Last day of fieldwork ⟩
November 27, 2012, by Alisa
Fieldwork What are OS/OT?
I had just finished my last Level I fieldwork. The last day we bought the staff donuts, and all was good. As I reflect on my fieldwork experience, some of the highlights were helping to create a gratitude tree and helping clients and staff to reflect on what they are thankful, coordinating The Price is Right trip as a fundraiser for the organization, and helping clients create resume. There is no doubt that a resume is important; we are often judged by what’s on paper even before we get a chance at an interview. I feel that I’ve empowered my clients to believe in themselves, identify their strengths and work experience, and pretty much sell themselves on paper. Some of clients that I worked with told me: “I’m going to go home and frame the resume” and “I want ten copies of the resume, and I’m gonna post them up everywhere.” I could tell that I’ve helped them achieve a certain level of satisfaction and to be able to have a physical copy of our work gave it more meaning to them. Their hard work have amounted to something tangible, my present to them.
At first I wasn’t sure where I would fit it to the setting since there are no occupational therapists at the site, but as time passed by, I learned to be helpful and take more initiative. I didn’t mind being a generalist, helping out around the office and mingling with clients in the lounge. There’s something about hearing people stories that fascinate me. I am helping them engage in occupational storytelling, reflecting on their past and current occupations, in order to better understand and help them create a new occupational identity. Specifically to this site, clients are working toward education/employment. Occupational therapists can work with this population in order to facilitate that, and I feel that I’ve learned a lot from this site. It has made me better understand the client population, who has a diagnosis of mental health disorder and substance abuse disorder, and feel more equipped to work with them. I could see myself working in mental health. What about you? Which population do you see yourself working with?
My first day of fieldwork ⟩
October 1, 2012, by Kendra
I began my mental health fieldwork this week at AF Hawkins, the LA county psychiatric hospital. OTs got their start working with people with mental illness during the Progressive era in the early 20th century, but in an effort to define ourselves more medically, a lot of the arts and crafts aspect of our work was put aside for biomechanics and diagnostics. And here I was going back to our roots.
But while prepping for my first day I became very nervous reading about ‘arm’s length’ rules and ‘locked wards’ and ‘involuntary commitment.’ So despite my desire to be open minded and calm about working in a psychiatric hospital, my mind was filled with media images of bars and vacant eyes and inhumane conditions. What I saw was very very different.
Yes the doors are locked and yes you must take certain precautions to ensure yours and the patient’s safety. But what I didn’t predict was the sincerity and kindness with which the practitioners treat their patients. I didn’t imagine the laughter of adolescents echoing through the halls. So much of what I’d heard about psychiatric inpatient care was regarding role strain and the way therapists and nurses have to ‘turn off’ their emotions in order to deal with the weight of working with so many sick people. When I talked to the OTs at AFH many have worked there for over 15 years and every one I spoke to loved their job and the work they do. What is it about this place that makes the relationship between therapist and patient so effective?
Introducing the Cognitive Disabilities Model. It was created by Claudia Allen in an effort to properly pair a person’s cognitive functioning with appropriate activities. People’s cognition is rated on a 1.0–6.0 scale as are certain crafts. What this allows the OT to do is then offer activities (e.g., a greeting card or a tiled box) that properly match what the person can actually do therefore increasing the likelihood of success and satisfaction in performing that occupation. There are a lot more details that go into than that, but it works. I see OTs that know their role in the hospital and know how to help people on an individualized basis. That is the most important part, at least to me, because what they are doing is preventing the glossed over effect in which practitioners fall into the trap as viewing every person with one diagnosis as the same. They see everyone differently and suit their treatment to meet their specific needs, so OT!
First Day of Fieldwork ⟩
September 24, 2012, by Amber
Fieldwork What are OS/OT?
Last week I began my level one fieldwork experience at Rancho Los Amigos National Rehabilitation Center. Each semester, our courses are focused on a particular practice area of occupational therapy: adult physical rehabilitation, pediatrics, or mental health. To compliment this coursework, we have the opportunity to spend one day per week at a fieldwork site in that practice area. This semester I am in the adult physical rehabilitation immersion, and was lucky enough to be placed at the top rehabilitation hospital in the Western United States. Rancho Los Amigos is situated on a beautiful campus in Downey, and has a long history. In 1888, it was known as the Los Angeles County “Poor Farm.” In the 1950s, it was a respiratory center for polio patients. Today, the hospital helps patients with disabilities regain skills and learn techniques to accomplish basic activities of daily living, and return to work or school if possible.
I was placed in an outpatient unit that specializes in treating people who have sustained spinal cord injuries. My role was to observe an occupational therapist, and potentially do some hands-on interaction with the patients. The first patient of the day was a middle-aged man who had been injured in a fall at work. He used a wheelchair and had extreme weakness in his upper body. It was his third visit with the occupational therapist, and we worked on activities to strengthen his upper extremities. He really pushed himself, and it was wonderful to see the slow progress he was making. Later that day, I got to observe and use the driving rehabilitation equipment, and spend the afternoon in the stroke rehabilitation unit. I am very excited to continue my fieldwork and learning experience at Rancho Los Amigos.
