Student Ambassador Blog | Caroline
Nov 21, 2017, by Caroline
It might not be Thanksgiving quite yet, but the Thanksgiving spirit is definitely in the air (can you tell from Bryan and Ali’s posts?). Well, you lucky readers, here comes one more Thanksgiving appreciation blog!
This past weekend was filled with three of my favorite Thanksgiving occupations: food, friends, and football.
On Friday night, I journeyed out to a classmate’s house a couple hours outside LA for an early Thanksgiving with friends. It was truly one of the highlights of my semester. Let me tell you – the air was so fresh and I could see stars in the sky! I’ve definitely gotten used to big city life (and all of its perks) but it was a breath of (literal) fresh air to get out of the city for a night! We had a huge buffet of food, a fire pit, and so many laughs. It was a great chance to get together with friends who aren’t in my cohort and catch up!
On Saturday, I went to the USC vs. UCLA football game. Our OT programs were actually being recognized at the game, so a big group of us got to go onto the field for a photo op before warm ups. Definitely a different view than the one I’m used to from the student section! We were also featured on the screen during the game – how cool right?! After the photo op, I went to the OT and Physical Therapy tailgate (gotta love the interprofessional mixing!) before heading to the game (which we won!!). Go Trojans!
Food, Friends, and Football -it was definitely a fun weekend. “And the last F?” my detail-oriented readers might ask. Family time is coming soon! In fact, I’m writing this from none other than LAX airport waiting to board my flight back home to North Carolina. As I was packing my sweaters and winter clothes and gearing up for colder weather back on the East Coast, I jokingly texted my mom that I’d rather stay in LA for 90 degree Thanksgiving weather. She knew exactly what would convince me to come home – pictures of my dogs that are (almost) as excited for me to come home as my human family. Guess I could add one more F to my list of Thanksgiving words: fluffy pups. Photos of the pups included to increase the cuteness factor of this blog post:
Looking forward to a few days off from school before heading back for the last week of classes and final exams. Happy Thanksgiving to all!
Nov 9, 2017, by Caroline
I must apologize for my long delay in blogging, but I promise I have a good excuse! My favorite part of being a Student Ambassador is speaking with prospective students about Occupational Therapy and our programs at USC. These past few weeks, I’ve been all over the greater LA area presenting at various universities and speaking with prospective students about OT and our programs. When someone asks me about OT, my immediate response is “do you have 2 minutes or 2 hours?” OT is one of my favorite topics of conversation, so the fact that I get to spread the word about OT as my job is simply the best! Believe it or not, when I was applying to OT programs my senior year of college, I didn’t know a single other person interested in or applying to OT. I managed to navigate the process by myself, but I’ve had so much fun visiting Pre-OT clubs and other student organizations at various universities and connecting with students who are as passionate about OT as I am!
We’ve also started doing Admissions Information Sessions virtually as well. We tend to hold about two Information Sessions per month on our campus here in LA, but we want students to be able to get the same information even if they can’t travel out here. I know I would have appreciated that when I was a prospective student! We already have a Virtual Admissions Information Session scheduled for March 29, 2018, so mark your calendars and check out our website for information on how to register.
As always, feel free to reach out to any of the Student Ambassadors by email or leave a comment if you have any specific questions about our experiences or want to follow-up about something we talked about in our blog!
Oct 11, 2017, by Caroline
Whenever I give prospective students a tour of our facilities and classrooms during Information Sessions, the Pediatrics classroom tends to get a lot of “oohs” and “aahs.” Rightfully so! Half of the classroom is filled with colorful things to jump on, climb on, swing on, and crash into, which certainly looks a lot more fun than most classrooms I’ve seen! OTs who work in Pediatrics definitely try to make everything they do with their pediatric clients fun and engaging, and the same can be said for our Pediatrics professors. I spend 9 hours each week in my Pediatrics class, but it’s so much more than a lecture with my professors talking at me the whole time! The course integrates team application activities, case studies, and a lot of exploring and trying out different assessment and intervention approaches.
