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Saturday, April 1, 2017

The Back Up Plan: What to do if You Don't Get into OT School

A few weeks ago I helped with interviews for the University of Utah’s OT program. It was really fun getting to talk to a bunch of future OTs and see how excited they are for their future careers. I can still identify with the nerves, excitement, and anxiety of interviewing for graduate school. Acceptances will be likely be sent out soon--or maybe they already have been--I have no idea! Either way, I wanted to provide some options for applicants to boost their applications in case they don’t get in this year.

Before I make some recommendations, I want to convey some great advice that I received when I applied. Not getting into OT school does not mean you won’t be an OT, or that you wouldn’t be a good OT. If this is what you love, then apply again. Honestly, I think the majority of my class consisted of reapplicants. It’s much more common than I initially thought. So, if it doesn’t work out for you this year, look at some opportunities to expand your knowledge and experience in OT. There is SO much you can do, I feel like I discover a new OT avenue all the time.

  1. Work at a rehab aid. Ignorantly, I thought you needed a special license, or certification to work in a clinic. Nope, I was wrong. All you need is a high school education and you can work as a rehab aid. Working in a clinic gives you an idea of the daily roles and responsibilities as a therapist. Now, you probably won’t get as much direct engagement between OT and patient during your observation hours, but you’ll still gain a more comprehensive understanding of how a clinic works. You’ll be more hands on for setting up evaluations, and treatments. Plus, it could get you a really great letter of recommendation if you play your cards right.

Personally, I would recommend the University of Utah Life Skills Clinic. The Life Skills Clinic is affiliated with the Department of Occupational and Recreational Therapies. OT students have a few classes in the clinic, and we frequently see clients there. Once again, this gives good exposure to clinic culture and direct access to some faculty and OT students.

  1. Volunteer for UFIT. If you are local to SLC, I would recommend volunteering for an organization that works with people with disabilities. UFIT is a service provided through the University of Utah. It’s a health and fitness program for children ages 3-18 with special needs. What I like about UFIT is that the program focuses on developing motor skills, social skills, and self-esteem by participating in fun activities. They are always looking for volunteers and provide a great service for the SLC community. Once again, this gives future OTs the opportunity to work with individuals with special needs. I also think UFIT embodies a lot of OT philosophies by promoting engagement, health and wellness, and socialization.

  1. The TRAILS program: This is another awesome U of U program (go Utes!)  that focuses on promoting health and fitness for individuals with spinal cord injuries. TRAILS provides adaptive exercise equipment that allows people with SCI to hand cycle, kayak, sail, target shoot, downhill ski, cross country ski, swim, and play wheelchair tennis. TRAILS embodies so many OT principles, such as adaptation, modification, participation, and community engagement.

  1. Voluntary research with an OT professor. The faculty could always use a hand for their research, and you don’t need to be an expert. To be a competent research aid, you need to be interested in the project, and willing to learn. If you go this route, take initiative. Take the opportunity to self-teach and work hard. Being a good research aid can give you amazing experience, and give you a step up for when you’re conducting research in your second year.

Friday, March 31, 2017

AOTA 2017

 (One) life OT goal is met. I attended my first AOTA conference, and it was the 100 year celebration of OT, and it was in Philadelphia. So many firsts for me. First conference, first time being on the East coast, first time seeing some OTs who dedicated their careers to improve the practice that I love. I was split on the decision to go, it’s time away from school, and a decent chunk of money.

I regret nothing. This is an amazing experience. It’s enlightening to see the revolutionary approaches practitioners are taking to expand the field of OT. The quantity and quality of sessions have exceeded my expectations. If I sound a little jazzed, it’s because I’m writing off of post-OT Centennial Bash hype.

I’m planning on writing a summary of my experience. For a quick snapshot, I’ve sat in on sessions about OT’s involvement in women’s health and health care, work with military and veterans, integrating OT in prison settings, sex and intimacy, ALS, and Dementia.

In short, I feel so honored to be a part of this profession. I love being surrounded by other students and practitioners who are equally as fascinated and excited about this celebration. I also am deeply humbled by the OTs before me. I so believe in this profession. The work we do with our clients, and the special bond that develops betweens clients and practitioners is extraordinary.

