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 | Erika

Erika

I Can’t Sleep! What Do I Do?!

, by Erika

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You ever have a night where no matter how hard you try, you can’t sleep? A few weeks ago, I had one of those nights. My head was spinning a million miles an hour and any time I tried to relax, breathe, or picture myself on a tranquil beach, my mind just zoomed elsewhere and spun a million miles an hour at the next place it ended up! It was complete, and utter, torture.

Each night, whether it’s spawned from stress, depression, anxiety, diet, or physical conditions, millions of people struggle to stay asleep or fall asleep in America. MILLIONS! After my one interminable night, I can’t even imagine how people experience this as a nightly occurrence and somehow function the next day.

So of course, as an OT student would, I took account of my sleep hygiene for that evening. From assessing my memory of the day/night, it went like this:

9:00a - 5:00p: Last day of fieldwork! It was an incredibly busy day seeing patients, saying goodbye to patients, coworkers and CIs. While it was busy, it was full of adrenaline. I came out of fieldwork feeling very energetic!
6:00p: Went home, changed for yoga, drank some iced green tea.
7:15p: Yoga Class
8:30p: Visited a friend and had dinner.
10:30p: Watched an episode of “Stranger Things” S2 with my roommates.
12:00a: In bed, on my phone before bed (like a good Millennial).
4:00a: Tossing and turning in bed, completely awake.
6:30a: Finally fell asleep.
7:30a: Alarm clock rings! -__-

After learning about sleep hygiene and points of consideration that can affect sleep in our OT534: Health Promotion and Wellness class, there are a few things I would have done differently in order to potentially gain restful sleep.

1. Avoid caffeine after 3p. I truly believe the iced green tea was a main culprit in keeping me awake till the whee hours of the morning. It was only half a glass! So lethal!

2. Wind down. While Stranger Things S2 is SO HARD NOT TO BINGE, it wasn’t the best way to wind down before bed. Episode 4 made my energy and excitement rise up to my eyebrows that it took time for my heart, brain, and body to relax. For the future, knowing that STS2 is hella thrilling, perhaps I will make it a point to start watching it earlier in the night and avoid watching it right before bed!

3. Reduce phone activity before bed. As many people know, blue light (from your phone or laptop) stimulates your body similarly to it’s response to daylight and thus, can wake your body up more then prepare it for sleep. Therefore, it’s encouraged to either adjust your phone settings to night time mode and make sure to reduce the amount of phone time prior to going to sleep.

4. Don’t lie in bed awake. A good rule of thumb is that if you are awake in bed for more than 15-20 minutes, get up and do something. Refrain from highly stimulating activities like television or looking at your phone and try reading a boring book or magazine. Alternative activities can include stretching, breathing, or even utilizing a relaxation app like “Sleep Pillow Sounds” or “Sleep Time”.

Erika

Keeping that Thanksgiving Train Going - Choo Choooooo!

, by Erika

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Jumping off of Ali’s lovely post on what she is thankful for this Thanksgiving season, I have equally been reflecting upon the last semester and the various opportunities and encounters I have experienced. While this list is by no means a complete list of what I am grateful for this season, I thought that I would limit this post to a couple things that come to mind:

1. I’m thankful for my group members!  I am taking two courses this semester that rely heavily on team based work- OT501: Adult Physical Rehabilitation and OT537: Occupation-Centered Programs for the Community. For both courses, our groups are set from the beginning and we work very closely throughout the entire semester. As most people know, team dynamics can typically be a gamble, but after 14 weeks together, I can honestly say, I won the JACKPOT. In both groups, every single person is inherently unique, willing to contribute, have supportive and kind hearts (surprise surprise, they’ve all chosen to pursue OT), and can laugh and joke like no one’s business. The best part of it all is that I didn’t know most of them that well going into the semester but they feel like family coming out. I am truly grateful for these beautiful people and for having the opportunity to get to know each of them better individually. They’ve brought me so much joy! Love you fams.

2. I’m thankful for Adult Rehab! Like many incoming students to this program, I came in having a “good understanding” of what/where I wanted to practice. I was set on working in mental health. While that focus has not entirely shifted, I will say my interest has broadened now that I’ve learned more about occupational therapy, the various practice areas and populations they serve, as well as learning more about yourself and how I can best serve as an OT. I’m more than half way through my semester in Adult Rehab and I have to say, I never expected to be so curious and engaged in the subject matter. I had never been a physical or biological sciences enthusiast so all this content was a bit intimidating and foreign to me but with every week, my eyes have gotten bigger and my ears have perked up higher. Additionally, I was assigned to a really great Level I fieldwork placement at a Skilled Nursing Facility. My fieldwork educator was committed to ensuring that everything I was learning in the classroom, as long as it was available, I had the opportunity to see it in practice. With that said, I am grateful that every day in this program has the power to surprise you, debunk any assumptions you have going into the program, and potentially shine a light on a part of yourself or interests that you may have not ever considered.

Wishing you all a great Thanksgiving!

