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USC Chan Division of Occupational Science and Occupational Therapy
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Liz’s Blog

Liz

Meaningful Occupations in the Reinberg-Rivera-Ritter Household >

by Liz

Life Hacks Living in LA

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As OT students it’s so easy to get caught up with work, class assignments, and other responsibilities. It’s so easy that we forget how important it is to take care of ourselves and take some time to engage in meaningful occupations! This year I have had the pleasure of living with two of my best friends, Lorelei and Renee. Over the course of being in this program, we’ve really gotten to know each other. I don’t know what I would do without them! I thought it would be cool to share some pictures of some of the meaningful occupations we’ve been engaging in to relieve some stress and spend some time together as a family.

Renee just recently got a sewing machine, and so of course Lorelei put her to work! Here she is attempting to professionally hem Lorelei’s skirt. So yes, we now have our very own seamstress in the house! The only downside is that her work may take more than 10 business days to complete.

As a kid, I used to love playing outside with my friends. Whenever I think about my childhood I think about running around the apartment complex and racing around in scooters with my friends. My elementary school used to have a thing called AR (not sure if that is still a thing), in which we would have to accumulate a certain number of points by reading books.  I really did not like reading books as a kid because I loved being outside playing with my neighbors. As I got older reading became more enjoyable of course. So, now I have decided to read the entire Harry Potter series, which I never read as a kid!

Here’s Renee taking a little study break. We started working on a 1,000 piece puzzle as a household, but I have to admit most of the work was done by Lorelei and Renee. There are way too many shades of blue, green, and white in there. I did cheer them on from the couch, though!

One of the most beautiful parts of living in East Los Angeles — delicious food everywhere! I woke up early before class to buy us some tamales so we could enjoy a little breakfast. Yum!

And lastly, here we are enjoying a little paint night! Lorelei was painting something for her mom, I was painting a gift for my little sister’s birthday, and Renee was painting something for her room. We were playing holiday music because both Renee and Lorelei will be going back to the east coast for the holidays. And Maxy is supervising of course.

These pictures bring me so much joy! I am so lucky to have the best roomies in the world. As an OT student in our program you can expect to receive a great education and learn from some of the best OTs out there. But, you can also expect to develop beautiful friendships with some amazing people!

Liz

A HANDful of Fun in Hands Electives >

by Liz

Classes

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The end of the semester is approaching, which means it’ll soon be time to wave goodbye to the best electives ever! Okay, yes I am biased because I really do love hands and hand therapy. I was initially pretty bummed about having to complete these electives via Zoom because I was nervous about not being able to do a lot of hands on work. No pun intended! But, I am happy to say I was proven wrong. I’ve had a blast learning in both OT 573: Hand Rehabilitation and OT 562: Advanced Hand Rehabilitation and Certification (PAMs).

Lisa Deshaies is the instructor for OT 573, and I have learned so much. We’ve learned about the anatomy of the hand, which I have to admit was really intimidating to think about at first! Lisa does a wonderful job of going over the anatomy of the hand and has some wonderful tips on how to remember different parts. In her class we’ve also learned about several different diagnoses, such as osteoarthritis, arthritis, and carpal tunnel syndrome to name a few. We’ve discussed the importance of wound care and the different phases of healing. We’ve talked about different orthoses and have had the opportunity to critically think about which orthosis we would recommend given different client cases. Lisa has shared so many resources with us to continue practicing our knowledge of anatomy and is so patient when explaining different concepts in class. This week we had our first in-person course, where we practiced casting. It was so much fun! I had seen this done at the hand therapy clinic I worked at, and I finally got to try it. Here’s some pictures!

My partner and MA II student, Bethany, made a pretty awesome cast on my finger!

My attempt at casting Bethany’s fingers. It was fun to get a little messy and practice!