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Let Me Be Brief

Does anyone else feel like the more education you receive the more you realize you know nothing?

There is so much knowledge, so many things I haven’t learned, need to know, and want to know. Sometimes, I wish I did not need to sleep, so I could just keep reading. But then I find myself passed out on my bed, books sprawled everywhere with my bedroom lights still on.

Today, I learned how to do a dependent transfer. If anyone doesn’t know what that is, here’s a video.

It was amazing. We had guest speakers with spinal cord injuries who let us literally pick them up, make mistakes, and helped us learn. Today, I picked up a man who weighed way more than me, put him over my shoulder, and placed him in his wheelchair. It was awesome. I felt strong, I felt like I had learned something new. I gained a new skill.

Recently, I’ve been struggling to stay motivated. Today helped bring that spark back.

Now, I’ve got some reading to do.

Friday, January 13, 2017

Final Thoughts on Fall 2016

I finally feel okay to talk about last semester. Every time I sat down to write, I just could not do it. I had a pit in my stomach, and just did not feel good about anything. I do not want to fabricate, or write anything I do not believe. I also wanted to forget everything that had happened over the past four months.

Last semester pushed me down, and then gave a swift kick to the core. It was hard. It made me question almost every decision I’ve made. It made me lose track of the days and weeks. It loaded on more work then I thought I could possibly handle. I was frustrated, confused, and uncertain if I would ever figure out what the hell was going on. I still feel exhausted thinking about it.

But yes, I did learn a lot. I have a better understanding of the therapeutic process. I understand more thoroughly the relationship between theory, evaluation, treatment, and discharge. The roles and responsibilities of my field are much more distinct. I feel more comfortable working with clients and other healthcare professionals. I have a better understanding of what I am talking about, and how to help people. My professional identity has improved a lot, and I take pride in that.

Although my academic knowledge has enhanced, I think my largest take-away from last semester is learning and seeing what I can endure. I know I have written in previous posts and stated “this is the hardest I have ever worked”, but you guys, last semester was the hardest I ever worked. Part of me is terrified to write this, because I still have two academic semesters left, and at this point anything could happen. Looking back, I actually don’t know how I did it.

You learn a lot in graduate school, but this past year I have learned the most about myself. I feel like I have my place, in my program, and in my class. First year, I felt like I constantly had to prove that I deserved to be here. I wanted to show my worth, prove to everyone that I earned my slot. It’s the classic freshman condition, and I think it’s a pretty typical feeling (I think). I feel more comfortable and confident, not that I know what I’m doing, but that I will figure it out. My sense of ability, adaptability, and self-efficacy has improved. My nerves about performing perfectly is slowly slipping away. I am okay with saying “I don’t know, let me figure out”.

Thus far, that phrase has served me well. Let’s hope it’s consistent for my first level 2 fieldwork.

Thursday, August 18, 2016

Summer School Lovin'

Gardening for Creative Occupations
I’ve finally decided to write about summer classes. Not going to lie, I didn’t have the drive to write about it before. It had left a bad taste in my mouth after everything that happened to my mom. But, I’m feeling more positive about it and want to share summer school experiences with you.

Summer classes can be a huge drag. I have taken many summer courses before and to say they can be a bit painful is a gross understatement. Fortunately, our professors at the U of U are very sympathetic to our restless summer selves. They work really hard to keep everyone engaged and on track. Classes are broken down two mini semesters, each lasting three weeks. Each mini semester has two classes, which cumulatively amount to six hours of class each day, which can make for pretty long days.

First round of classes includes Creative Occupations and an OT theory class. The Creative Occupations class may be the most popular course taught in my program. We get to analyze different occupations and dissect the physical, and cognitive demands of the task. Basically, we got to make bird feeders, quilt, hand sew, do car maintenance, make origami, and make fires-- it’s awesome.

Kentucky Durby Day, because why not?

The OT theory class is well constructed to solidify a lot of the theory we have learned about in OT. It’s pretty intense and my brain was always fried by the end of the day. But Dr. Price does an amazing job implementing different teaching strategies to make theory more digestible. Also, she is always open to comments and feedback--which I always greatly appreciate in a professor!