I’ve already told you about my Fieldwork experience in a school-based setting, but now let me give you a peek into my Pediatrics course!
I don’t have pictures for privacy reasons, but we had the opportunity to interact with children and with parents when learning about doing parent interviews and conducting standardized assessments. As a class, we got to practice interviewing a parent of a child who receives OT services, and he was able to give us feedback about how we did. Additionally, professors bring their children into the lab, so we can look at their primitive reflexes and learn about how to conduct standardized assessments. We learned that it’s a lot harder than it looks, but that it becomes easier as you get more familiar with the assessments.
When learning about different grasps (how we manipulate our fingers and hands to grab objects) our professors brought in some snacks. Grabbing yummy snacks and bringing them to our mouths was definitely an inherently motivating and fun way to review the various types of grasps. I realized that we grab a sunflower seed differently than we grab something bigger like a cheese-it, which is something I hadn’t thought about before. Next time you’re eating a snack, pay attention to how you pick up your food to eat it!
When practicing planning treatments that address different fine motor skills, our professors put random objects on the table and told us to come up with a fine motor skill treatment using those objects on the spot! My group had play-doh and Connect 4, so we decided to hide the Connect 4 pieces inside the play-doh. That way, by manipulating the play-doh, the child is building up strength in the small muscles in their hands. Then, we can address grasp when looking at how they hold the Connect 4 pieces. We also came up with ways to change the activity to make it more challenging and less challenging. It may look simple, but there’s a lot of thought behind each pediatric treatment!
When learning about visuomotor integration (how our vision and perceptual skills work with our fine motor skills to help us interact with our environment efficiently), we got to try out a lot of different games and think about how they could be used in treatment. One of my professors said something that really stuck with me: generally, the children that OTs work with may have a hard time playing a game exactly as it is designed or following the exact direction. This means that it’s the OTs job to adapt the game and make it the right challenge for each child, allowing them to work on certain skills, but feel successful and have fun at the same time. OT treatment with children can often look like play, but there is a lot of work going on at the same time!
When learning about handwriting interventions, we got to explore the Handwriting Without Tears program, which aims to do exactly what the name sounds like! For children who have a hard time learning to write or making their writing legible, working on handwriting in therapy could start to feel boring and like work, so a couple of OTs created the Handwriting Without Tears program to make handwriting intervention more dynamic and fun. Children can practice writing on an etch-a-sketch and chalkboards and can form letters with play doh and wooden blocks. This program uses a multisensory approach and has a lot of different options to make treatment fun and different. I’ve used this program used at my fieldwork site, and the kids definitely enjoy it!
Finally, last week we were learning about Sensory Integration theory and intervention, which was actually developed by A. Jean Ayres, a former OT faculty member here at USC! We learned all about our sensory systems, how they’re supposed to work, what it can look or feel like when they’re not working as they should, and what Sensory Integration can do to help. My professor reminded us that you should always try out an activity yourself before having a child do the activity in therapy, to ensure that it’s the right level of challenge and actually addresses what you want the intervention to address. So, we did exactly that! We explored the lab space and got on different swings and equipment to see what it feels like, how challenging they are, and how our bodies feels afterwards. It was such a fun day!
I’m so appreciative of all of the time and effort my professors put in when planning the course and the time spent in the classroom. I’m definitely a learn-by-doing kind of person, so I love when I get to be hands-on in the classroom. My pediatrics midterm is coming up next week, so I’m definitely starting to reflect on everything I’ve learned this first half of the semester. Wish me luck!
Sep 28, 2017, by Caroline · 1 comment
In my previous blog post I explained how Level I and Level II Fieldwork experiences work in our program at USC, and shared about my previous Fieldwork placements. As promised, this blog is devoted to my current Level I Fieldwork experience!