In OT 562 we’ve learned about a multitude of physical agent modalities that may be used in hand therapy practice. We’ve learned about ice/ice massage, hot packs, ultrasound, transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (TENS), neuromuscular electrical stimulation (NMES), paraffin, iontophoresis, and phonophoresis. Aside from learning about the modalities from our instructor, we’ve had a chance to learn from each other. Each student has had a chance to become familiar with one of the modalities I listed and presented during our small groups. We’ve learned about the precautions and contraindications, parameters, and when/why we would use the modality with clients. Dr. Rocker is extremely knowledgeable and has challenged us with multiple case studies that allow for us to critically think about which modality, if any, we would use in different cases. Some of the cases presented in class are cases that Dr. Rocker has seen in practice, which is really cool! We’ve had class on campus to try out ultrasound (sorry, I forgot to take some pictures!). We also had TENS/NMES units mailed to us from the Division, which we’ve had a chance to try out during class. It was a really cool experience to know what the modality feels like, and how it would be beneficial for certain clients. A little class fun this week included dressing up for Halloween. I really appreciated that Dr. Rocker continues to try and make class fun for everyone even though we aren’t on campus as we would usually be.

Check out my costume — I am supposed to be a goniometer!

The lovely Trojans I’ve been working with in PAMs all semester showing their Halloween costumes!

If you’re as passionate about hands as I am, you’ll definitely get so much out of these two electives. The content is extremely relevant to hand therapy practice. If you’re interested in becoming certified in PAMs, CBOT requires a minimum of 30 educational hours and 240 supervised hours of PAMs training. The PAMs course counts towards 33 educational hours — so, you would be done with that part! All that’s left to worry about is obtaining the direct training in PAMs, which you could start accumulating hours for when out in practice as a certified OT. Pretty awesome!

Liz

Second-year Students Are Here for You Too! >

by Liz

Getting Involved

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The end of my second year as a master’s student seems so close, yet so far away. So exciting! I feel as though it was just yesterday that I moved out to Los Angeles and sat out on the CHP patio waiting for orientation to begin. As I reflect on how close I am to the end, I can’t help but think about all of the wonderful support I’ve received these past two years.

Something that is unique about our program is how willing our faculty is to support their students. Check out Calvin’s most recent blog post about finding faculty mentorship—he has some great tips! With everything going on and classes being held virtually I can imagine how difficult and intimidating it might be to reach out for mentorship at this time. Another good place to start is to reach out to students! I can say so from experience.

Last year I was seeking more than just attending class, studying for exams, and working on things I felt like I HAD to do. Fortunately enough, our very own Daniel Padilla made an announcement on our Facebook page regarding a program he and his colleague, Ceci, were leading together—Vivir Con Diabetes. In his announcement, he expressed his hopes of recruiting some student volunteers to help with his program. The program was designed to cater to the needs of the Spanish-speaking community of Boyle Heights, many of whom are low-income. The main goal was to improve the diabetes management of this population by improving their habits and routines, all while providing culturally sensitive interventions.

Immediately I was intrigued! This program was something that really hit home for me and a way in which I felt as though I could give back to my community. This is something that I am really passionate about. I immediately thought about my grandmother who always thought the best way for her to improve her diabetes management was by replacing regular coke with diet coke. Sounds silly, I know. But, she really believed this! I thought, if I could give back to the community in any way and work with people like my grandma I would. So, long story short—I volunteered. Now that Daniel and Ceci are onto bigger and better things, I am leading these sessions along with one of my best friends in the program, Stephanie.

I consider Daniel to be one of my mentors! Because I reached out to him due to my interest in this program, I’ve been able to take the lead on it this year. He also provided me with a lot of support as I applied for the OTD a few weeks ago by looking over my resume, practicing some interview tips with me, and in general has been nothing but great vibes! Daniel if you’re reading this, you’re awesome!

While applying for the OTD I also reached out to Marylin. I was nervous to do so given that she is now at her residency site, full of work and other responsibilities. But, she took the time after her long work day to also give me some feedback on my resume. I appreciated that so much! I thought, “Wow, even after a long day of work she still set aside an hour to help me out!”.

What I am trying to get at here is that students who are farther along in the program are also very willing to provide some support for you all. I can think of 7 off the top of my head: Savi, Calvin, Bethany, Yna, Lamoni, Daniel, and myself. If there’s any way in which we can support you, help you connect with faculty, and/or serve as mentors for you to grow while you’re here we are more than happy to do that. So, if you’re nervous to reach out—don’t be! Us second-year and alumni folks are so willing to help. With that said, please feel free to send me an email at any time to chat about school or anything in general!

