University of Southern California
University of Southern California
Mrs. T.H. Chan Division of Occupational Science and Occupational Therapy
Mrs. T.H. Chan Division of Occupational Science and Occupational Therapy
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Student Ambassador Blog

Austen

Defining Occupational Therapy

, by Austen

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In class last week, we discussed how 40 years ago occupational therapy struggled to define itself. The boundaries and responsibilities of the occupational therapists were vague, the scope of practice was not clearly delineated, and many did not understand what it was. Unfortunately, we are still in that same situation today. Individual occupational therapists define the profession differently, they practice differently, and as a result, much of the public is unaware we exist.

During our discussion, I immediately started asking myself, why is it that our profession has not been able to find a simple definition? How can we still be stuck in the same situation as decades ago? Have we made no progress in establishing ourselves?

At first, these questions were discouraging. I felt hesitant about my choice to enter a profession that cannot explain itself in a uniform and definite way. I was a little bothered by the fact that I will have to explain what occupational therapy is to most people I encounter. I already struggle with a solid explanation of the profession.

Thinking about it a little longer, I realized that occupational therapy’s lack of a straightforward definition is not necessarily a bad thing. In fact, I think it is a beautiful thing. It is not appropriate for our profession to define ourselves as simply as other professions like accountant, lawyer, or stockbroker. We have the freedom to work in so many different settings with such different populations that the responsibilities, tasks, and skills vary from job to job. It would be limiting to pick a more precise definition of occupational therapy.

My favorite part of occupational therapy is its flexibility. Occupational therapists are able to work anywhere and with anyone. I would much rather have a variety of opportunities available to me at the cost of taking 30 seconds to explain what occupational therapists do. Life is full of sacrifices. Occupational therapy as a profession is worth the struggle of finding a definition because in the end, we know that the opportunities are endless, we will love what we do, and we will be able to change lives.

However, it does not hurt to advocate for our profession and get us further out in the public eye. We still need to educate everyone we talk to, get others involved, and spread our love of occupational therapy. If we show excitement and passion about our profession, it will inspire others. We should not be discouraged by the unawareness and ambiguity that exists, but instead motivated to change it.

Carissa

Exploring LA

, by Carissa

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Being originally from the Bay Area, I have loved exploring and being a tourist in Los Angeles. The next best thing to traveling is finding new local areas to visit. There is so much to do and see.  Here are some of the places I have enjoyed visiting to relax and re-energize myself for school:

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Venice Beach- With the scent of incense blending with the ocean, this eclectic area provides many forms of entertainment.

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Santa Monica Pier- Fabulous area for biking, walking, people watching, and shopping!

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Getty Museum- Place to enjoy art, architecture, and events

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Griffith Park- Perfect place for a hike!

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Big Bear- Just about a 2 hour drive to this great place for skiing, snowboarding, and snow tubing!

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Staples Center/LA Live- Home to amazing concerts and of course, the Lakers! Also, walk around to eat at the delicious restaurants or catch a movie at the nearby theater smile

Love LA!

Austen

A Summer of Surprises

, by Austen

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I was initially uneasy with my first summer fieldwork placement at an inpatient acute rehabilitation floor of a large hospital. I had no idea what to expect as I had no prior fieldwork experience in that setting. I was worried about not liking physical disabilities, not being good at it, and being overwhelmed in a hospital setting.

The inpatient rehab unit I was on was super intense as I had expected, and there were so many things to remember. I worked 4 days a week 10 hour days, arriving in time to see my first patient at 7am, and leaving around 5pm. By the time I got home, I was exhausted from mental, physical, and emotional overload. It was an 18 bed unit, with a large OT and PT gym area, fully equipped kitchen, and lots of activities resources to choose from. I observed the first couple weeks, then started brainstorming treatment ideas, eventually taking on one patient of my own. About half way through the 12 week internship I started treating an entire caseload of 5-6 patients in a day. I was treating on my own, with my clinical instructor either in another room with her own patient or down the hall at our desk. I had an amazing clinical instructor. She was supportive, encouraging, helpful, thorough, patient, and challenging and we got along great. She knew when to push me, she knew when to step in. She was an incredible teacher. I really lucked out.

