have a second home now.

I got to ride my new bike at Fair Hill with Josh!

Running Stats of 2018:

  • Total Miles: 1,064 miles
  • Highest monthly mileage: March (136.1 miles)
  • Five trail races – Brandywine 12k, Sasquatch 5k, Lums Pond 12k, Wetlands 10k, Big Elk Half-Marathon
  • One road race – Pitman 4 Miler
  • Shoes worn: Altra Escalantes, Altra Superiors
  • States I ran in (5 total) – New Jersey, Delaware, Maryland, Colorado, Utah

Biking Stats of 2018:

  • Total Miles: 1,257.9 miles
  • Highest monthly mountain bike mileage: August (76.3 miles)
  • Highest monthly road bike mileage: June (248.4 miles)
  • Highest monthly combined mileage: June (324.1 miles)
  • Highest weekly cycling mileage: 105.2 miles
  • Total Road Bike Miles: 832.7 miles
  • Total Mountain Bike Miles: 425.2 miles
  • Mountain bike races (3) – Fair Hill Classic, Big Elk, Shred the Edge
  • 1 cyclocross race – Salem County Witching Hour

2018 brought fewer running miles but more cycling miles. All these woman-powered miles make me excited for 2019’s miles. Running & cycling were not prioritized once grad school began, but I am determined to integrate running/cycling into my daily & weekly routine once my spring semester begins because these activities are important to me.

These statistics are merely numbers. These numbers were oftentimes accumulated side-by-side or stride-for-stride with others. For that, I am grateful. The running & cycling community I am a part of has grown immensely in 2018 and I hope that it continues to expand in 2019.

I am proud of my race performances this year and I hope that I can compete in both running and mountain bike (and cyclocross?) races in the upcoming new year. With my dependable Altras, my loyal Fuji Finest, and my new Rocky Mountain Thunderbolt I am motivated to put forth solid training and determined racing.

This year has been full of amazing experiences and fresh starts. I am grateful for all the opportunities that have been given to me this year which makes it somewhat difficult to put 2018 to rest.

However, I know that 2019 brings me one year closer to achieving my goal of becoming an OT. I know that 2019 will bring me stronger friendships. I know that 2019 will bring me adventures on my own two feet and while balanced on two wheels. I know that 2019 will be a year of great challenge yet great victories. I am excited to see what 2019 will bring and how I will become a stronger, more determined person.

I am thankful for all of what 2018 has given me. I am excited for what 2019 will become.

In good health….happy new year, everyone!

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OT Chronicles Chapter 8: First Semester

OT Chronicles Chapter 8: First Semester

Winter break has arrived!  In retrospect, the first semester of grad school was a whirlwind.  It FLEW by, just like we were told it would.  I’m not quite sure how to begin this post or how to dive into reflecting on my first semester because there was so much, yet so little, jammed into three months…

I feel like September and October were the awkward months for my cohort.  We didn’t really know each other and we were all trying adjust to the new demands and stressors of grad school.  I know personally that I felt like I was kind of just doing my own thing.

Doing my own thing was fine until we got assigned a bunch of different group projects. At one point in time, I remember being on five different Google docs with five different groups of varying size.  It was extremely difficult trying to keep track of who was in which group and when due dates were for each project.  This is where I began to fully depend on my planner for EVERYTHING.  If it wasn’t written down, there was a good chance I would forget to do it.  My planner organized my life!

One by one, projects were submitted and crossed off the to-do list.  Each project came with its own personal bundle of stress.  The Colombia project still makes my blood boil.  Don’t even get me started on the Lifespan Task Analysis project!  I never ever ever want to spend hours trying to analyze someone clicking a computer mouse ever again.  Never.  On a brighter note, I enjoyed our health literacy project and occupational profile project.  Those were manageable.

The exams required dedicated studying.  Even though I often went into each exam nervous, I always left feeling confident…. except that time I got a 78% on a group process exam because half the material on the exam we never even covered.  That time I was pissed.

By November and the beginning of December, I had found my niche of friends.  United spontaneously by a 28-page paper on obesity, I can truly call Michelle and Jess my confidants.  Becoming friends with them opened up another door to become friends with friends they were friends with (so much usage of the word “friends” in one sentence). Finals week we were gathering for study groups, just trying to survive together.  On our last day of our first semester a group of us went out to IHOP to celebrate!

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The hardest transition for me to make wasn’t the 55 minute commute to/from school everyday (although the morning my car got flooded out by a puddle I drove through was one of the most stressful mornings of my semester).  The hardest transition for me to make wasn’t the “lack of sleep” (pretty sure the littlest amount of sleep I got all semester was 7 hours because I am a nervous wreck as a sleepy driver).

There have been three really hard transitions for me to make since starting grad school.  The first two are sitting for long durations of time and sacrificing a normal running routine.  My core, back, and leg muscles have atrophied.  This is due to sitting for 85% of the day (between studying, 4+ hour classes, and driving 2 hours/day) and not having time to get out for runs to move those muscles.  These two things have crushed me time and time again the past 3 months.  My back hurts all the time.  I don’t feel confident in my body like I did before. My ankles are weak (hence why I sprained my ankle a few weeks ago).  I miss running so very much.  I am working on coming up with solutions to these two challenges so that I can strengthen my back/core/ankles and maintain my sanity through running.  It’s just been a really challenging transition for me to make.

The third difficult transition has been sacrificing time with Josh & my family.  I used to be able to consistently spend the weekends with Josh spending time together or going out for runs/mountain bike rides.  With an excessive academic workload, I’ve sacrificed part of my weekends to study rather than spend time with loved ones.  I’ve politely declined invitations for socializing with others.  I’ve tried to balance socialization as much as possible by allotting at least one day each week to spending time with loved ones and that has helped keep my mind fresh and my stress in control.  There’s just days that I miss not having schoolwork always lurking in the back of my mind.  Days like that will pass though – these sacrifices are temporary and my support system knows that I just need to push through these next two years until I graduate.

This semester was primarily foundational classes that have prepared us for the next three academic semesters.  I finished my first semester with 4 A’s and an A-.  To say I’m ecstatic would be an understatement. I am proud of myself and my success proves that all my hard work paid off this semester.

Next semester we will be immersed in pediatric classes, my Level I fieldwork placement in a pediatric setting and…… *insert dramatic drumroll here*.. neuroscience.  Oh boy!

I am looking forward to enjoying this much deserved and hard-earned winter break before starting the daily grind again.  But for now, I will enjoy time with Josh, friends, and family, stress-free & guilt-free running, and maybe a few glasses of wine. Cheers to the first semester!

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.

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.

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!