Liz

My First Level 1 Fieldwork in Permanent Supportive Housing >

by Liz

Fieldwork

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The mental health immersion has been by far one of my favorites! Before grad school I had zero experience in this type of setting and I didn’t know what OT in mental health looked like. So, I was excited to learn all about it! A couple of weeks into my first fall semester, I learned that I would be completing my first level 1 fieldwork experience at a permanent supportive housing facility. The residents at this facility were all individuals who were transitioning from homelessness to permanent housing. This is one of the settings that you’ll get a chance to learn about in the immersion.

To my surprise there wasn’t an OT at my site, but I learned SO much. This was because there’s already a smaller representation of occupational therapists working in mental health settings. Fortunately, there were a couple of case managers and an event coordinator present who collaborated with each other to best support the residents. At first it made me really nervous that there wasn’t an OT at my site. I already didn’t know what OT looked like in a mental health context and the fact that it was my first fieldwork experience felt intimidating. However, I will say it was comforting to have one of my colleagues at the same site with me!

The site was relatively new, and most of the residents didn’t really know each other. However, a few of them did from seeing each other at some of the same shelters prior to obtaining housing. On our first day, we knocked on every single resident’s door to introduce ourselves. Even after we introduced ourselves, at first it was difficult for my colleague and I to interact with a lot of the residents. They preferred to stay in their rooms and only came down to the main lobby for coffee or snacks. So, my colleague and I asked ourselves: what would our goal be while we were there? We broke down some of what we had learned in class so far and decided that we wanted to establish a sense of community among the residents. We hoped to promote social engagement and wanted the site to feel like home. And of course we also wanted to encourage the residents to engage in meaningful occupations!

We discussed our ideas with the case managers and event coordinator to make sure it was okay to move forward and they were on board! After receiving the green light, we designed a monthly calendar full of different groups/activities the residents could attend which included gardening, bingo, cooking groups, exercise groups, and computer classes. We also got to use some of the money available in the budget to order some yoga mats, light weights, coloring supplies, and raffle gift cards for bingo.

Every week we would make a new flyer to promote the groups we would be hosting for the day, knock on people’s doors, and invite them to join us. What started with one person attending our first couple of groups turned into more than 10 people joining us! I had the chance to work with one resident who wanted to learn how to use a computer to type up his own songs. He loved music, and I showed him how to use Microsoft Word to type them up. I taught him how to use the internet to search up websites that help you practice typing on the keyboard. I also helped another resident type up a resume. She wanted to go back to work and wanted to get a resume ready. Being able to support these residents engage in activities they found meaningful was amazing.

Over time, some residents felt more comfortable coming down to the lobby even during hours when we weren’t hosting any group sessions. It was an amazing experience also serving as social support for them. Several residents didn’t have any family or friends, while some had simply lost touch with them. On some days we would just sit in the lobby, listen to music and just talk. We were able to order a speaker for bingo that had an aux, so I was able to take some song requests. Billie Jean was a HIT! But, hearing their stories was the best part.

My professional boundaries were also tested while I was at this site. I am a very petite woman, and one of the residents who was also around my size wanted to give me a USC sweater she said no longer fit her. We had talked about this in class and how we may have to make ethical decisions when at fieldwork and in practice. But, I didn’t know making those decisions would come so soon! This woman whom I had established wonderful rapport with wanted to gift me a sweater. How could I decline? I definitely didn’t want her to think it was because I didn’t like it or because it wasn’t brand new. Would this affect our therapeutic relationship? I knew the right thing to do was to decline the gift. So, I explained that I was not allowed to accept any gifts, but that I would take a picture with it and keep that instead. I could tell she was disappointed at first, but she was happy to see that I took a picture with it! This was definitely a difficult decision to make, but an important part of my learning experience.

