Earlier in the month, I joined a group of fellow OT students in participating in Swim With Mike (SWM), an annual swim-a-thon held on the USC campus to raise funds for the Physically Challenged Athletes Scholarship Fund. SWM began in 1981 at USC to raise funds for an adequately equipped van for Mike Nyeholt, a three-time All-American swimmer who was paralyzed from a motorcycle accident he had survived earlier in the year. Greatly moved by the generosity and enthusiastic support of his teammates and friends, Mike used the excess funds to create the scholarship fund at USC and it has now grown to support students across the nation. I encourage you to read more about the history of this great event here.
Growing up as a swimmer, I have had ample opportunity to participate in swim-a-thons but I have never experienced one quite like SWM. Because this was the 33rd year that the event was held at USC, there was a certain challenge suggested among the OT and PT students and faculty to form relay teams and have a representative swim for 33 consecutive hours. The turnout for our group was great, with a consistent flow of OT students, friends and supporters. We also had a lane designated right next to our PT friends so that made for good company in the odd hours of the evening/morning. I swam from 4AM-6AM and was so taken by the number of swimmers in the water, and happy to be there! There was a little boy, maybe 10 years old, who was so excited to jump in and start a swim set—it was only 4:30AM! The rest of the participants and volunteers started trickling in to set up for opening ceremonies and welcomes (for the people who swam at normal hours) ;] and it was so exciting to see how involved and enthusiastic everyone was for the event. The entire USC swim team was there right as I left, ready for their SWM practice. The sense of community was so strong throughout the event and I feel that this event is something which I will remain close to in my years as Trojan alum. Way to represent OT, everyone!
It has been WAY too long since I have made an entry (whoops!) The past month has been filled with so many activities, visitors, projects, discussions, and so much planning for the remainder of the semester! Although the externship is now a few weeks behind us, I know that it is constantly present in each of our minds. As I mentioned weeks ago, I had the amazing opportunity to work alongside an interdisciplinary palliative care team here in Los Angeles and to advocate the importance of an OT being a member of their team. My experience was so eye-opening and I think of the people I worked with through those two weeks still every day—I know that this will not change anytime soon. The team was extremely receptive and supportive of what I had to bring to the table and of my ideas and examples for the applicability of OT to serve this population. It was a very exciting, invigorating experience for me to be able to advocate for the profession in this way..
Needless to say, this is a challenging population to work with no matter how you look at things. Overall, it was great to see how the team supports one another and how they ultimately put the family and their concerns at the forefront of treatment. Although we would all wish this quality of treatment for a family member or friend, it is sadly not the reality for many people needing medical attention. One of the most powerful experiences I had during my externship occurred in debrief/conversation with my direct supervisor after we had visited a patient and the family. She told me: “you have to have somewhere to put all of this”. And it is as simple as that. We require balance just as our patients do. If we as practitioners don’t take the time to process and really work through what we are experiencing in the workplace, then how are we possibly expecting to provide our patients with the highest quality of care we can offer? It made me think back to a professor within the Division who told the class in one of our first lectures when we began the program. She told us all that “you need to have therapy before you can give therapy.” This gives a whole new way for us as OTs to evaluate our own capacity for MINDFULNESS. :]
This past Friday, the Division hosted the Admitted Student Reception in which we welcomed the newest addition to the USC OT family—SO FUN! It was great to be a part of this event as a Student Ambassador, as I very clearly remember the 2011 Reception where I finally decided to take the USC plunge :] The new class is amazing and so enthusiastic about OT.
Saturday was the annual Relay For Life at USC. This event is a 24-hour fundraiser for The American Cancer Society and has been close to my heart for many years. Our team this year, “OT4LIFE”, was a great representation of OT spirit. This event made me think back to the days at my externship site and the support and value that a community can provide to someone fighting through such a hard battle, such as those living with cancer. Many of the children I worked with had been told that they would not make it to their next birthday. At Relay, I was able to speak with several adults who had been told the same thing, either about their own health or that of their child. But they were still present at an event in order to give back and continue to be involved in the community which had offered them support in a difficult time. Talk about perseverance and having the will to FIGHT BACK. Read about one of the touching stories shared at Relay For Life here.
We’re just 10 days into April and OT month with so many awesome events and experiences already. Keep them coming, I’m loving it.