 

Erika

USC’s Student Run Clinic: Providing Care to the Underserved in Skid Row

, by Erika

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One of my top 3 enriching experiences in this program didn’t take place in the classroom and wasn’t at fieldwork. It was in a men’s shelter located in the middle of Los Angeles’ Skid Row. It was here where I met Ben*, a man who was living at the shelter that came to see us at the Student Run Clinic because he was complaining about itchiness on the bottom of his feet.

Hold up, what is Student Run Clinic?

Student Run Clinic is a student run organization that provides comprehensive healthcare to the homeless, chronically ill, and underserved populations in Skid Row. We work in an interprofessional team alongside students from USC’s Medicine, Physician Assistant, and Pharmacy programs operating two clinics monthly - one at John Welles CH (JWCH), a Federally Qualified Health Center (FQHC) one Saturday morning a month as well as a mobile clinic that operates out of a men’s shelter on one Tuesday evening a month.

Gotcha, back to Ben.

Ben came to see us on a Tuesday evening in which we set up shop in the men’s shelter he was staying at. As part of the clinic protocol and as the OT student, I was the first to greet Ben and introduce him to what he was going to experience throughout the course of the night. I then gathered his social history - asking him questions about life before living in the shelter, how he occupies his time during the day, if he has plans for what’s next, who his support system is, what his current employment status or past employment history is, etc. We got to talking and because clinic was running a little slow, I had time to chat him up more than usual.

Ben was a biking barber. He spent his days making money cutting hair biking across Downtown Los Angeles and was proud of it. A couple weeks before I met him, he had traveled to a bike race in Northern California and during that time, his landlord rented out the apartment he was living in without telling him leaving him homeless when he came back to Los Angeles. Thus, his current situation of living in the shelter. Despite these setbacks, Ben was upbeat in demeanor - honoring the hustle, doing what he can do to work as much as he can, confident and capable. I really enjoyed meeting him. I asked all my curious questions about being a biking barber and he asked me about being a student. ::knock knock knock:: My time was up.

After I left the room, I briefly summarized what I learned to the team (2 med students, 1 pharm student, and 1 PA student). It was there turn now to go in and ask their questions specific to their specialties. Med and PA took Ben’s vitals and administered the physical exam on his feet. Pharmacy inquired about any current medications he was taking, whether he was satisfied with those medications, if the medications affect the itchiness on his foot, etc. :: knock knock knock:: Their time was up.

While Ben was speaking with the other students, I was busy consulting our faculty preceptor, Dr. Pitts about everything I learned about him to work through the case. She helped me clinically reason through the case and ensure we have all the information we need to inform the team on a potential treatment recommendation. At the time when I met Ben, Dr. Pitts proctored both clinics but now Dr. McIntyre has taken over mobile clinic and Dr. Pitts focuses on Saturday clinics at JWCH. If there’s anything I can be grateful for in volunteering and serving on SRC board, it’s the unwavering guidance and experience of our faculty mentors.

Once all the other students returned from speaking with Ben, we engaged in “the Huddle” - the point in the night where we share all the information we learned about the patient and as a team, create a problems list and potential treatment plan accordingly. Once this was agreed upon, our attending physician, Dr. G, came in to hear us present all of our findings. As an educator and mentor, Dr. G provided us with feedback, constructive criticism on where we may have had some holes in our questioning or evidence, and a cohesive understanding of any next steps.

While Ben was a rather simple case of determining whether he had dry skin or a fungal infection, the experience was so much more than that.

1. I was able to listen to Ben’s story firsthand and gain a tiny ounce of understanding of his experience living in Skid Row.

2. I thought critically in an OT lens and assessed his living conditions, daily occupations, and motivation to inform us about his foot and skin condition and his ability to follow through on treatment.

3. I was able to make new friends in other professions, delve into each others healthcare lens, and understand how each profession contributes to a primary care model.

4. Lastly, I was able to advocate for Ben in providing the other health care professionals insight into Ben as a human outside of being a patient.

Being a part of Student Run Clinic has been a true privilege and one I would never pass up for anything in this program. It’s an experience that is unlike any other and if you’re currently a student in any of USC’s programs (Medicine, Physician Assistant, Pharmacy, or Occupational Therapy), I would encourage you to volunteer. You won’t regret it.

*All names mentioned in this blogpost are pseudonyms.

Erika

A Day in the Life of a USC Entry-Level Master’s Student

, by Erika

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Hi all!

Inspired by the Day in the Life of a Chan Student feature on the Division’s website, I thought I’d provide you with a breakdown of what a day may look like for me as a 2nd year Entry-Level Master’s student. My schedule is a little different everyday based on work hours as a student ambassador, my Level I fieldwork placement, and having Fridays off, but here is what a typical day may look like if I had a full day of classes. This is also similar to what a 1st years day would look like since they have the same 2 blocks of time carved out for classes.

A Day in the Life

7:20 - Alarm goes off! Snooze.

7:30 - Wake up! Get ready, make breakfast, pack lunch.

8:15 - Out the door!

