Coping with Summertime Blues

It has certainly been awhile since I posted a blog here, I wanted to begin this one by thanking Http://www.feedspot.com for their recommendation in “The Top 75 Occupational Therapy Blogs”, I believe this blog had been placed around number 60, but the free advertising is definitely nice.

If you are a professional who runs a blog for your business or personal ambitions, you can submit it to feedspot and they will give you some free publicity which is a really nice thing thats hard to find nowadays.

I wanted to discuss coping with the quiet summer months today. For an outpatient private practice, the summer months can be some of the most trying. As i sit in my office with only half of my days schedule full, it becomes a challenge to find productive and meaningful ways to spend the time. One of the ways I combat this is to use an online platform like medbridge or Hospital for Special Surgery to read evidenced based articles or learn new techniques to incorporate into my clients routines. Another way I aim to be productive is to blog and share knowledge with others such as I am doing now. If your job allows you that freedom, it is a great way to contribute to your Occupational Therapy or professional community.
I also have been doing a fair amount of logistical work making sure schedules are appropriately maintained for both myself and the PT and trying to promote other residents engagement in OT which can be a trying process that often makes me feel like a marketer rather than an OT.
In the summer months, it can be challenging for an Occupational Therapist due to doctors being on vacation and slow about returning patient plan of cares as well as referring patients to Occupational Therapy.
As we continue to power through the rest of 2019, it is important to maintain our education and expand our horizons to learn new things.
My newest interest is in actually honing in on and increasing my self-worth through continuing education and learning marketing techniques.

One of our fabulous PT employees recommended me to a PT who got tired of the trite systems of conventional therapy careers which encompass schedule overloading, productivity requirements, and developed several of his own platforms. The person I am referring to is a Physical therapist out of Tampa named Greg Todd, and I think his course SSPT (Smart Success Physical Therapy) offers a breath of fresh air as well as a hand to hold to walk anyone (PTs, OTs, Nutritionists, and even the layman) through how to establish a successful business through recommendations of self-help literature, step-by-step walkthroughs of marketing and website making tools, as well as the legalities related to practice. While this course sounds like it was made specifically for Physical Therapists, its skills can be broadly generalized to other fields however, I think the biggest barrier to OT practice is the networking with physicians aspect because we do not have direct access in all or most cases.

I wanted to make Greg Todd more known on this blog because, although I have not contributed anything or begun taking his course, I was fortunate enough to get a preview of it from my co-worker and it is very promising for an entrepreneurial spirit. I feel like its an investment in yourself and I will most likely be investing in the course in the near future when I hone in on what exactly I would like to achieve.
I am currently in the midst of learning and doing many things which is why I did not immediately jump on this opportunity but right now, my goals include getting LSVT certified, and attending OT Hill Day in order to push past my limits and learn more in these realms.

What are you aspiring to accomplish this year?
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A Roadmap for Occupational Therapy Students: Prospectus

My first year practicing as an Occupational Therapist, I have had the pleasure of educating two very motivated and ambitious students.

From their responses, I can gather that they had covered a lot of ground each time they showed up to observe with me in the morning and, judging by their feedback,had learned very much during their experience.

As a professional with only one year of practice under my belt, I always worry- Am I educating these students well enough for them to flourish in their environment? Did I provide enough insight for them to achieve their goals of getting into an Occupational Therapy program and successfully finishing? and, Are the treatments these students observing continuing to be client-centered and occupation based?

With each passing question, I am conflicted. Filled with self-doubt but also filled with joy and motivation and an eagerness to learn, rationalize, and enthusiastically teach these students how I apply the various aspects of “Occupation” into our therapeutic exercise, ADL training and neuromuscular training.

Many of my clientele differ from those of a conventional Occupational Therapist. I do not teach children with sensory and behavioral disorders how to play with others and adapt to various sensory environments, I do not help teenagers and young adults with cerebral palsy and spinal cord injuries learn adaptive techniques to become reintegrated into their communities, I don’t even help individuals suffering from bipolar or schizophrenic disorders gain motivation and learn new habits to cope with their illnesses and live and/or work successfully in their environment.

While all of the above are roles an Occupational Therapist can play, I work with a very niche population. I am the one who works with Agnes, the 93 year old woman who moved to Independent living after her husband passed away to be able to live more safely. Agnes, the 93 year old woman who suffered 2 falls in her home with much difficulty getting up from the floor prior to moving to Independent Living. Agnes, who has a full social calendar consisting of everything from Canasta to jewelry making, to picking up her weekly medications from CVS. Agnes, the 93 year old who is completely independent with maintaining her home, showering, dressing, and grooming herself but who suffers from severe back pain and uses a walker because it makes her feel “safer”.  The population I work with demands a level of attention that is neither too intricate nor too simple. I progress through a typical session with goals similar to a Physical Therapist concerning a clients needs of strengthening and safety with walking. I however, stay true to my profession as an Occupational Therapist explaining to my client why we are walking a specific distance, why we are outdoors negotiating curbs, why we are in the dining area moving and transferring to and from chairs.