So here we are, Week 7 of the semester! The Division has been buzzing with visits from AOTA Leadership visits, the AOTA Assembly of Student Delegate elections, and many exciting things coming up. This week is the week-long fieldwork experience for the first years. For the next two weeks, the second years will be out on their externship assignments. After that, we have spring break and then we are nearly to April (Occupational Therapy month) which is jam-packed with events, assignments, presentations and finally, the 2013 AOTA Conference! There are just so many things to look forward to and we all know that the time is going to fly by.
For the externship, many of the second years will be going out of the area, some are returning to the home-state while others are travelling to entirely new places. There is a group of students travelling to Ghana, another group to Costa Rica, and other students will be travelling to China, Thailand, Scotland and Canada. I will be staying in the Los Angeles area and learning more about how occupational therapy services can be better integrated into the palliative care services within an acute pediatric hematology-oncology population. I am very excited to take this opportunity to widen my scope of experience within this population and to find more ways of helping the families involved in such life-changing experiences.
Although it is a challenge, it is so important to not get ahead of yourself (balance, right??). I always take a moment to be sure to be present and appreciative of what is happening today. This has always been something that I need to work on since I tend to be a ‘planner’.. So instead of becoming stressed about “will everything in my externship turn out just as I hope it will?”, or “what will my schedule be during the two weeks away from class?”, I think back on the semester and on the year, and I just slow myself down. This year has been a year of growth for all of my peers. It is awesome to see how everyone interacts in class and in clinical scenarios now that we have gone through the practice immersions and are investigating the elective courses. It has also been amazing to see how viewpoints and career goals change. The different things which I see inspire passion within my classmates is so refreshing. Imagine if we were each interested in the exact same thing.. Our practice would never grow and flourish as OT has had the opportunity to do.
Education is not the filling of a pail, but the lighting of a fire—W.B. Yeats
So this entry may seem to mirror Amber’s last post a bit but I have been feeling the same excitement at the progress I know that we all have made over the past years. I feel like we are finally pushing away those clouds of self-doubt that come with being a novice, wide-eyed student and are looking forward to exploring what our future careers will be with anticipation. The energy is definitely different mid-way through this final semester and it’s as though there was a transformation sometime within the winter break which really ignited the class. This is a great thing!!
Within the Motor Control elective, I have had the opportunity to meet some amazing people. My clinical observation placement is located in the Jacquelin Perry Institute (JPI) at Rancho Los Amigos National Rehabilitation Center where I primarily follow an OTR/L who works with patients in the Stroke Rehabilitation program. I know that you have heard each of us mention Rancho by now.. This rehabilitation center is certainly deserving of the highly esteemed reputation it has developed over nearly a century of providing services (if you are a history buff, you can find some highlights in Rancho’s history here). The aspect of Rancho which I value most as a student is the enthusiasm for learning and the obvious effort that each member of the rehabilitation team makes to encourage students while also maintaining such a high quality of care for the people they treat each day. For every student who has started out in the clinical setting, there are those moments of, “Oh no, I cannot remember what they said about this in class…” interspersed with moments of “But, what if I do something wrong?!” It is normal; it is called ‘learning’; and it happens to us all along the way. When a location makes an obvious effort to support the learning experience and clearly has confidence in the ability of the student, as they do at Rancho, it resonates with the students.
Today during lab, a fellow student and I were told that we would be leading a co-treat with a gentleman we have observed in therapy before. We were able to evaluate, compete an occupational profile for the individual (including his prior function, changes he has experienced and what he would like to get back to doing), assess his scapular and thoracic alignment and perform scapular mobilizations to facilitate a more appropriate posture necessary to support activity in therapy. It has been so gratifying to work with people through the many different settings in fieldwork and to learn so much from each of them along the way… I feel like I am always saying this, but I am so looking forward to actually being an OT (soon)!
This past weekend, The Color Run came to Dodger Stadium! There was a large group of OT color runners and a group of my friends from college also came down for the event so it was a great mix of people. I was a bit skeptical at first of how much I would enjoy running a 5k with people intermittently dousing me with colored cornstarch, but it was a lot of fun!
Being raised up as a little water baby and playing competitive water sports for 15 years of my life, I am normally the last person to suggest signing up for any sort of set length of running. Many people have told me that they hear swimmers have a certain incoordination when it comes to moving their body through space in “normal” popular sports such as soccer, basketball, etc. There is a certain amount of truth to that—I happen to be a prime example. If you ever see me on a skateboard or trying to master a hurdle (which you will never see), then you will understand.
Regardless, the run was a lot of fun and constant entertainment with all of the people being doused with colored powder throughout. It made me really excited to pursue more runs in the future. I am thinking of doing a Tough Mudder or a Warrior Dash next.. Always important to try new things, right??