I just attended my first AOTA Annual Conference & Expo in Nashville, Tennessee and it was an amazing experience! For those of you that do not know, the American Occupational Therapy Association (AOTA) is our national professional association that represents the interests and concerns of occupational therapy practitioners and students of occupational therapy and to improve the quality of occupational therapy services. A conference and expo is held at different locations around the U.S. each year.This year it was held in Nashville, Tennessee and it was also the largest conference ever with over 9,000 attendees! I have to say, AOTA’s annual conference is the most exciting and dynamic gathering for occupational therapy professionals each year and it is so inspiring to be around so many occupational therapy practitioners, students and leaders! In addition, I was fortunate enough to be selected to present a poster with a couple of my colleagues on a project we worked on last fall semester!
AOTA’s itinerary is filled with an inspiring Presidential and keynote addresses, over 900 educational sessions and an Expo filled with the latest products and opportunities! For more information on our national association check out the AOTA website.
First off, I apologize for the lack of blog posts from me the last couple of weeks. I have been quite the busy bee with school and life ☺. Before I go on talk about the current events going on during this time of year, I want to tell you about the amazing externship opportunity I had in Costa Rica! As mentioned in impervious posts, during our final spring semester of the Master’s program we are provided the opportunity to learn and apply aspects of leadership and advocacy within a setting/site of our choice. We create the externship opportunity for ourselves and have the flexibility to decide what would provide us the most optimal learning experience. The externship experience will vary from person to person- some students decide to stay local and others decide to travel abroad. Some of my fellow classmates and student ambassadors traveled to South Korea, the Philippines, Thailand, China and Ireland. ☺
Myself, along with six other OT students were placed in a government funded daycare center in an under served community in San Jose, Costa Rica. It was unfortunate to see the center under staff and lack sufficient resources. The children there lacked the adequate educational resources they need to further develop their personal and academic selves. Nevertheless, the children were extremely sweet and excited to have us there! Our mission was to provide these children with support, interaction, compassion and care. We played games, participated in circle time, sang songs and created arts and crafts! It was heartbreaking to walk in some days, because the children really could have benefited from occupational therapy services for fine or gross motor as well as social play as Kristy (student ambassador) mentioned in her blog. Being at the daycare center was quite eye-opening, not only because of the underdeveloped, under-funded learning environment that these children were in, but the permanent smiles they shared with us despite this. It was an amazing externship experience and I would love to go back and help.
Although we were primarily in Costa Rica for our externship, we did have some time to explore and experience the Costa Rican culture. During our time, we stayed with a Costa Rican family. It was a great way to immerse ourselves in the local culture and experience the Tica (Costa Rican) way of life, practice our Spanish, indulge in traditional Tica cuisine and have a family away from home. We also got to explore the city, try zip-lining, visit the hot springs, see volcanos, hike Manual Antonio National Park, and of course, relax at the beach! Overall, I had an amazing time with a great group of friends and I feel so fortunate to have had this experience as an occupational therapy student at USC. Not only does USC’s program develop you to become and amazing OT, but also as future leader in the field! Whether you complete an international externship or not, it is what you make of the opportunity to help foster you to become the person you would like to be and live life to the fullest. With that said, there is a saying I learned in Costa Rica that I would like to continue to live by- Pura Vida. It is basically the national slogan of Costa Rica and was one of my favorite sayings there. It’s a phrase that literally means “pure life”. But in reality it’s a way of life. It’s all about taking things easy and enjoying life. I understand the hustle and bustle of the daily grind can sometimes get in the way of living life. Coming back from Costa Rica, has provided me with yet another reason to appreciate life and the meaning that my favorite occupations have for me. So, even when things get tough, take some time every day, week or month to engage in your favorite occupations.
When it comes to your second to last semester of OT school, choosing electives can be a lot of fun! However, it can also be tough if you have many interests. All of them had sparked a bit of my interest throughout my time in OT school at USC. I found selecting electives to be a challenging experience because I wanted to soak up information from many of them! In a previous blog post I mentioned the process of selecting electives, so in this post I wanted to share with you some vidoes/photos in action of my time in these courses.
OT 574 Enhancing Motor Control for Occupation
This course is AWESOME! Students taking this course have the opportunity to understand the principles and methods for remediation of movement impairments following upper motor neuron lesions (ex. Stroke). Our time is spent at Rancho Los Amigos National Rehabilitation Center composed of lectures, laboratory experiences, discussions, etc. This course has a lot of hands-on components, which is great for me as a kinesthetic learner.
Here is a brief video of me trying Electrical Muscle Stimulation (EMS), also known as neuromuscular electrical stimulation (NMES) on myself. EMS can be used on some patients to elicit muscle contraction using electric impulses.