All for the sake of remaining functional….

All for the sake of reducing my clients fall risk…

All for the sake of keeping Agnes, the 93 year old woman, safe and independent enough to reach 100 years old if she so chooses to outlive us all.

I work to keep my clients healthy, I work to keep  my clients strong, I work to provide my clients with the compassion, the education, and the peace of mind to go out and do the things that I know they are still able to do without fearing a fall, without being careless and injuring themselves, and without missing a single Yom Kippur, or Christmas, or birth of a grandchild or even great grandchild to continue to share these moments with their families for as long as they choose to thrive.

Live to Thrive

 

-OTGIVESLIFE

Keeping up and Avoiding Compassion Fatigue

An OTs job involves a lot of paperwork and even more compassion for the clients we see everyday. Sometimes productivity demands of companies do not align with our goals or hopes for Occupational Therapy.

When this happens we can be at risk of burnout.

Some of the ways to keep up with tasks within work hours are to try to complete notes using point of care. Meaning, doing notes while seeing a patient. If this is unrealistic for you or your setting, another option is to take a chunk of time during your day to do documentation and charting. Even if you aren’t able to see all your patients or keep up with productivity expectations it’s better to keep up your documentation in a timely and organized manner considering your license is on the line every time you submit a note. It is important to manage tasks appropriately and effectively during your 8-hour shift, however, it is even more important that our clients receive the quality of care that we our taught to provide as individuals who hold the title of Occupational Therapist.

 

Just imagine if this was your first time in a hospital and you met an OT who lacked compassion, provided minimal information, and rushed onto the next room to treat. Imagine how that would make you feel as a client? With this in mind, remember how important it is for us to leave a lasting impact on our clients and ensure we are helping appropriately even if, at first, these clients seem resistant towards engaging in Occupational Therapy.

It is more important to treat 10 clients a day with quality care, then see all 18 while doing the bare minimum to aide them in their recovery. Most medical directors, practitioners and other health professionals also do not always realize the level of intricacy it takes to foster compassionate relationships with our clients using therapeutic use of self and just how pivotal this characteristic is in their recovery. This is what differentiates us, this is the reason we choose this profession and this is the reason our clients leave us so grateful and fulfilled.

 

Compassion fatigue is hard to avoid but if we choose our workload carefully and try not to run ourselves ragged to achieve productivity demands, we can hope to maintain a more balanced work-life.

The Road so Far…

I wanted to share the continued journey so far from graduating my Occupational Therapy program to working full-time.

I have been working at my current job in outpatient geriatrics for almost 1 year, but July will make exactly 1 year working full-time. I really love my job and current position and I will explain why:

1. I get to make my own treatments and am really able to tailor them to my clients’ needs. (One day, I may help a client make their bed and put away their laundry; another day, I may be at a clients house baking cookies from scratch!)

2. I really love to continue using my therapeutic self to relate to patients and its so beautiful to see wonderful friendships unfold with clients and most importantly help them maintain their mental well being while simultaneously working on physical tasks and independence.

3. I have a lot of ambition within my current position. I am a solo OT and new grad which can be a dangerous combination but I do try my best to educate myself and seek out consult as needed. I have gotten the privilege of having 2 student observers who remind me of the steps I went through to get into Occupational Therapy school and the hard work required.

4. I am grateful for the opportunities work and my company have granted me. I recently achieved one of my dreams of vacationing to Tokyo, Japan and upon returning, have garnered more ambition to continue my journey to help others and lead a fulfilling life myself.

Some of the cons related to working in my particular setting and outpatient include:

1. The lack of complex diagnoses. Most clients I see are commonly referred for age related debility which is a fancy couple of words for “old age” meaning, I’m typically treating individuals who need therapeutic exercise as well as safety training for independence with community mobility outdoors. This leaves little room for performing occupation based treatment especially when clients are already anticipating going for “exercise” only.

2. I continue to question our scope of practice; There is very little you learn about in school relating in specifics to an occupational therapists scope of practice. That being said, it’s very easy to get caught up in doing monotonous routine exercises and gait training which is all too similar to a physical therapist. In all honesty there’s really no restriction on the things an occupational therapist can do. The real restriction comes into place when occupational therapist are trying to differentiate themselves from a physical therapist based on their treatment modalities. having said that, it’s important that we don’t lose our identity as a profession therefore I always try to explain to my clients why we do the things we do during our sessions and if they are not directly completing an activity (usually because of space confines), I try to relate it back to an occupation they might do in their home (for instance when I have a patient completing rowing exercises with their arm, I tell the patient pretend you’re pulling open your front door or a refrigerator door because this is the same movement that’s required to do those things) Believe it or not, the way you frame an activity can do a lot to change a persons motivation to perform it; Perceiving is believing, after all.