I am in the Pediatrics Immersion, which means that my Fieldwork is also in a pediatric OT setting. I’ve been placed in a local school district, so I get to see school-based pediatrics. I was really excited when I first got my placement, because I had observed pediatrics before, but not in a school-based setting, so this would be a new experience for me! I spend most of my time at an elementary school, but my Clinical Instructor (CI) and I also go over to a local high school to treat some students there as well.
I just had my 3rd day at my Fieldwork site, and I have already gotten to observe and assist with so many different things! Because my CI has a pretty consistent schedule, I get to see the same kids each week. This allows me to see growth and change in the clients, helps them to become more comfortable with me, and gives me the opportunity to begin planning and leading treatments with them as I become more familiar with them, their goals, and their interests.
The elementary school where I’m placed has a pretty unique setup, because my CI has an awesome OT clinic room all to himself – mats, obstacle course, swings, and all! With all of the materials and resources, there are so many possibilities for treatment and intervention, which is so exciting!
A Typical Morning at my School-Based Fieldwork Site:
8:15 – Arrive, plan for the clients that day, prepare any materials needed.
9:00-9:30 – Pull a client out of class for an individual OT session. We used play-doh to work on hand strength, bilateral coordination (using both hands at the same time in a controlled manner), and pre-writing (by using the play-doh to spell out the client’s name).
9:30-10:00 – Pull another client out of class for an individual OT session. We used a three-step obstacle course in the clinic room to work on gross motor control (coordinating the large parts of your body, like legs, arms, and trunk to move) and task sequencing (progressing smoothly through a multi-step activity).
10:00-10:30 – Time for documentation and planning.
10:30-11:30 – We run an OT and Speech group with one of the Special Ed classrooms. We led the students through a song with choreographed dance moves (jumping, running in place, spinning) and then completed a craft activity based on the song that worked on fine motor skills (activities that require the use of the smaller body parts, such as the hands and fingers) like handwriting, cutting, coloring, tearing paper, and squeezing glue.
11:30-12:00 – Time for documentation and planning.
12:00-12:30 – Lunchtime (in the teacher’s lounge! It’s definitely not as mysterious as my elementary-school aged self thought it was ).
The mornings are pretty consistent, but the afternoons have a little bit more variability. Sometimes, we have meetings with parents and the rest of the team at school (Speech Therapists, Teachers, Psychologists, etc.) to address concerns or for an annual Individualized Education Program (IEP) meeting. At these meetings, it’s really cool to see the inter-disciplinary team working together to best support the individual child in the school environment. Other afternoons, we’ll go over to the nearby high school and work with some of the clients over there. I’ve enjoyed getting to see what school-based OT looks like for elementary-school aged children compared to high school students.
I’ve only had 3 days of Fieldwork, but I’m seeing individual clinic sessions with elementary and high-school aged students, group sessions, IEP and parent meetings, and more! My CI is also very open to me jumping in, taking charge, and planning and implementing some sessions with the kids. As I continue to learn more in my pediatrics class and am exposed to more at Fieldwork, I expect I’ll get more and more comfortable taking on more responsibility at Fieldwork!
My full week of fieldwork is coming up in a couple of weeks, so I’m looking forward to seeing even more clients! If you’ve observed OT in a school-based setting or have any questions about my experience, leave a comment below!
Sep 14, 2017, by Caroline
I can hardly believe it, but this is week 4 of the fall semester, which means that all of my classmates and I are starting our Level I Fieldworks this week! In my next blog, I’ll tell you all about my first couple days of Level I Fieldwork in Pediatrics. Before I do that, I want to use this blog post to give an overview of fieldwork in general, because many prospective students have a lot of questions about it!
Fieldwork is our chance to go out into the field and see first-hand what we’re reading in our textbooks and learning about in class. In our entry-level Master’s program here at USC, we have Level I and Level II Fieldwork experiences.