OT 578 Therapeutic Communication for the Healthcare Practitioner
For 2 units, this course has definitely taught me principles and practice of a variety of therapeutic communication skills, including motivational interviewing, mindfulness, and cognitive behavioral therapy. Much of health care today involves helping individuals manage conditions whose outcomes can be influenced by lifestyle change. After learning aspects of motivational interviewing (MI), I find myself putting MI into practice with individuals that I’m working with now! We just had our last class this past Tuesday ☹.
Here is our class photo:
OT 583 Lifestyle Redesign
This was definitely on my list during the selection process due to the unique nature of this course. The practice of Lifestyle Redesign is an innovative treatment approach that was developed here at USC! Lifestyle Redesign is the process of acquiring healthier habits and routines in your everyday life. I really love learning how to collaborate with patients to address their needs, provide education and help them set and attain their goals! What is awesome about this approach is that it really allows the patient to be in the driver’s seat, and the occupational therapist as the passenger. ☺ As we learn the components of Lifestyle Redesign in this course, we also get to practice by working with one of our classmates to really implement lifestyle change in their own lives!
Here is a photo of one of our sessions taking place outdoors in a relaxing manner(no faces shown due to protect privacy of patient):
Here is a photo of one of our modules we get to develop in class:
OT 500 Optimal Living with Multiple Sclerosis
I have nothing but great things to say about this course! As occupational therapy students we get to learn how to work with people who have Multiple Sclerosis (MS) using Lifestyle Redesign intervention. This course allows me to utilize the skills I have learned in both my OT 578 Therapeutic Communication for the Healthcare Practitioner course, as well as OT 538 Lifestyle Redesign. We also gain experience running a group module, along with working individually with one to two participants from the community (recruited by the National MS Society). We also get to work with 2nd year physical therapy students and co-treat twice during the semester! I have been working with two participants this semester and the process has been great! I really love the experience I am gaining through this course.
Here is a before photo of one of my sessions with one of my participants:
Here is a photo of items my counterpart and I used for one of the group modules to discuss roles and engagement of occupations:
Here are two photos of another group module discussing and practicing adaptive equipment to participants:
This is just a taste of some of the course the division has to offer to students, there are plenty of others you can choose from. Here is the elective courses link if you are interested in looking through the courses we have to offer.
This semester has been quite busy for me, hence the lack of blogging ☹… I know, shame on me! Regardless, I still try to make some time for me by engaging in some of the occupations I love: ☺
Today is the first day back to school after a much needed 4 week break! With a new year in place, my mind and body is refreshed and ready to conquer the last semester. This semester is different from the rest because we are able to choose electives! Part of our curriculum is that we are required to take 12 units of electives, but we aren’t able to do so until our last spring semester. Many of us look forward to this semester because we have the opportunity to select specialty practice/topic courses of our choice! Whether it’s building your motivational interviewing skills, gaining a better understanding of dysphagia through the lifespan, or delving deeper into Sensory Integration Theory, there are many classes to choose from. During this semester, you also have the opportunity to take other electives to gain more clinical experience, participate in a research project or take a class outside the OT division. It’s really a great opportunity for us as occupational therapy students to gain more knowledge and expertise on areas of our interest.
This semester also includes a Leadership Capstone class, where we learn how to be leaders in our profession! Like I mentioned in my last blog, this class includes a 2 week leadership externship where we go to different sites to learn and showcase our leadership skills. This is a personalized experience for each student and the opportunities out there are vast! Over the break, I finalized my decision to go to Costa Rica and will be joining 6 other students! A group of seven of us will be split into two groups where we will be placed in two projects: either volunteering at an orphanage or with a street children project. We will be leaving March 1st, which is fast approaching! I’m extremely excited about this opportunity and look forward to the experience. As you can see, the spring semester is quite the change from our previous semesters. Both exciting and challenging!
During my winter break I didn’t do much but enjoy the time off to relax and engage in my favorite occupations. Here is a collage of photos from my relaxing break!
Last week was our final week of the Fall Semester, and as exciting as it is to be one more semester closer to graduation it is also a little sad. As 2nd year students, we have now completed our final immersion in our cohorts. The Entry-Level Master’s program focuses on three different immersions: mental health, pediatrics, and adult physical rehabilitation. During our first summer semester we were split into cohorts (A, B or C). My final immersion was in pediatrics, which meant it was also my last class with cohort A-mazing. It has been a great experience getting to know the great individuals in my cohort and see them grow. I know our immersions and complementary classes have done a great job thus far in preparing us to become amazing occupational therapists.
Next semester will be our final semester of classes. We will have the opportunity to take electives of our choice, as well as participate in a Leadership Externship. All 2nd year students will complete the externship in their final semester as part of the Leadership Capstone course. The externship is a two-week experience where students have the opportunity to build on their leadership skills. Students are responsible for finding and coordinating these externships. The places that you can choose to go to are diverse! I’m planning to complete my externship in a Spanish speaking country- possibly Costa Rica or Peru! I’m beyond excited and I can’t wait to share with you all about this amazing opportunity. Until then I will be enjoying my four-week winter break!