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University of Southern California
University of Southern California
USC Chan Division of Occupational Science and Occupational Therapy
USC Chan Division of Occupational Science and Occupational Therapy
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Student Blog


Imposter Syndrome . . . Is That You? ⟩
March 31, 2022, by Kayla

As a part of my PP-OTD journey, my residency is a year long. In the grand scheme of things that isn’t a long time, but when you’re in the middle of it, you start to feel the time moving by. You have time to think about the past, where you are, and most terrifyingly . . . the future. As I’ve started thinking about my future, for the first time in a long time, there is so much uncertainty. In undergrad I knew, OT school was next. In the MA program, I knew my OTD was next. But now that I’m entering the last 6 months of residency, the next chapter has yet to be written and I’m definitely feeling the pressure.

If I could put words to what I’m experiencing, the definition of imposter syndrome would sum it all up quite nicely. For me, imposter syndrome manifests as the feeling that everyone around me can sense that I’m “faking it until I make it” and is judging me . . . big time. Honestly, this is a new experience for me and it’s been causing a lot of unneeded worry.

For most of my academic career, I was blessed enough to avoid seriously feeling the effects of imposter syndrome. As a student in undergrad or in the MA program, we were all in it together *insert High School Musical here* and it felt like everyone else was just as confused and doing equally as much soul searching as I was. But now, in residency, where I’m working with more experienced practitioners and with other students who have different strengths than me . . . those thoughts are starting to creep in. And as a result, I found that when I make mistakes, as any human does, I start feeling super down on myself and questioning my ability to be a good OT.

After taking some time to sit with my feelings and coming to realize what has been going on, I found that reframing my thoughts and experiences helped sooooo much. Taking the time to validate the work that I’m putting in, acknowledging the growth that I’ve experienced over the past six months, and reassuring myself that I am doing my best and that’s what matters.

Coincidentally, in the midst of feeling all of the feels, I got a text message from one of the senior physical therapists at my residency site to meet up and eat lunch with her and the other OT/PT/PTA students of color! We sat and talked about our unique experiences and it really helped me feel heard, and reassured me that: 1) I was not the only person to ever feel like this, and 2) that by no means do these feelings last forever. You can say that I found my little communOT/PT 😊 This came at the seemingly perfect time; more than anything it was a reminder that that this too, shall pass.

Posing for a photo with my OT/PT colleagues during lunch!

Posing for a photo with my OT/PT colleagues during lunch!


Kayla’s Declassified Spring Survival Guide ⟩
March 8, 2022, by Kayla

Let’s set the tone for this blog. Ready? Close your eyes, picture a perfectly sunny Southern California day, a beautifully organized planner with all of your assignments for the month, a nice cold iced coffee, and a feeling of finally settling into your routine for the semester. Blissful, right? But then you remember, you’re still looking for an external residency site. I don’t know, maybe I was alone in feeling continual stress in the background surrounding finding an external residency during spring semester (but something tells me I probably wasn’t). And something else tells me that you all might be feeling something similar if you are at this point in your journey towards the PP-OTD program.

Luckily, I’ve already been through it so I can share with you some of the things that I learned while reaching out to possible external sites! Tip One: I cannot stress enough is to take the time to sit down and REALLY have a heart-to-heart with yourself and decide what you want out of your residency experience. One of the biggest pieces of advice I can give is to find a residency that speaks to your why. It makes all of the difference when you are reaching out to sites. Not only can they ~feel~ the difference if you are walking in your truth, but I think it will give you more of a confidence boost and help you fall into the right situation! If you seek to find a residency that speaks to your why, I promise, it is so much easier to portray your passion and ultimately, what you will bring to that site as a resident!

Tip Two: Hearing “no”, is okay! In fact, the words “no”, “thank you, however”, and “unfortunately” shaped my spring and summer of 2021. While it was definitely not fun to hear at the time, each time an opportunity didn’t work out, it was just another chance for me to reframe, refine, and re-try! Self-reflection was HUGE for me at this time. I was always thinking about how to make myself stand out as a candidate and refine my elevator speech (oh, the infamous elevator speech) about the PP-OTD program even more compelling and intriguing to potential residency sites.

Segueing into tip three . . . . This is a process of finding an external residency site. I chose those words intentionally, it is a process. For some, it may be quick, for others it may require a little bit more time, but enjoy the process! Enjoy YOUR process.