Overall, I had a great time and learned a lot! As I am writing this blog post I can’t help but think about all of the wonderful residents I met at this site. I am hoping they are all doing well and full of health! If you are a student in the program who hasn’t taken the mental health immersion, I am certain you’ll have a wonderful experience too. And, if you’re a future Trojan you also have some exciting experiences to look forward to!

Liz

What Might My Schedule Look Like? >

by Liz

Classes

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There’s so much that comes to mind when asking yourself, “what’s grad school like?” What will my schedule look like? Will I have time to do things I enjoy outside of school or is it super intense? Will I be able to work while enrolled in the program? Will I be able to take care of additional responsibilities? I wanted to share a little bit more about that through this post. To start off, here’s my Google calendar!

This reflects what my schedule looks like as a second year student. The pink squares are the times I am at work and the blue squares show when I am in class. The Hand Rehabilitation and PAMS courses are both the electives I chose for the semester. So, the schedule may look a little different for other students depending on their elective choices.

Google calendar

As you can see, for the most part my days start at about 9 AM, with 8 AM being the earliest. I am not really a morning person, however as I shared in one of my previous blog posts I took Lifestyle Redesign over the summer. Well, one of my goals while taking that elective was to switch my workout routine from the evening to the early morning in order to have more time to do other things later on in the day. Yes, it was definitely a struggle to try and do this, but staying active is something that is important to me! Anyway, I usually wake up at about 6:30 AM on Mondays and Wednesdays to get a little exercise in before class. I also work out on Friday and Sunday mornings, but wake up a bit later on those days to get some sleeping in. On the days that I do not exercise in the mornings, I wake up about an hour before class starts to make breakfast, tidy up my room, and get ready for class. So, be ready to start the day early in order to make it in time!

It’s only been two weeks since the fall semester started, and I already have a lot of readings to do for adult rehab. Adult rehab is one of the three practice immersions offered in our program. I’ve successfully completed pediatrics and mental health, so now I am tackling the final immersion! We have a quiz every week, which is first taken individually and then with our group. It’s important to get these readings done in order to be prepared for the quizzes, but also to get the most out of the learning experience. In addition to those readings, I also have readings for my other classes to get through.

As you can see from my calendar, I have Fridays and Sundays entirely free. I am also free Saturdays after 11:30 AM. I do most of my work during the weekend, but I also do some work during the week so as not to overwhelm myself. I would say I engage in roughly about 10 hours a week of study time. This includes reading for classes, any sort of presentation I have to work on, writing papers, reviewing class material and working on asynchronous assignments. This may sound like a lot, but it is doable. I will say, grad school is not like undergrad where you can maybe get away with not doing the readings! I find that actually reading for class has made me feel so much more prepared to engage during lecture and also to ask questions. Although I spend a lot of time doing stuff for school outside of class, I make sure to give myself little breaks throughout the day!

As far as work goes, as a student ambassador I am currently working 10 hours a week. Luckily, the job is very flexible. For example if I needed extra study time on Monday to review for an exam for Tuesday morning’s PAMS class I can shift my work time over to Friday. As I mentioned earlier, there is a lot of time that goes into studying during the week in addition to attending class. So, I think working while enrolled in the program is doable if your job is flexible and won’t interfere with schoolwork. I wouldn’t recommend working any more than 10 hours a week so that you don’t overwhelm yourself. But again, no one knows you better than you do and only you know what you can handle! If money is a huge stressor, there are several scholarship opportunities available within the Division, USC, and through outside sources that can help lift a little bit of that financial stress. There are also student worker positions available that can also help.

When I am not in class my schedule does allow me to spend time with the people I love! My partner and I enjoy ordering Shake Shack for dinner and watching movies. I also have time to visit my parents and my younger sister for a few hours during the weekend. I am also able to spend some time outside, watch Netflix, and hang out with my roomies. And as an update, I did get a new roomie, Max, who I am completely obsessed with! Here he is ready to take on the UCLA football team!

Maxy

So, to wrap things up, definitely expect to put in a few hours into studying outside of class. You really do get what you put into it! But, also keep in mind that there’s time for you to do the things you love. It’s all about time management and really planning out your week/month in advance. You can do this!

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