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 Blog | Catherine

Catherine

New Year, New Challenges, But We Got This!
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This is my first blog post of 2020 and it feels great to be back.  The holidays are a magical time of the year, but my passion for occupational science and occupational therapy puts a little more pep in my step when I walk into CHP.  And while we are talking about the subject of the new year, we cannot exclude the popular tradition of setting goals, resolutions for our self!  I had an interesting discussion recently during my OT 649 course about health behavior change models and in particular, Social Cognitive Theory (SCT), that might provide you some insight if you feel that you are having trouble sticking to any resolutions of your own. 

In short, SCT states that people are in charge of their lives and environment and can be motivated to overcome challenges through a positive sense of self efficacy.  This theory can inform health promoting behavior change interventions in occupational therapy, and other health professions.  In other words, we are taking about the just right challenge.

One of the requirements of during the first semester of the OTD program is to pass the NBCOT exam and become a certified occupational therapist.  Trying to juggle my residency hours in preparation for the 2019 Occupational Science Symposium, attending class, and studying for the boards required a lot of balancing priorities and self-control.  I did not think that I had the mental and physical capacity to achieve this goal.  What got me through this time was the support from faculty, colleagues, and the overall sense of community I have always been provided here at Chan.  This support allowed me to maintain a level of self-efficacy that motivated me to overcome my doubts and proactively push myself to close the gap of what I thought I could not do, and what I wanted to do.  And according the SCT, self-efficacy is key.

Experiencing and overcoming the challenges of the Fall semester has enabled me to increase my sense of self-efficacy and will motivate me to challenge myself in this semester, and the next.  ntil I achieve my long-term goal to obtain my OTD degree!  So if you feel like you might not be able to keep up with your news year resolutions, find yourself a cheerleader, adjust the goal, tackle it in parts, instead of going to the gym 5 days a week, start with today.  And then next time, your mind and body will know, if you did it once, you can do it again, and you will be better positioned to go twice a week, and then three times a week, until you ultimately reach your goal.

Catherine

Totally Worth It
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Having a family with two school aged children to take care of, and leaving the comfort of a steady income from having a job, was not an easy decision that I had to make before coming to USC.  Yes, the financial burden of paying the cost of attendance was one part, but another part of me felt guilty about not being home for my nephews, who I co-parent.  I was worried if I could be successful in my academic pursuits, while also maintaining a household. However, I knew that I had found a profession that I was passionate about, and would somehow make it work. As I reflect on my first semester in the OTD, I can confidently say, it has.

If you are like me and decide to pursue the standard progression of courses in the OTD, the OT-620 core course is the only one you are required to take this first semester.  Because most of your week is dedicated to your residency, and your hours are negotiable with your site, this provided me a certain amount of flexibility.  I have been able to continue to maintain my morning school drop off routines, and come home to have dinner, do homework and be present for my nephews consistently.

Taking advantage of the benefits of technology has also made my life a lot easier.  Subscribing to their school calendars, and knowing in advance important school events has allowed me to not be thrown off-guard if my fourth grader forgot to tell me “Pastries with Parents” is tomorrow.  And even though I may not be able to volunteer for every class event for my Kindergartner, the share sites teachers and parents utilize have kept me in the know.  Not to mention the grocery delivery apps that have often saved me when I forgot to stock up on a lunchbox essential.

I am not saying that this process has been easy.  It was not easy to study for my boards exams while negotiating with a five year old to take his bath.  I have been lucky to have had wonderful support from other adult members of my family, the school (mine and theirs), and to be able to access the comforts of modern technology.  However, looking back at my experience in the OTD so far, it has not only been manageable, but totally worth it.  If you are like me when I was considering applying to graduate school; worried about how you are going go through graduate school and be a caregiver, I am here to say you can do it!  If you have any questions about my experience, or want to know more about the OTD program, i am here for you, and would love to hear from you. 

Catherine

Electing Your Electives
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I’ve been getting a lot of questions about electives.  While I highly recommend you take elective based on your interests and intended area of practice, it might be helpful to talk about the electives I took and my experience from them.

OT-572 Ergonomics.  I always had a keen interest for ergo, not only to enhance my knowledge to make recommendations for my clients, but I found it incredibly useful in my personal life as well.  This is a real hands on course, where you get to practice your ergonomic evaluation skills and also get creative.  With the knowledge and skills gained from the class, I re-did all the home workstations of my family members and got rave reviews on how their pain and fatigue had improved.  So it was totally worth it!

OT-578 Therapeutic Communication for the Healthcare Practitioner.
I took this course because at the time, I was not confident about my interpersonal skills in practice.  I was intending on doing my second level II fieldwork in either mental health or adult rehab, and I was looking for a way to get more comfortable putting my best therapeutic use of self forward.  This course primarily focused on principles and the practice of motivational interviewing.  While you do also get to practice other forms of therapeutic communication such as mindfulness and cognitive behavioral therapy, MI is really the meat of the course.  At first, I felt a little awkward, because again, you get A LOT of practice using these skills on each other, but by the end of the course, I felt a lot more comfortable speaking to clients during my fieldwork!