First day at Fieldwork ⟩
September 21, 2012, by Alisa
This week I started my level I fieldwork in mental health. I am placed at Project 180, a forensic treatment agency, in downtown Los Angeles. Clients have a mental illness as well as a substance abuse issue. Programs include the re-entry program, where clients join Project 180 after serving their time in jail or the diversion program, where clients join Project 180 instead of going to jail. The 12-18 month programs are structured in phases, culminating with a graduation ceremony at the end. There have been instances where Project 180 staffs have worked directly with clients in jail. I was able to observe three group sessions: mental health, job skills, and thinking errors. It was eye-opening to be able to hear a lot of members share their stories openly. To actually be able to hear someone who has had first-hand experiences of what it’s like living with a mental illness was a very humbling experience. It made me realize to be thankful for what I have in my life and the support system and to have an attitude of gratitude wherever I go. I appreciate how committed the staffs at Project 180 are to their clients and to each other. I look forward to more group sessions with the clients and individual sessions, too. I learn a lot from just listening to them. So far, it’s been a wonderful experience, and I’ve also made a canine companion at fieldwork, too! Meet Indiana Jones.
Looking Back — 1st Year ⟩
April 7, 2010, by Mari
Fall ’08 – Spring ’09
The transition from summer to fall semester was nice because we had a little more free time since we weren’t in class as often. The classes that we took were in Pediatrics, Physical Disabilities, Psychosocial Dysfunction, OT Skills, Gerontology, and Occupational Science. We also had labs for “Phys Dis” and Skills, and our Level I fieldwork (FW) during the fall and spring semesters. So, although we were spending less time in class, we were still quite busy. I chose not to work during my first year, which gave me more time to hang out with friends, help coach a club soccer team, and of course, study. 😉
Early on in the fall semester, we celebrated Priscilla getting married and threw her a surprise bridal shower! We try to find as many excuses as we can to hang out and have fun outside of school! I think she was definitely surprised!
And here’s the whole group!
Our first Level I FW was in the fall — I spent a full week at Casa Colina Centers for Rehabilitation in Pomona, CA, in the inpatient rehab unit. There are different departments at Casa — inpatient rehab, pediatrics, and transitional living. In the inpatient rehab department, the therapists were split into different teams, who generally treated a certain type of patient diagnosis. For example, there were teams for such diagnoses like spinal cord injury and brain injury/stroke, my team being the latter. My Clinical Instructor (CI) was Lisa and she was very knowledgeable and friendly! It was great to be able to work with her and see what it was like to be an OT in that setting. Casa had been pretty recently remodeled, so the facility was very impressive!
Here is a picture of the “Stroke” team on Halloween! It was a great way to end my fun week visiting Casa!
My second Level I FW was in the spring — me, along with 32 other USC OT students, and 6 CIs spent two full weeks in Ghana! We worked with children with disabilities at the Mephibosheth Training Center (MTC), which is a boarding school for the children. This ministry was started by a Ghanaian pastor and his wife, who is a PT from the US. When we were there, there were 20 children, ages ~5-21 years old. In Ghana, they didn’t really know exactly how old the children were, and it made it tough to tell because many of them looked much younger than they really were. In Ghana, much, if not all of their livelihood is from physical labor or skills that a person has, therefore, people who have disabilities are looked down upon and seen as useless and hopeless. It is very sad, but infanticide is quite common if a child is born atypically, despite it being against the law. So, this is why MTC is such a wonderful place!
The children are taken in and they live at the boarding school for three months at a time. They will go home or to the orphanage they came from for one whole month, every three months. This is to encourage the children’s parents and the orphanage staff to be involved with their children’s health and well-being. At MTC, the children live amongst each other in a dormitory and they attend school and church together. Most of the children have chores and they are able to take care of themselves for the most part. It was so great to see how they truly act as one big family! What we were there for, was to help the children to increase their ability to do their everyday occupations. Two or three USC students were assigned one or two children. We assessed and observed them while they were in school, eating, and doing chores and self-care, in order to pinpoint what was going on with them and what they needed the most help with. We then developed a treatment plan, which we implemented during the week. And we created home and classroom programs (that were mostly pictures), which we taught to the children’s parents/orphanage staff and their teachers.
Going to Ghana was one of my most favorite experiences since I’ve been in OT school! Everything about it was amazing — the OT aspect: I learned so much in the short time that we were there and it really challenged my clinical reasoning skills and ability to think out of the box; the Christian aspect: being in a Christian environment was powerful as I saw some of my non-Christian USC friends being touched by the love that the Ghanaian children and people have for Jesus; the Ghanaian aspect: I absolutely loved Ghanaian culture — people were so laid back and friendly, it reminded me of home in Hawaii! We have so many stories and great memories from the trip, but here are a few pictures.
Meet Amanquah (~13 years old) — isn’t he so cute!? Sarah (another student ambassador) and I were partners on this trip and we had the opportunity to work with Aman! He didn’t have a specific diagnosis, but he had CP-like symptoms and malnutrition. He was very weak — he had to use a wheelchair to get around and would scamper on the ground on his elbows, hands, and knees to get around. He had a difficult time holding his head up, which inhibited him from efficiently participating in many of his occupations — eating, self-care, and doing schoolwork. He also didn’t speak much, but we could tell he was very bright!
Barb was Sarah and my CI — it was her first time to Ghana as well. She was great! She brought a lot of good ideas and insight into our treatment and care for Aman!
Here is Sarah and Aman taking a break between one of the exercises that we were doing to increase the strength of Aman’s neck extensors (to lift his head up).
And here’s Aman and me doing one of his other favorite occupations — drawing and writing!
Also, during the spring, my birthday, which happens to be Earth Day, came around, and of course, some of my friends and I used it as a reason to get together after class!
And another great way to end the year — OT Banquet/Prom! A fun night of dressing up, good food, dancing, and great company!
So that was a glance back at my first year. It definitely flew by quickly! To sum up the school portion of it — FW, labs, group projects, practicums, and site visits!