Student Ambassador Blog
Oct 16, 2017, by Ali
As part of our course curriculum in the second year, all three cohorts take OT 538: Current Issues in Practice: Adulthood & Aging. This course addresses the shifting demographics of society with the worldwide phenomenon of aging and occupational therapy’s role in caring for the aging population. One option for this course is to engage in an interdisciplinary experience with USC students in other fields of study, which include: pharmacy, dental hygiene, social work, medical, physician assistant, physical therapy, and occupational therapy students! One aspect that drew me into occupational therapy was the potential for interdisciplinary collaboration and community outreach, which this program blends together seamlessly, so I was eager to sign up.
We had our first site visit this week where we prepared for an hour before meeting with our older adult living in the residential community building. The focus of the week was on pharmacy and social work as well as to generally get to know our older adult. My interprofessional team does not include a social work student or a pharmacy student, so the other healthcare professional students and I stepped up to coordinate our session in a collaborative way. We ensured we remained within our respective scopes of practice while also obtaining all the information we needed. The older adult that we get to work with is so welcoming and open about her life.
The different professional students on my team and I took turns asking various questions, about everything from her family, where she is from, what she did for a living, and what she currently does with her time. She was open about her medical history, concerns about age related illness due to family history of diabetes and Alzheimer’s. She showed us photos of her grandchildren and years of travel. She opened up about her peers and how she views aging as something she is in control of by maintaining a social life, physical activity, and engaging in activities that give her life meaning (occupations!).
After the session we debriefed as a team and it was amazing to hear all of the different things that each professional student found significant and would affect their treatment or intervention, if we were to treat our older adult. The physician assistant and the medical student found the vitamins that our older adult is taking to be a great fit for her and her needs. The dental hygienist student noticed a tooth that she was in between appointments on getting it fixed. The physical therapy student noticed bruises on her knees and handles on the walls, which lead her to want to know more about her balance. I wanted to know more about her roles, routines, and habits in order to get a better idea of how she occupies her times.
I love the chance to get to ask each of these different students questions to learn more about their professional lenses as well as the chance to connect with an older adult. Being a student at USC opens the door for opportunities such as this with so many other professional programs and connection to the community. The Trojan family spreads into all of the schools within the university and community members. I look forward to my next site visit to continue my interprofessional growth and building a relationship with our older adult.
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!
Oct 6, 2017, by Linah
Ever since I was little I loved helping people and found value in standing up for those who need it. I grew up in a household of doctors, so I have had a good idea about medicine and loved the science itself. Yet, I never saw myself as doctor. I found occupational therapy by accident. It was a new major in my university and when the time came to choose a specialty, I chose it based on eliminating other medical specialties. I did not know what occupational therapy is until my first class after I majored in it. And ever since, it was a love story for the ages. In occupational therapy I find room to be creative while still validating my ideas with scientific measures. It equips me as a practitioner with the knowledge needed to fully understand a client’s medical problem then provides the tools to find the best solution there is for that particular client.
Through offering customized practical solutions, occupational therapists are able to bridge the gap between culture and medicine on a client by client basis. And what better way is there to help implement change in social attitudes about health and disabilities? Another thing I love about occupational therapy is how it aims to empower its clients. The best way to represent a certain demographic is by enabling them to speak for their own. By educating them about their conditions, rights, and preparing them to face their societies with strength. As an occupational therapist I believe I am capable of doing so. I feel blessed to have found a career as enjoyable, and meaningful as occupational therapy.
Oct 6, 2017, by Erika
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?
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.
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.
Oct 2, 2017, by Ali
We just hosted our OT Welcome Back Dinner for the Bachelor’s to Master’s Degree Program students. With 9-11 students per graduating class, the Accelerated BS to MA community is a very small and connected group. Dr. Joanne Park and the rest of the admissions team organize events, such as this dinner, as an opportunity to share a meal with all the OT majors who can make it. We organized dinner, games, and the chance to meet their mentor/mentee groups for the first time.
Each student is assigned a mentor group, which consists of at least one freshman, sophomore, junior, and senior as a resource to ask questions and help support one another. We encourage these mentor groups to engage in their favorite occupations together or study together on campus.
These events are designed to foster the community, or OT Family, of progressive degree occupational therapy students throughout their five years with the program. As these students are on a fast track professional degrees, we want to ensure they feel a part of the Chan Division of Occupational Science and Occupational Therapy. It is important to note the BS degree does not permit students to be licensed therapists, but they will be ready to sit for the national board exam and become a therapist even sooner because they only have one more year of school to complete their Master’s degree.