I’m So Happy That I DIDN’T Get It >
November 4, 2021
Let’s start off by setting the scene. It’s 2019, I’m in my first semester of the Master’s program and I just got my very first Level I fieldwork placement. I was so excited to be placed at Keck Hospital of USC and even more excited to experience the acute care practice setting. It was absolutely everything I could have hoped for and more, I learned so much from my clinical instructor and had amazing interactions with my patients and before fieldwork came to an end I had made up my mind. I needed to be a Keck OT resident.
Jumping forward to September of 2020, the time had come to apply and interview for the USC Chan Residencies. I was so excited to start taking steps towards something that I wanted for SO long. I did my best to prepare; I edited my personal statement for hours on end, I prepared answers to every possible interview question I could think of, and being selected for that residency was all I could think of. October comes, applications are due and I participate in residency interviews. November comes and residency offer letters are sent out…but mine never came.
I take pride in being honest and transparent so I would be completely lying if I say that I wasn’t devastated and felt like everything I had worked for up to that point had been a waste. I would also be lying if I said that it was an easy task to pick myself back up and figure out what was next for me. This was the first time in my academic career that I had to deal with not achieving a goal that I set for myself and it was a hard reality to accept. After a period of allowing myself to feel my emotions authentically and grieving what could have been, I accepted that this was not the end of my journey and that there was a path for me. I just had to go out and find it!
This experience gave me the opportunity to take a step back and be honest with myself and make a conscious effort to work on areas that needed some extra TLC. Although this insight came at the cost of not being selected for the Keck residency, I was on the path to being better equipped for future experiences. I learned how to communicate more efficiently, I learned to have more confidence when interviewing for positions, and most importantly, I learned how to advocate for myself and ask for what I wanted! On top of the opportunities to develop these invaluable professional skills, I had some amazing experiences that would never have happened if things had played out differently. I was able to complete an out-of-area Level II fieldwork over the summer, I have the opportunity to design and tailor my residency experiences to my specific interests, and I have the opportunity to define myself and begin my career in an entirely new city!
So rather than choosing to see this experience as a rejection, I have chosen to reframe it to see it as a redirection; one that I am so thankful for! I am a VERY firm believer that everything happens for a reason and that the things we go through are set in our path to help us become better versions of ourselves. I fell right into where I needed to be and I promise, you will too.
With all of this said, as residency offers begin to roll out and whether or not you receive the outcome you are hoping for I want to remind you to give yourself some grace, give yourself some extra love, and to reassure you that you are more than enough.
Dancing In the Rain >
September 15, 2021
In the Vietnamese language, there is a phrase to offer your condolences to someone when a loved one passes — “chia buồn” — which roughly translates to, “I share in your sadness.” I’ve always found it poignant and have yet to find a phrase in English which can succinctly convey the same sentiment; that if the weight feels too much for one person to bear, please allow me to help you carry it.
This past summer, my grandpa passed away, peacefully and surrounded by loved ones after many years of suffering many strokes. Recounting his life, I realized I had known him as ill for more years of my life than I had not. Growing up, most of my interactions with him existed within the confines of a skilled nursing facility. This past summer, I was also completing my first Level II fieldwork experience in a skilled nursing facility.
During his celebration of life, my family went around the room sharing stories about grandpa. After my dad retired, he took upon the role as an informal caregiver to my grandpa and shared how much grandpa hated my dad’s visits to the nursing facility because he knew that meant it was time for a bath. My mind went, “OT!” but everyone took the light-hearted story for what it was and laughed, including myself. A few weeks later during fieldwork, I was notified that a family member wanted my patient to work on bathing during OT that day.
My patient did not want to work on bathing during OT that day.
They were protesting against the task, bargaining with me, and apologizing for how their disability was inconveniencing my work. I thought of my grandpa and how I would want a therapist to approach the situation if it was him. In places like skilled nursing facilities, there is so much loss of control. People have little to no control in their routine, what and when to eat, what medications they take, and how quickly (or slowly) their body is changing. So when a bright-eyed young OT student comes knocking on their door, asking if they want to take a bath, they say “no” — and you let them, because it returns just a tiny sliver of control to their life.
On several occasions, concerned family members entered the rehab gym with questions about their loved one’s progress during therapy. While others avoided eye contact so as not to get flagged down with questions, I’d approach them and provide updates as best I could. Afterwards, therapists would say to me, “You’re a student — you didn’t have to do that” to which I would reply, “I wanted to.” Just as much as I want to share in victories with patients and their families, I want to share in their sadness with them as well because it’s how I would want my own loved ones to be treated by providers.
Dr. Rafeedie often says how “occupational therapists teach people how to dance” but I’d like to add a stipulation - that sometimes, we teach people how to dance in the rain. That sometimes, in even the bleakest of places, you can teach people how to flip their outlook on life, flip the way they move and feel, and flip the way the system works because as occupational therapists, you’re well-equipped to. OTs possess the impeccable ability to take an unfortunate situation and turn it into something wonderful.
I lost my grandpa this summer yet somehow, I still saw him a lot. I saw him through my patients and the cheesy jokes they’d crack during our sessions. When they encouraged me to work hard in school and finish strong, I heard my grandpa cheering me on. On their families’ faces, I saw my own family’s faces — the looks of desperation, of encouragement, of sorrow, of hopefulness. To whoever is reading this with a heavy heart: I share in your sadness with you, whatever it may be. The rain is clearing and the sunshine is coming, I can feel it. Let’s dance.