8:35 - Look for parking around HSC.
Note: It’s LA! Parking will always be an issue. As a student, you do have the option of purchasing a parking pass on campus. If you choose to opt out of that option, you’ll have to do a bit of a morning hunt like I do to find free parking in the local neighborhood. I would say that after the first few weeks, you’ll get really good at figuring out the best places to park - not to mention know the street cleaning signs by heart! This option also allows for nice morning and afternoon walks to and from your car!

9:00-12:00 - Class
Note: Typically we will get (2) 15 minute breaks to stretch, reset, take a walk. During 1 of the breaks, you’ll probably see me at Eric Cohen Student Health Center getting free coffee, tea, or hot chocolate offered to all USC students!

12:00-1:00 - Lunch
Note: Many times, faculty, student orgs, or the health center may schedule meetings during lunch on various topics: Doctorate or PhD info sessions, Mentor/Mentee lunches, mindfulness classes, yoga on the lawn, etc. If I’m not at one of these, you may see me eating with friends on the patio or practicing transfers with them in the ADL lab.

1:00-4:00 - Class
Note: Afternoon classes can be tough so the free coffee break may happen at this point of the day. Good thing is, since our professors are OTs, they are very attuned to reading when the students are having attention difficulties or hitting an afternoon wall. They’ll break things up, encourage us to stand, take walks, or if we’re in the pediatrics classroom, swing on the swings for some self-regulation!

4:00 and on - Open!
Note: After class, what I do really varies depending on the day. I may have to work in the Student Ambassador office. I may have a meeting for Student Run Clinic. Perhaps I’ll hit up a yoga class, go to Barbara’s at the Brewery with a few friends for a beer, or visit my niece and nephew to play and have dinner! Either way, I find weekday afternoons as opportunities to decompress and chill after a full day of class.

11:30 - #sleepgoals

Thanks for reading! If you have any questions, feel free to write in the comments!

Erika

Standardized Patients: the Good, the Bad, and Becoming the Hulk

, by Erika

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One of the best opportunities our program offers is the chance to practice transfers with standardized patients in our Adult Rehab immersion.

What’s a standardized patient?

It’s a person carefully recruited and trained to take on the characteristics of a real patient providing students with the opportunity to learn skills in a simulated clinical environment. Neat, right?

So far in my adult rehab immersion, we’ve practiced with standardized patients “recovering from hip replacements, back injuries, and stroke.” We’ve learned how to transfer them from laying in bed to sitting then to a wheelchair or walker! From there, we’ve also practiced how to mobilize and transfer these patients to the shower, tub, and toilet.

It’s been ADLmania!!!

Our Adult Rehab lab was designed to simulate common practice locations where we would actually conduct transfers and treatment sessions. On one side, we have an exact replica of what a hospital room looks like at Keck Medical center - from the beds to the toilet and shower. On the other side, we have a standard bedroom with access to a tub and toilet. Lastly, we have a fully functioning kitchen where we can practice various occupations like meal prepping, washing dishes, and cooking. What’s better than practicing real life occupations in a real life setting?

Hospital Room, USC ADL Lab

Bedroom, USC ADL Lab

Bathroom, ADL Lab

Readers, can I just say, the first time I practiced with standardized patients, I. Was. Terrified.

“I have NO clue what I’m doing. Are they going to be nice? Are they going to be painfully dramatic? Am I going to drop someone and break their hip a second time?”

My stream of consciousness spiraled into the dark depths of the unknown but of course, with all new experiences, it wasn’t as bad as I thought it was going to be.

Sure, I think all of us students will admit that the first time, there was a lot of “uhhhhh….”s, big perplexed eyes, and unnecessary overexplanations of the protocol running through our heads and out our mouths. After that though, you realize that the standardized patients aren’t there to give you a hard time or to give Oscar-worthy dramatic performances but are there for you and your learning experience. While at times, they were committed to simulating pain (which was intimidating at first), they were incredibly kind and open to providing feedback on why they felt pain or felt discomfort. They were gracious in giving us as many opportunities to try again to make sure we get a specific transfer or handling right.

Transferring a standardized patient who has a T8 spinal cord injury from bed to wheelchair

Working on long sitting dressing with standardized patients with spinal cord injuries

At the end of the day, that’s what makes the opportunity of practicing with standardized patients valuable - it gives us the opportunity to spiral into our own fears then build ourselves back up with the support and feedback of our professors and standardized patients to reveal our own capabilities and strengths - all within a safe learning environment!

I want to close with some advice I was given while working with a standardized patient named Mel*. After I had transferred him, he looked me straight in the eye and said, “You have to commit. If you don’t commit, I won’t commit.” I’m not sure if this was a reflection of his practices as a method actor, but it completely changed how I transferred after that point. I became more confident. You know when Bruce Banner becomes the Hulk? It was like that without all the rage. Mel’s words transformed my identity from being a timid inexperienced OT student to a potentially strong, capable, and committed OT practitioner. Thanks Mel.

*All names mentioned in this blogpost are pseudonyms.

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