Level I Fieldwork is tied in with our 3 immersion courses: Adult Physical Rehabilitation, Mental Health, and Pediatrics. Once per week, instead of going to class on campus, we report to our Fieldwork site for a full day of clinical experience. Then, in the middle of the semester, we get a week off from class and report to our fieldwork all week long. Level I Fieldwork is a great way to get exposure to a particular practice setting, make connections to what we’re learning in class, and develop some clinical and interpersonal skills!
Level II Fieldwork is a more beefed-up, immersive experience than Level I Fieldwork. While Level I Fieldwork occurs in tandem with classes during the fall and spring semesters, Level II Fieldwork is a full-time 12 week clinical experience which takes place during the second and third summers in the program. Level II Fieldwork begins with observation, but as the summer progresses, we are gradually given more responsibility, until the end of the summer, where students usually have their own caseload that they are evaluating, treating, and writing documentation about. At the end of Level II Fieldwork, the goal is to practicing at the level of an entry-level practitioner in that setting.
My first Level I Fieldwork experience last fall was during my Adult Physical Rehabilitation immersion. I was placed at St. Mary Medical Center in Long Beach. At this hospital, my Clinical Instructor (CI) and I evaluated and treated patients on the acute and ICU floors. I had never seen OT in a hospital setting, so managing IV lines, oxygen cannulas, and blood pressure monitors was totally new for me. Also new to me was working with individuals in critical conditions. I was surprised by how much I enjoyed the population and setting! I had a wonderful experience at St. Mary’s, and left feeling more comfortable working with patients in the hospital, and with a better understanding of OT’s role in an acute setting.
The following spring semester, my Level I Mental Health Fieldwork placement was at Gateways Forensic Community Treatment Program. This was an outpatient mental health setting that provided court-mandated services for individuals following release from prison or inpatient mental facilities. I had a lot of autonomy at this site: I got to lead groups and facilitate one-to-one OT sessions with my own caseload. Erika wrote a whole blog about embracing fieldwork sites without an OT as your CI, and I couldn’t agree with her more! I had a lot of responsibility, but I think this push was exactly what I needed to gain confidence in myself, my knowledge, and my therapeutic use of self. I was also totally unfamiliar with OT’s role in Mental Health prior to that semester, but I definitely saw the value of occupation and OT’s approach for the individuals I was working with.
Then came summer, where I had my first 12-week Level II Fieldwork experience. I was placed at St. Barnabas Senior Services (SBSS), a center for community-dwelling older adults. This site fell into the category of primary care and health promotion and wellness. My fellow-classmates and I were the first students to have our Level II Fieldwork at this site, so it was up to us to do a needs assessment, market our services, and establish OT’s presence at the site. While that’s hard to accomplish in the span of 12 weeks, we did establish new groups (allowing seniors to engage in new occupations), met with individual clients (that we recruited ourselves!), and led health education and literacy presentations (I provided education on fall prevention and diabetes management). A lot of things about my summer were challenging, given the nature of the site, but I definitely grew as a person and as a future OT. I enhanced my Spanish skills (75% of the time I was speaking with the older adults, it was in Spanish), learned about program development, gained familiarity with common chronic conditions commonly experienced by older adults, sharpened my clinical observation and reasoning skills, and practiced with different evaluation tools and practice models. I wasn’t sure how I felt about working with older adults at the beginning of the summer, but I could definitely see myself working with older adults in the future!
So now I have one more Level I Fieldwork placement left, this time in Pediatrics, and then one more Level II placement next summer. As I said before, my problem (albeit a “good problem”) is that I haven’t yet found a population that I didn’t enjoy working with. I love OT because it allows me to connect with a diverse range of individuals, meet them where they are, and help them work towards getting to where they want to be. In class, we talk about how to do that, and we simulate that with case applications. Fieldwork, though, is my chance to really apply that and have a hands-on learning experience. How valuable that is!
Now that you’ve heard about my prior fieldwork experiences, stay tuned for my next blog, where I’ll tell you how my Level I pediatrics fieldwork has been going so far!