Student Blog | Anijah
Before you sit down to start applying to occupational therapy schools, I highly recommend volunteering in settings that provide insight into what this health profession includes. Prior to deciding to choose occupational therapy (OT) as my career path, I was on track for a pre-physical therapy. After attending USC’s information session for occupational therapy, I became even more interested in this field. But I wanted to make sure that OT was the right discipline for me. I did not want to switch my major to something I had very little knowledge about and feel unhappy. To determine the best way to proceed, I had discussions with some of my occupational science minor professors about my hesitancy about switching from PT to OT. They recommended that I learned more about what occupational therapists do in a clinical setting if I have the opportunity. As suggested and to get an idea about OT in a clinical setting, I volunteered in a one. When I first started volunteering, I pictured myself, in the future, working in an Acute Hospital healthcare, but that has now changed to Adult Physical Rehabilitation. I hope to explore more areas in a Masters program. For many, like myself, the way to learn about OT is to volunteer in an OT office. Here are a few tips I have when taking the step to volunteer:
- Research! The occupational therapy field has a variety of settings they work in including hand therapy, pediatrics, rehabilitation, and many more. Some hospitals and clinics will only focus on one practice area, so for example if you see yourself in a pediatrics setting look for a location that specializes in it. Other hospitals and clinics work with multiple practice areas. Since there are a lot of options for you to possibly choose from in the future, it is important to find a location that also fits your interest. The sites can range from hospitals or day-care centers to schools and universities.
- Try different settings! After spending a reasonable amount of time in one setting, it is very important that you test out other practice areas as well. This is essential because you may be surprised by the fact that you enjoy one practice area, like hand therapy better than mental health. You may also consider volunteering in a multi-area practice. This may allow you to get a wide variety of OT experiences in a short amount of time.
- Get to know the people! It is a good idea to get to know those that you work with because they give great advice and could potentially provide a letter of recommendation for you in the future. I had a great time interacting with the occupational therapists, assistants, therapy aides, and physical therapist. While shadowing, I was able to see how occupational therapist and physical therapist work together with their patients.
I genuinely enjoyed my time volunteering at USC’s Keck hospital. It provided me with a lot of insight about a variety of things about the field of OT and how an OT practice works. Not only did I get to learn more about what an occupational therapist does, but I also got to learn more about the healthcare field. I hope to explore more settings and practices in a master’s program. If you would like to find a location to volunteer, observe, or become an aide, use USC’s volunteer system. Fight On!