Despite the COVID-19 pandemic escalating each day, I had an unforgettable externship experience that kept me uplifted during these difficult times. My original externship plan was to attend an ergonomic certification course in-person and shadow Marissa Marchioni OTD, OTR/L, CEAS at the USC Occupational Therapy Faculty Practice. As the situation escalated, I chose to do most of my externship remotely from home. Ultimately, I decided on three main objectives for the externship:
1. Become a Certified Ergonomics Assessment Specialist
To kickoff this externship experience, I enrolled in the online version of the CEAS course to increase my understanding of ergonomics and further my professional development. The CEAS taught me the basics of evaluating ergonomic risk factors and areas for improvement in a wide variety of workplace settings including offices, hospitals, and manufacturing plants. While much of the information from the course had been covered in the ergonomic elective, my grasp of ergonomics was strengthened, and I was able to apply what I learned to the shadowing experiences with Dr. Marchioni and in the design of my ergonomic device. Additionally, at the end of the course, I received an official certification to assess workplaces for ergonomics which I hope will be a valuable asset in my future career.
2. Shadow Ergonomic Assessments with Marissa Marchioni OTD, OTR/L, CEAS
Before the “Stay at Home” order was put into action, I had the opportunity to shadow several ergonomic assessments with Dr. Marchioni. This was an amazing experience because I was able to see everything I had learned from the CEAS course in real world practice from the lens of an occupational therapist. Dr. Marchioni skillfully used her knowledge of ergonomics, activity analysis, and psychosocial factors to deliver comprehensive ergonomic assessments that were tailored to each person in their specific work setting. I was especially amazed at Dr. Marchioni’s ability to impart her own leadership skills on her clients to create “Ergo Leaders” in the workplaces she assessed. An “Ergo Leader” is a person in the workplace who advocates for positive ergonomic changes such as adjusting the lighting in the space or leading periodic stretch breaks. After observing several assessments, Dr. Marchioni gave me the opportunity to assist on an assessment! While I was nervous to jump in so quickly, I took this offer as a leadership opportunity to put my ergonomic education to practice. As we started our assessment, I was pleasantly surprised to see how much I had learned over a short period of time and with Dr. Marchioni’s support the assessment went well!
3. Designing and Prototyping a New Ergonomic Device
One of the main goals of my externship was to bring together all the education and shadowing experience to design a new ergonomic device. After over 100 hours of 3D design, prototyping, and feedback sessions with Dr. Marchioni, my final prototype is finished! This device will help people to be comfortable on the go and in shared workspaces. While, I cannot give away the details as I am in the process of obtaining a patent, I will be presenting the device during the Mark and Semira Moshayedi Innovation Competition that is scheduled to be held in April!