You, Me, and the OTD >
September 5, 2021
Being a Master’s student at USC Chan was an amazing experience filled with lots of learning, involvement in an amazing community, and one-of-a-kind experiences. So there’s no surprise that making the decision to apply and complete the Post-Professional OTD was quite simple. To me, this program means more than continuing my course of study or earning the distinction of “Dr”. To me, this program is all about personal and professional growth! Over the course of this next year I hope to work to reach a place where I will be prepared to achieve my professional goals and transform into the best therapist that I can be.
Along with choosing to complete the OTD with the above in mind, I could not pass up the opportunity for the amazing mentorship opportunities that are built into the program! Through my fieldwork experiences during the Entry-Level Master’s program I learned that I really really (really) love acute care OT. As I did my research on the different residency tracks offered, I was looking for an experience that would allow for specialized mentorship. I wanted a track that could support me while I work on my weaknesses and amplify my strengths to help me become a better therapist within my specific setting. The advanced clinical practice track consisted of everything that I was looking for and proved to be the perfect fit for me.
In the time preparing to embark on this journey and in the very short time since classes have begun, I have gained a deeper understanding of what I want to get out of this experience and ultimately made important decisions about my future career. That is honestly the biggest difference between the Master’s program and the OTD program. As a OTD resident you have the opportunity to decide and design your experience, from the practice context to your focus during your doctoral year. This freedom to tailor your residency plan is what makes this experience so meaningful and unique. And don’t worry, if the sound of that much freedom is off-putting to you, you are not alone during this experience!
Through all of the moments of feeling overwhelmed, doubting myself, and wondering if I would be able to find a residency site that was everything I wanted, I am so grateful that I stayed the course and found the site that is perfect for me! I have already gained so much so early in this journey and am excited to see where it takes me. More than anything, I am excited to be your OTD ambassador and be a part of your OTD journey as well!
A Week in the Life: OTD Residency Edition >
April 30, 2021
As I prepare to go into the last semester of my OTD Residency, I wanted to share with you all what a typical week looks like for me. Completing my residency at the LAC+USC Primary Care Adult West Clinic has been one of the most rewarding experiences I’ve had as a student, and now licensed occupational therapist.
I hope you find this vlog helpful and enjoy it!!!
Fighting Feelings of Imposter Syndrome During Fieldwork >
April 9, 2021
Just last week, I completed my first Level II Fieldwork at Prototypes: A Program of HealthRIGHT 360! I was placed with the agency’s Adult Full Service Partnership (FSP) Program and Children’s Program where I was able to provide individualized occupational therapy services to clients across the lifespan who struggle with mental health concerns, needs, and barriers.
This was my first full-time fieldwork placement. I was expected to be there every day from 9:00 AM to 5:30 PM, whereas my previous Level I Fieldwork placements did not require me to come as often. Although I had heard amazing things about Prototypes from previous fieldwork students, I knew that things would be different given the pandemic situation, and also just that everyone’s experience is different. I was feeling anxious about taking on telehealth services, potentially meeting clients in-person, documentation, and more. I wasn’t sure how I would fit in with the team or if I was going to represent OT well enough in the mental health field. The imposter syndrome was real. However, after my first few weeks of fieldwork, those feelings of impostorism gradually began to fade away. I was able to build my confidence to thrive in what turned out to be a beyond-stellar fieldwork experience.
My clinical instructor (CI) was the only occupational therapist at my site, but they truly advocated and raised OT awareness within our client and provider population. I am so fortunate to have had their supervision because they helped further my understanding of what occupational therapy’s role in mental health is. I also appreciated how they always challenged me to ask questions and tested my clinical reasoning and critical thinking skills. At first, I was nervous about making mistakes, but I kept reminding myself that it’s okay and that I should take those as opportunities to learn and grow. Additionally, with the rest of the agency team (inclusive of case managers, clinicians, administrative support and program directors), I felt very well supported and empowered to make an impact as an occupational therapy fieldwork student. It wasn’t long after the beginning when I started to more confidently plan clients’ treatments, document my sessions, present cases to my fellow colleagues, and really highlight the unique capacity of occupational therapy within the mental health community.
It was this sense of community and appreciation for OT that made me feel like I belonged, and uplifted me to bring my skills and knowledge of resources to the table. I was able to creatively collaborate with my caseload of clients to address hygiene management, budgeting their finances, accessing resources, accountability with task completion, social participation, engaging in habit change, and building and maintaining routines so that they can independently participate in their daily lives. I realized that this is the beautiful work of occupational therapy in mental health (and of course there’s so much more to it)! These are meaningful occupations that may be difficult for individuals to participate in because of their mental health needs and barriers. As occupational therapists, we have the power to use occupations as a means and as an ends, as well as to support our clients with health promotion and education, holistic interventions, and our therapeutic use of self.
Overcoming self-doubt and persevering through my own imposter syndrome enabled me to come out of this fieldwork with a wealth of insight, about OT and about myself. I’m grateful for My Mental Health Immersion Experience for providing me with such a solid foundation that prepared me well for this experience. Also, the interprofessional collaboration that I experienced here was extraordinary, and I am incredibly thankful for all the mental health practitioners that I was able to collaborate with. Finally, thank you to my CI, my new West Coast University OT student friends, and especially my ambassador teammate, Bethany Yew, who was placed there along with me — WE DID IT, BETHANY!!!
I am very much looking forward to transitioning into my next, and final, Level II Fieldwork for the Summer 2021 semester, and I can’t wait to continue translating everything I’ve learned through my experiences! Whether if it’s our first or last, or if it’s Level I or Level II, good luck to all of us going into fieldwork. Let’s continue to support one another and make the most out of our experiences!