In the observation phase, I remember watching my clinical instructor help a 380 pound woman diagnosed with “failure to thrive” to the commode, assist with perineal care as the patient was not able to reach, and also bathe every crease of the patient’s body to ensure thorough washing. I was worried about the day I would have to do that myself and I was quick to think a hospital is not a place I want to work later on. Essentially, I was scared to do something I had never done before. Not only was I hesitant about some of the responsibilities of the OT in an acute rehab setting early on, but I was critical of the overall hospital setting as I assumed more hands-on experience. It was pretty stressful and overwhelming from what I experienced, and it was really fast-paced. I was constantly moving, always on my feet, always thinking on the go. I worked up a sweat all day as I was constantly transferring patients, running around collecting items, running errands, etc. I would go home and collapse after a day at work. There was no leftover energy to do much of anything else. 

Then the third to last week of fieldwork arrived. At that time I was treating my own caseload, completing all documentation, and feeling comfortable with my routine. A 10-hour day was still physically and mentally taxing on me, but it was doable. I found a schedule that worked for me, I found a way to manage my patients, I found a way to be organized. And I was having fun! It was at that moment that I could not only look at the checklist of things I had to complete, but I could enjoy being with my patients. I found a way to balance being the health care professional and the cheerleader, the coach and the friend. Something clicked. The last couple weeks were the best ones, because I felt like I knew what I was doing and I saw the difference I was making. My patients would go home saying “Thanks a million,” “I could not have done this without you,” and “I really appreciate all of your help.” That makes it all worth it.

Despite my initial trepidation, working in acute rehab was an amazing experience and I learned a number of lessons. It may seem cliche, but I learned to not always rely on first impressions. After the incident with that obese woman, I dreaded going into that hospital for the first couple weeks, worried about the first day I would have to get my hands dirty. However, once I stepped in and started treating, I never flinched again. I realized that my first impression that working in a hospital was not for me was too quick of a judgement. I sit in the classroom now wishing I was back on that acute rehab unit. My summer experience was way better than I ever thought it would be. I also learned to keep an open mind. Before I started, I told myself I was not going to like it and I was going to be bad at it. Much to my surprise, I loved my fieldwork there, and happened to do a great job! So, just because you think you may not like something or may be bad at it, give it a try anyway and you may surprise yourself like I did.

Pierre

OTAC Conference this year

, by Pierre

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This year was a great year to go! I was able to last Friday and attend 2 interesting seminars. 1- Constraint induced therapy (facilitating use of a persons affected side and limiting the opportunities of the unaffected side) and 2-Zones of regulation (assisting children/adolescents in recognizing the patterns of their behaviors, the triggers, and how to respond with the expected social behavior).

Lots of free goodies, lots of vendors, and a lot of members! It’s great to hear that our state association membership is growing and that our profession is slowly becoming more recognized within the public arena. With so much opportunity in every area of our society and workplace, I can’t wait to graduate and start working. Where am I interested in working? Pediatrics. I will post some blogs to give updates on my part-time fieldwork!

Until then, fight on USC OT!

Yao

OT across the U.S.

, by Yao

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From California to the Midwest OT is everywhere smile

If you’re like me you’ve heard the infamous question “What is OT?” a million and a half times and each time I answer it’s a little different depending on the person I’m talking to in order to make sure it is something meaningful to them so they understand the scope of OT and what occupational therapists really do. This weekend I have the pleasure of going home for a friend’s wedding, back to Packer country (Wisconsin), YAY! I love it out here! Anyways on my flight from LAX to Milwaukee I started talking to the passengers around me about where we were headed and one passenger had made a comment about how UCLA was THE school to go to and USC was just for spoiled children. Well I had to say something! I piped up and politely mentioned that I was a graduate student at USC and I was very proud to go to USC. He asked what I was going for and why I didn’t choose UCLA and my simple answer was that USC was not only a top school in the field number 1 on the West coast and 1-3 Nationally and internationally but UCLA didn’t have a graduate program in occupational therapy. That struck a chord with him as he recently had his knees replaced. And all of a sudden he dove into a story about his occupational therapists, what he knew about the profession and what areas we could practice in. It was like listening to myself talk to someone when they asked “what is occupational therapy?” He was so passionate about how much OT had helped in his recovery and how it was the only therapy that he looked forward to. Then in all seriousness he looks at me and said “My OT was a Trojan and she changed my life” .

My heart immediately melted, I wanted to cry. Then we continued that conversation about where I was and how my studying was going. But hearing that really re-validated my love for our profession even though its a struggle sometimes to explain how OTs can really make a difference it’s all worth it when you hear that you made a difference in at least one person’s life. So even when it feels like we’re fighting an uphill battle getting people exposed to Occupational Therapy and all it has to offer remember that we’re in an amazing profession that really changes lives smile

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