3. The beginning of a session is still sometimes the hardest barrier to overcome. I am always wondering if i did enough to evaluate a patient, if there’s anything I could’ve done better? Or if I took enough quantitative measurements to justify treatments (I’m not much for goniometrics). I also question the validity of functional tests in many cases because I don’t feel like my clients and their needs typically fit the box that functional tests make them out to need to achieve. For example, the Lower Extremity Functional Scale asks a geriatric client if they could run as well as hop. 2 questions I wouldn’t dare expect my geriatric clients to do just out of sheer concern for their high incidence of falls and risk of injury.

4. Doctors in my area don’t understand an Occupational Therapists scope of practice in an outpatient setting which limits the amount of OT prescriptions and referrals we get. I feel that there is an continual uphill battle to get physicians to understand what an OT does and why a client may benefit from OT. We are basically the “Every man”, the “golden boy” of health professions because our practice is so vast it hones the skills of speech, physical, and activity therapists as well as psychologists and behavioral therapists and allows us to do so much that medical professionals can’t quite conceptualize what exactly we do at all. For this reason among others, I try my best to educate my fellow physical therapist and office staff of just how to educate medical staff, coordinators, and physicians as well as request referrals appropriately.

With all of these things at the forefront of my mind, I continue to count my blessings and be happy to be in a position where I can continue to grow and learn under a supportive boss and community. Compared to other therapy places, I feel that I have wonderful work-life balance, a great inter-professional team, and a fabulous client base.

I will try to continue these posts more regularly and welcome any feedback or comments readers may have.

On the Hunt!

An overdue blog post incoming:

I recently completed my Master of Occupational Therapy Program at NSU, passed my NBCOT, and garnered employment at a facility I can grow with.

While the trek hasnt been easy and has required much persistence and stamina, I can say that seeing the culmination of your own work is highly rewarding and definitely has more pros than cons.

I would like to impart some advice to students and professionals currently undergoing these processes.

  1. When studying for your NBCOT, dont limit yourself to one resource and DONT struggle to study 5 to 6 hours a day if you are not the type of person who has the attention span to do so.
    1. I spent about 5 to 6 days a week studying between 2 to 6 hours a day (it varied based on how i felt). Sometimes I would set aside the books and watch Youtube videos (GREAT resource) or open up my texts (especially Pedretti and Crohn) and peruse chapters. Overall, I studied for about 2 months and 6 days.
    2. I also used the test prep from AOTA and found that many of the answers can be referred back to word for work in our texts and are absolutely relevant to the boards.
    3. The actual test felt more like an endurance run than a test of knowledge, for me, anyways. A good technique i used in the testing center was to sometimes look away from my screen at the wall of the cubicle, take some slow deep breaths and remind myself that “I worked for this!”
    4. If you studied the concepts, even broadly and feel like you have a strong foundation, youre probably fine. Another awesome resource for practice questions I used was a book by Johnson, it was a much older edition written for the old NBCOT but the questions were useful nonetheless and the book was a bargain.
    5. WRITE out study notes, DO NOT type; a little EBP tidbit, science proves writing helps you retain more information than reading alone and/or typing out the information. While I was studying I made TONS of notecards for key concepts I thought i might need. Mostly taken from the TherapyEd book.
  2. When job searching, esp. if you live in an area heavily saturated with Occupational Therapists, PUT YOUR NAME OUT THERE! Dont be afraid to contact a few staffing agencies (not too many or your applications could be voided), apply for positions some distance from home, and reach out to your professional contacts and peers to request using them as a reference.
  3. When creating a resume, list your Fieldwork experience as work experience, include skills, certifications, publications, and professional affiliations 🙂
    1. PRINT your resume on card stock- It makes all the difference!
    2. Create and tailor a cover letter SPECIFIC to the job description you are viewing. Some places pick applicants based on how well these elements matched their job description using a computer program to weed out applicants.
  4. When interviewing
    1. Be confident in your abilities, show enthusiasm and initiative to learn and grow; Stand for what you believe is right and if an environment doesn’t feel “great”  when you go on a tour, it probably isnt the place for you.

