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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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A HANDful of Fun in Hands Electives


October 29, 2020
by Liz

Classes What are OS/OT?

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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!