OT-583 Lifestyle Redesign.  I chose to take this course because not only was I interested in learning more about our practice methods in health and wellness, but it is one of the signature course offered here at Chan.  You get a lot of insight in working with a wide variety of clients who are not only working towards wellness goals such as stress management, weight loss and chronic pain, but I loved learning about emerging evidence based practice in green wellness and corporate wellness.  I used the skills I learned in this elective to complete my level II fieldwork project, investigating workplace wellness at my site. 

What’s really great about the curriculum at Chan (this goes for both the OTD and MA programs) is that we have A TON of choices.  You don’t have to be limited to only the courses offered by the Division but other departments as well, and there is also to option of an independent study.  So if you are waitlisted for an elective that you want to take or don’t have an elective that totally speaks to your learning goals, it may be a good idea to peruse the course catalogue and also make an appointment with your mentor for more guidance. 

Catherine

Staying In Control and Winning the Waiting Game
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I have never been good at waiting.  Waiting in line at a grocery store, no thank you (thank goodness for self-checkout).  Waiting for standard shipping, grueling.  Waiting for my test scores or that acceptance letter, I cannot even.  Unfortunately, life is not all 2-day shipping, and express checkout lanes, and at some point or another we will find ourselves playing the waiting game.  So how do you handle the stress of waiting, and cope with not knowing the immediate next step?  Here are some ways I stay in control, and win in these stressful pockets of time.

  • Treat yourself.  Congratulations!  Whatever it is you are waiting for, an application, finishing a test, or just getting that elective request form in, you did it.  You have made a tangible step towards your goal, and that in itself is an accomplishment.  Give yourself a pat on the back, take some time to relax, and go get yourself a treat.  You earned it.
  • Write down your fears.  Sometimes it’s the “not knowing” part of waiting that can feed into the anxiety and frustrations of waiting.  If you find yourself overwhelmed with “what if” questions, I find it helpful to write them down.  Take some time to reflect on what are the worst things that can happen if what you are hoping for doesn’t come into fruition.  What is the worst case scenario?  Once you have that down, write down at least one thing you can do to make that situation better, and one person that you could ask for help.  Having a list of what I can do has helped me overcome many restless nights.
  • Reach out.  Spending time with friends and family for a venting session, engaging in some leisurely occupations, and even just some extra tactile input of a big hug has always been helpful when I’m not feeling in control.  Knowing you have people on your side, and rooting for you is always a great source of strength and support.
  • Get organized.  Sometimes after taking a big test, I come back to messy desk covered in notes, coffee cups and scattered post-its.  Looking at such a messy space can make me feel even more out of control.  Cleaning your space and getting organized provides me a visual cue to calm my mind and get back that sense of control.  You don’t have to go full Marie Kondo, but even just throwing out those old receipts and candy wrappers that have been living in the bottom of your bag can do the trick.

Waiting is no fun and not know what’s going to happen can be scary.  These are just some of things that have helped me in the past and I hope are helpful for you.  If you feel that you need more information or want to talk to someone about your questions about the OTD program, I am here for you as a resource, so feel free to check out my blog, send in some suggestions or requests for future posts, or just to say hi, send me an email at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).

Catherine

My Community, My Family
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It’s that time of the year, midterms, and most of you (MAII second years) are at your full week of fieldwork.  During this first semester of the OTD, these milestones of the curriculum don’t resonate as strongly, as we are out in the wild, practicing, most of us in class for only one day of the week.  While there is a sense of relief that the stress of midterm tests and assignments are no longer at the top of my list of worries, there was always a sense of comradery that I was able to share with my cohort along the way (shout out to my Cohort B!).  Like the poem goes, “We’re all in this together.”

It’s also that time of year of pumpkin spice, and everything nice.  Halloween is just around the corner, and then it will Thanksgiving, and so on.  You get the picture.  It’s the beginning of the time of the year where family, friends, and loved ones can share experiences, occupations and make stories.  While I love my family, and miss my friends back home, I’m grateful to have a family here at Chan that I have shared and continue to share these moments with.

The truth is, during residency, you won’t have the luxury of seeing your cohort every day.  You won’t be sharing these experiences together as a group.  This is, unless you have a co-resident at your practice setting.  But what you will have, is your Community of Practice.  In the OT 620 class, that you enroll in the first semester of the program, you can expect to be placed into groups of peers/colleagues that share a commonality of practice area.  Through my weekly check-ins with my CoP, we are able to mutually support each other through discussions, debrief and resource sharing, specific to our practice area.  We even have a journal club!

So while I may not have my entire cohort, I now have my Community of Practice.  My family, my support system, and together we got each other’s back.  So my little take away I hope to share through this post is to cherish the cohort you have today, and look forward to your Community of Practice in the future.

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