Food for Thought & Ways to Capitalize on Sensory Preferences in a Resume

Food for Thought

Recently, I was doing some self reflection and thought of what it must be like for a child who experiences sensory overload or who has been diagnosed with autism. Because of recent studies evidencing that sensory processing disorders and some mental health disorders are related to under-pruning and over pruning of neurons in the brain, along with the fact that we know even as adults, the brain has at least some amount of neuroplasticity, would there be a way, to retrain the brain to re-wire neural networks in individuals diagnosed at a younger age? I am not just talking about engaging them in regular occupational therapy sessions as children to help them thrive in a stable environment, but also to continually immerse them in different sensory environments for small amounts of time to see if their threshold for thriving in said environments improves their ability to cope and process the sensory information, in hopes of rewiring some neuronal pathways to help these individuals better tolerate different situations.

Now, we know that every person has different sensory preferences. I for one am slightly sensory avoidant which translates into avoiding certain foods, crowds, and clothing textures for me. It does not impair my ability to function socially within any given environment however, it increases my irritability and agitation depending on how long i am exposed to said stimulus. Thus, for small amounts of time, I can tolerate stimuli I would prefer to avoid. However, with taste and touch being two of the more difficult things to alter, I am unable to ignore the scratch posed by the tag sticking in the back of my shirt, or the crunch of onions when they are mixed into a smooth tomato sauce or soup. Contrarily to my sensory profile results, I do not at all avoid physical human contact, in fact, I actively seek it out, thus the sensory profile is useful to a point but may not be fully reliable. When a person is analyzed on a deeper level it can definitely represent some preferences in all individuals.

 

The theory that intermittent prolonged exposure may alter a persons receptivity towards certain sensory stimuli would be an interesting theory to test. However, it may not work in all domains of sensation especially those associated with texture, tactile sensation, and proprioception.

 

 

Ways to word Resume/CV qualities in a positive manner

Sensory Seeking Individuals:

  • High energy
  • Hard working
  • Versatile
  • Ability to multi-task
  • Great with spontaneity/spontaneous work tasks
  • Readily available
  • Efficient worker
  • Sociable
  • Works well with verbal step-by-step instructions
  • Learns by doing/engaging
  • Works well with multiple distractions at a time

Sensory Avoiding Individuals:

  • Task oriented
  • Hard working
  • Good listeners
  • Meticulous/Great attention to detail
  • Strategical
  • Thrives on long, drawn out, tasks
  • Works well with written step-by-step instructions
  • Learns through modeling
  • Attentive when called upon
  • Works well in quiet environments (office)
  • Benefits from labels, visual cues, and organization

 

source:

http://www.pediastaff.com/blog/ot-corner-sensory-seekers-and-avoiders-7085

https://www.sensorysmarts.com/sensory_diet_activities.html

http://www.pyramidplus.org/…/SENSORY%20PROCESSING%20DIFFERENCES%20.pptx

 

 

 

Getting into the swing of things~

For my own sake, I would like to begin posting relevant topics and material related to Occupational Therapy on this blog.

Since I began graduate school in May 2015, I have been one of the students struggling to get through my main science courses including Anatomy, Physiology, Kinesiology, and Neuroanatomy.

This week I had finally reached the accomplishment of finishing all my major Occupational Therapy science requirements and am proud to be moving on to the “meat and potatoes” of the OT curriculum!

The past three semesters have taught me a lot about the meaning of Occupation in Occupational Therapy but perhaps, the most profound thing I have learned is that people come from all walks of life with all types of different experiences, fears, dreams, and notions of what gives life meaning.

I feel that the most challenging thing I will encounter during my practicing years ahead relates to being able to bond with clients through understanding and shared experience so that I am able to support, advocate, and motivate them in ways they may not clearly see due to their loss of self be it from injury, psychological, or social trauma.

Every person has something special about them, something that they can contribute to the world and themselves, and the ability to see past their pain and suffering and into a future that has become a “new normal” for them.

As such, it is going to quickly become my life goal to help others live out their life goals in productive and meaningful ways. Most importantly, the effort that goes into getting to know each individual client is what is going to push me forward and help me and others alike to be able to make the seas more navigable for people who have lost sight of their destination.

The one subject I feel I may have the most difficulty dealing with is, the client who does not want to get better, the one who doesn’t see a point and wants to give up on life, give up hope because their illness seems like just too much to cope with. Those are the people I want to help the most, however, I am still having a difficult time working through the kinks of going about how to confront an individual who has lost all hope. Giving them their favorite thing in the world may not even be enough to comfort or make them happy. In that case, I think it is important to encourage them to follow their medication regiment, a normal routine, healthy diet, and adequate engagement in activities of their interest. The meaning of life is not found in the mundane, but found in the tiniest elements of the everyday that remind you to laugh a little, know you are loved, and move forward with determination when things get bad because things can only get better from there.

-OTGIVESLIFE