This last tip, I cannot stress enough. Use your resources! Former residents, program faculty, *cough, cough* yours truly, and literally anything else you can think of. If you have to complete an interview, set up a mock interview. If you have to write personal statements, have your peers and a trusted faculty member look them over and give you feedback. While these opportunities may seem scary or seem like more work at the time, they truly help make us better in the long run. I think this would be a great place to share some wise words from a mentor, “No one has ever been too prepared.”

So, now let’s go back to that scene we set at the beginning. Picture that perfectly sunny Southern California day, your perfect planner, that pristine iced coffee, and that feeling of peace after finally settling into your routine for the semester. But this time, imagine yourself with a feeling of confidence replacing that stress about finding an external residency. Confidence in yourself and confidence in your plan; you’ve got this!


A Day In My Life ⟩
February 8, 2022, by Kayla

School/Life Balance What are OS/OT?

My day starts bright and early. I wake up at 6:30AM, throw on my scrubs, take out my dog, Buffy, throw on my winter coat, scarf, and gloves (it’s the middle of Chicago winter) and head out the door around 6:50AM! I am not a morning person, so I have this process down to a science!

Bundled up to face the cold!

Bundled up to face the cold!

After my commute, parking, and making my way into the hospital I sit down to chart review my patients at about 7:40AM. I decide which patients I want to see for the day, look for new consults, and get well-versed on what brought everyone into the hospital! (This part is one of my favorites as an acute care therapist, learning about all of the different diagnoses and procedures is so interesting!)

At 8AM I meet with my residency site preceptor to finalize my caseload, ask questions, and set up times to complete mentorship sessions throughout the day. At 8:15 we have our OT department huddle (via Zoom as to be covid friendly) and then get started with our day!

Between 8:20 and 9:00AM I create a general schedule to follow based on priority and reach out to my PT partners to schedule any co-treats for the day.

At 9AM . . . My absolute favorite part begins, seeing my patients! I typically see patients from 9-12PM and then sit down for lunch and to complete some notes from my morning sessions until 1-1:30 PM! (Sometimes the other therapists/fieldwork students host in-services during lunch, so it’s an opportunity to learn while I eat!)

From 1:30-3PM I see my afternoon patients (admittedly, it is hard to get back into the swing of the fast-paced nature of acute care with a full tummy after lunch). At 3 o’clock I meet with my preceptor to go over my patients from the day and plan for the next day, ask any questions that came up during my treatment, and complete my documentation.

I typically get home between 5-6PM (after work traffic is a monster). When I get home I take a second to breathe and reflect on the day before jumping into my tasks for the evenings. Each evening looks a little different based on the day. Some days I have 2-3 hours of class, a couple of meetings, or 1-2 hours of homework to stay current and on track with OTD course curriculum. I typically complete work until about 9PM and then wind down for the day! And of course, an hour or so of tiktok is ~usually~ in the cards before turning in around 11PM.

On days that I don’t have work, class, or meetings, I love to Facetime with my friends and family back home, go on a good therapeutic trip to Target, or try new restaurants in my neighborhood! While my days are long and sometimes very tiring, they are filled with everything I expected from an acute care residency.

Pro tip: Find a current resident working in a similar site/practice context as you and pick their brain about their daily schedule/workflow. It’s so SO helpful in beginning to conceptualize what your upcoming year will look like and help you plan and prepare accordingly!


When In Doubt, OT it Out! ⟩
January 13, 2022, by Kayla

Life Hacks

The holidays were amazing, not only because I got to travel back home to California, spend lots of time with my family, and see some of my friends. But also because it came with a much needed break. A break from classes, assignments, presentations and from residency. As amazing as this journey is, sometimes the load does get heavy. This past Monday, the spring semester started and I was admittedly feeling less than inspired logging into my first zoom class of 2022. As an occupational therapist, constantly surrounded by other occupational therapists, sometimes a light bulb goes off to practice what I preach. I call it “OT’ing myself.” While settling back into my typical workflow I’ve decided to focus on engaging in some of my most meaningful occupations to fill my cup and replenish my energy so I can be the best version of myself. This week I’ve been more intentional with:

Listening to Music:
My days have been filled with music and singing and dancing (badly) around my house after work. I play my favorite playlist when I wake up in the morning, look for new songs in my free time, and play my go-to feel good songs when I’m sitting in traffic.

As an ex-college athlete, I have recently found myself missing my playing days a lot more than usual. And although I can’t go to the gym and play pick-up games because of covid, I have been more diligent with getting some form of exercise everyday. Taking online cycling classes with my favorite instructor and a few friends has been helping to keep me in the right mindset!