Frosting cupcakes with low vision goggles 
Second half of the semester consisted of our second seminar two class, where you learn about manual muscle testing, and measuring active and passive range of motion. It feels really good to be more hands on. Also, you get to learn about transfers, which are a lot easier than you’d think. Finally, we have an aging and wellness class. There is a lot of reading attached to this class, but it’s all really interesting to anyone who loves health and wellness (which should be everyone in OT). There is a large project for this class, where you develop a wellness program outlined by the objectives for Healthy People 2020.
Learning about car mechanics like a boss
Summer school has come to a close, and summer vacation has been so so welcomed. Although school is still school, regardless of how you wrap it, classes were pretty fun. Also, we got to celebrate the completion of our first year in OT school! We still have two years ahead of us, but every step counts. Classes for the fall start again Monday (can you see how much I’ve procrastinated this post??). Needless to say, I’m really looking forward to being with my classmates again.

Onto a new chapter.


Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Back to School Bucket List

Where did summer go? There are only a few short weeks until I’m back on the school grind. I’m a little torn between being very excited, and also anticipating how crazy this semester is going to be. One of the differences I’ve noticed between year one and year two of OT school is how the newby nerves have calmed down. I was so excited and nervous to start grad school, this time around I feel a lot more relaxed and prepared.

As much as I love school, it’s important to forget about it for a while. After summer semester there is a lovely six week break between summer and fall. It has been amazing. I’ve been able to forget about classes, responsibilities, and studying. However, fall classes are right around the corner, so I decided to put together a bucket/getting-ready-for-fall list.

  1. Go somewhere new. Getting out of Salt Lake for a few weeks always helps me push the refresh button. There is something thrilling about seeing a new piece of the world. Whether that’s in your home state, or on the other side of the country. Get outside and experience something different. Travel, whether it’s for a few weeks or a few days. Just go do something! I went on a mini camping trip to Bear Lake with my roommate. We had an amazing time exploring, swimming, and improvising our adventure. I think being uncomfortable in new situations is very healthy. It pushes you to do something different and be more independent. Also, I got to use my fire building skills that I learned during Summer semester, so double bonus.
    Bear Lake, UT
  2. Read for the sake of reading. Very rarely as a graduate student you get to select what you want to read. Take the summer as an opportunity to read something NOT related to school. Enjoy every second that the reading you are doing is not a requirement of your program, rather that it’s something you get to do for you. You will never regret the time spent between the pages of a good book. One of the books I read was Furiously Happy by Jenny Lawson. To say it was amazing is an understatement. She is hilarious, witty, and I wish I could write like her.

  1. Spend lots of time with your family and friends. I cannot tell you how many times I’ve sent texts to friends during the semester apologizing for my lack of communication. It’s really hard to balance school and your social life. Granted, you should definitely make time to see your friends and family during the semester--it’s just more of a challenge. During the summer you have a lot more free time, spend it wisely.
  2. Order your textbooks early. I hate getting through the first week of class and not having the required books. We’ve all procrastinated purchasing textbooks at some point--they are expensive and heavy and a little depressing to buy. I typically buy/rent my textbooks through They are usually the cheapest and it’s really nice not having to go to the bookstore. Amazon also allows you to rent textbooks, so if you don’t want to keep your copy at the end of the semester you can send it back for a fraction of buying it. Here’s one of the pediatric books we are using this semester.
  3. Get into a regular gym routine. I have the hardest time maintaining a consistent gym schedule during the semester. I love working out and reap the benefits of getting some serious exercise. But it’s easy to get overwhelmed with school and skip a day or two. Establish a routine before the chaos of the semester sets in, this will help keep you mentally, emotionally, and physically healthy. I like signing up for classes held at the Student Life Center, they are really inexpensive if you attend all the classes and keep me disciplined. During spring semester one of my classmates and I signed up for a TRX class together. It was awesome having a buddy to keep me motivated and accountable. Also, the U of U does a free week for all of their classes the first week of school. That way you can try out all the exercise classes for no cost. It’s a win-win.