I absolutely LOVE cooking, and I love trying to make new recipes even more-so. This week I searched my saved videos on TikTok to find those recipes that I saved and forgot about . . . and actually made one! It was delicious, if I do say so myself, and exactly what I needed.

I’m also starting to write down all of my favorite recipes to make and making my own personal cookbook. So stay tuned for that in a book store near you. 😉

New year, same me. Like I may have mentioned before, I am a self-proclaimed sleepy girl. I love love love sleep, but I am also a night owl so I can never seem to get enough of it. So this week I made it a priority to go to sleep earlier to hopefully set myself up to have more peaceful mornings and have more energy throughout the day. Next skill to master, waking up on time.

As we head into the first Friday of the semester, I am feeling more ready to take on the semester thanks to this wonderful profession that I get to practice everyday, and remember, when in doubt, OT it out!


6 Lessons from My First Semester as an OTD Resident ⟩
December 23, 2021, by Kayla

The first semester of my OTD year has come to an end, here are some lessons that it taught me. Let’s get right into it!

1. This is Not The Master’s Program Anymore
As a student in the MA-II program, I became so accustomed to (and honestly, reliant on) the structure; class four days a week and one day for fieldwork. It was so consistent that when I began the OTD and my schedule became so much more flexible it was a bit of a shock. In the OTD program, you have class 1 day a week and all other time is spent engaged at your residency site. Because I spent the majority of my time providing direct patient care, I found myself having to switch my brain from “clinical to classroom” in order to be in the right headspace for group discussions and class participation. I really had to adjust to the new flow of things . . . adapt to my new roles and routines, if you will.

2. You Won’t Feel Overwhelmed Forever
Beginning a new program, moving halfway across the country, figuring out my role as the first resident at my site, studying for boards, and tending to my mental and physical health . . . it was a lot. I remember attending a residency seminar entitled, “What Have I Gotten Myself Into”, where residents currently in their final semester of the program reflected on their first semester and assured us that even though it was going to get hectic, that we would make it through. On the other side of my first semester, about three things I am absolutely sure. First, I was 100% overwhelmed during the first few months of the semester. Second, I was not alone in feeling this way. Third, that feeling does not last forever.

For me, what helped get through the days where it felt like I had too much on my plate was to remember my why. Thinking about why I began on this journey in the first place, understanding how my current responsibilities fit into the bigger picture, and most importantly, taking a deep breath and giving my best effort.

3. Mistakes Are Going to Happen
I am no stranger to making mistakes, but over the course of this semester as I was beginning to come into my role as a new professional I, expectedly, made more than I was used to. I had to learn how to reframe my mistakes in a way that allows for growth rather than feelings of guilt and how to turn thoughts of “Why did I do that?” into, “How can I do better?” Mistakes are a part of the process of learning and I had to learn to be thankful for the new perspective I gained along the way, after all . . . perspective is everything!

4. How To Navigate The “In Between”
As an OTD resident although you are a registered and licensed therapist, you still occupy the role of a student and mentee. This semester taught me how to embrace the duality of the unique position that we as residents are in. I was faced with having to define my role as an OTD resident, especially because my site has never had one before, and learn to be confident and accepting of changes as I encountered them. Biggest takeaway: be confident in the path you’re walking and don’t be afraid to ask for help when you’re unsure of your next step!

5. No Two Residencies Are The Same
This lesson is rather short, sweet, and to the point. Even if you share the same area of practice with another resident, no two placements are alike. Things between residencies may be different, but yours is specific to you and your interests and THAT is what matters. Remember: comparison is the thief of joy.

6. The OTD Really is What You Make It
If you have ever met with me either via office hours or one-on-one, I always harp on this sentiment. This program is what you make it, it is YOUR experience, YOUR vision, and YOUR year. For many of us, there will never be another time in our professional career when our only goal is to observe and to learn as much as we can. It is so easy to get caught up in all of the stress and responsibility (I am by no means exempt from this), that we forget to seek out and enjoy the experiences that come along with this program. This semester challenged me to not only be more mindful and present but to truly stick to the goals I set for myself to make sure that I am taking full advantage of the opportunity in front of me.

As this semester, and year, come to an end I can’t help but look forward to all of the experiences and new knowledge that 2022 holds. More importantly, I can’t wait to share them all with you. Happy Holidays!

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