All in all, I love the beginning of the year. I get overly excited/nerd out on everything I get to learn. I love what I do, and I love with whom I get to learn. What more can one ask for?

Monday, August 1, 2016

Being On the Other Side of Healthcare

June 12th, I received the worst phone call of my life. My mom was in the ICU having untreatable seizures. Initially, I was not concerned. The hospital was asking about her insurance information, so I assumed the worst was over. This was also not the first time she had experienced a seizure.

Mom has been diagnosed with a seizure disorder for the past seven years. She managed them very well and was seizure-free for nearly five years. The thought of her seizing again was the farthest thing from my mind. And if she did, I thought the seizure was over and she was likely waking up. Initially, the hospital asked for her insurance information (which I didn’t know). I thought since they wanted to healthcare info she was stable and on the mend from the exhaustion that grand mal seizures cause. It took me 30 minutes to be informed that my mom had been seizing for the past hour and was not responding to the medication.

The next 24 hours were a blur of phone calls, tears, and panic. My mom was in another state, my dad was on a trip with shotty cell service, and my brother and I were left trying to figure out what to do. Hours felt like days. Keith and I tried to be patient and wait for the hospital to call us with any information about my mom’s condition-- but in all honesty the hospital was on speed dial. That night was utter chaos. With each hospital personnel we spoke with the diagnoses changed, from seizures, to heart attack, to sepsis. I have never been more scared in my life.

This story has a happy ending. My mom survived. She proved to be a fighter we know her to be. Her neurologist diagnosed and treated her for viral encephalitis in the medial temporal lobe. Encephalitis is insanely rare. The Mayo Clinic reported fewer than 200,000 cases in the US each year--that’s about .06%. She spent five days in the ICU, and was then transferred to the general floor for observation for another three.

Being a student in healthcare has its advantages and disadvantages. Throughout our time in the hospital, I was able to follow mom’s tests and treatments that the doctors prescribed. I was able to identify her progress and learn how to read the machines hooked up to her. However, it also gives you a grave realization of how serious illness can be. Sometimes ignorance is bliss.

Being in healthcare can give you a huge advantage. You get to use your expertise to help someone overcome unfortunate circumstances. You are the expert who knows what’s going on, and hopefully, how to fix it. That is one of the reasons I love this field. However, realizing how little control we have over our bodies is humbling, and also terrifying. Being on the other side, as a patient’s family is a whole other ball game. It’s scary, and uncertain, and vulnerable. Knowing about the body makes you realize how little we know about the body.

So, from being on the receiving end, this is what I advise my friends who will be doctors, nurses, and therapists. I’ve learned a lot through this nightmare. It’s opened my eyes to see what hurts and what helps.

First, check in with patients and their caregivers. Nothing was more comforting than talking with my mom’s nurses and having them explain what was going on, thoroughly. Seeing the staff sit down with us and answer all our questions was so comforting and built a lot of trust with us and the hospital staff. I have nothing but good things to say about all of my mom’s doctors, nurses, and therapists. They were amazing, and let us come and go as we needed. There were many days my dad would get to the hospital at 5 AM for rounds, he was always welcomed.

Second, be honest and straightforward with treatment and prognoses. The nurses and doctors were very open with us about my mom’s progress. They did not shy away from telling us their concerns. Personally, it was reassuring to know they were being straight shooters with their information. They told us when mom was doing better, but also kept us in the loop of other possible concerns. It’s hard to explain the relationships built in this circumstance. But the hospital staff made us feel welcomed, supported, and a vital part of my mom’s recovery. The warmth and compassion I received from the hospital staff is indescribable. They felt like family. They were just as invested in my mom’s recovery as we were. I’ve never experienced so much love and support from complete strangers.

As future healthcare providers, we hold a responsibility to our clients, their families, and ourselves to provide the best care possible. No exceptions, no excuses. I’ve seen the power that a unified team can provide to a patient. It’s life changing, and life saving. This should be the standard we all aspire to reach and maintain throughout our careers. Maintaining humility, compassion, and the desire to help others should be the foundation. We owe it to ourselves, and we owe it to our clients.