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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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Student Blog


AOTA National Conference ⟩
April 22, 2011, by Yao

Getting Involved

A quick journey from a project at USC all the way to a national conference with over 50 other schools and countless practitioners.

Just last week I was in Philadelphia presenting a poster on a project that I had the opportunity to develop in our OT skills 3 class, but now I am back into the grind, with 3 weeks left until graduation. For the first time during my graduate school experience, I am finally beginning to understand and really feel how invaluable these past two years at USC have been.

It’s been a process, really. My road to realizing the opportunities that the occupational therapy community at USC has to offer started last June, when a classmate and I decided to take the skills 3 class project that we started in January 2010 and engage in an independent study elective with a faculty advisor. The process has been trying, and I was re-acquainted with the importance of time management. But all of our hard work culminated last week: In addition to receiving constant mentorship from various faculty members and access to departmental resources (e.g., poster production), we were both chosen to receive two of this year’s departmental scholarships to travel and present in Philadelphia during the national occupational therapy conference. Then came the day that we had to leave for Philadelphia, both faculty and students had talked about the hope and encouragement that everyone feels at the conference. This was going to be the first time that I stepped out into the OT world with more than 50 other OT schools gathering the knowledge that our peers and tenured members had to offer.

Seeing the amount of OTs in one place and seeing the welcome signs everywhere in Philadelphia with AOTA’s brand all over was inspiring. Throughout the conference we received the opportunity to talk and mingle with our fellow students and leaders in the profession. Never in one place have I seen so many people together with the same background working towards the same goal, the Centennial Vision. All of our two years of schooling has come to this; it has been to prepare us to work with and discuss our ideas and hopes for the future of our profession. We were taught to find resources within our own profession, find ways to access resources outside, and more importantly, to think beyond what is happening now. AOTA allowed for everyone to come together and discuss ideas, and with that opportunity I realized what USC has taught us. They have bestowed on us the ability to analyze a situation, organize, formulate, and articulate our ideas. But most importantly, they have taught us to not be afraid to begin a discussion that may lead to further action and not be afraid to collaborate. USC has educated us to appreciate OT for all it is and has helped us mold how we want to become as a practitioner and a leader in the profession. In the words of Dr. Clark we are a pixel in the whole picture that we know of OT, working together with other professionals across the nation to make OT a clearer picture for everyone.


M.I. ⟩
February 15, 2011, by Yao

Classes School/Life Balance What are OS/OT?

A great opportunity and a blessing in disguise.

I just finished my first session and am about to start working on the homework for my second session of Motivational Interviewing. Motivational Interviewing is an elective class that is offered the spring semester over three Saturdays with days starting at 9am and scheduled to end around 4pm.  I originally elected to take the class not only because one of my favorite professors was teaching it but also because it was a method that I planned to use in my research project. I went into class that first Saturday with the mindset of just learning a clinical skill and perfecting and perfecting until I felt that I had it right. Boy did I have the wrong idea!

The day started off with the basics and the history behind motivational interviewing and some video examples of practitioners incorporating it into practice. Then it came time to practice. Like I had mentioned before it was not a skill that should just be learned cold and practiced numerous times, rather it’s a skill that you need to feel and experience. This feeling and experience will guide your use of the skill, a real feeling and investment in the person that you’re talking to. To me it’s not a skill that you can just practice with a partner and in the middle ask if you’re doing it right, but something that when given the opportunity should be used to help fully understand the origin of certain actions and feelings. And as my professor mentioned, “If you do it well, people won’t even know it”; not to echo what I mentioned in my previous entry but sometimes listening can bring about more answers and chances for change than automatically trying to fix the problem as soon as you hear one.

On another note this motivational interviewing class has allowed me to tap into my emotions for the first time in about a year and a half. When things happened over these past two years that required emotional investment I tended to push them aside because there was that ever present need to do well in school and live in the moment with school and my social life here in Los Angeles. I was surprised at how I felt, not to say that there was a huge revelation and that I was denying my feelings these past two years. But I was able to identify emotions and feelings that I thought I have overcome or had just died down over the past years. I’m looking forward to the second session to further explore these feelings and try and resolve them instead of just pushing them aside and making school the excuse for not addressing them. It’s a nice complement to the other coursework this semester. It also is a reminder that no matter what is going on you have to consider taking care of yourself so you can provide your best care to others.


Just a minute to listen . . . ⟩
January 25, 2011, by Yao

Classes What are OS/OT?

Sometimes the best therapy is to have someone listen to you.

I’ve always appreciated when friends took the time to listen to me but I was lucky enough this past Friday to really observe this in practice during my OT 500 University Hospital observation elective. It’s hard sometimes to remember that although our goal as occupational therapists in the hospital is to return the patients to functional ability in ADLs and make sure that they are equipped with the best tools to help them engage fully in their life after hospitalization, that sometimes in order to best serve our patients we need to listen to them first. 

It was my second day of rotations and the plan was to see about 4-5 patients within the 4 hours that I was observing. I realized how hard it was to balance what the patient needed physically and what the patient might need mentally as well as the need to be flexible. The latter is a definite requirement in Occupational Therapy and even more pertinent when working in a hospital setting. The first two patients had gone according to schedule and the OT I was shadowing was able to balance rapport building and physical engagement in the session. Then it was time for our third patient. It was the first time this particular patient was in a hospital that had health professionals talk to him as a peer. Rather than a “I’m the Medical Professional and you’re the patient and you will listen and do everything that I say without a question” interaction. We started with our typical introductions and a brief summary of our jobs as Occupational Therapists and what role we would play in his recovery. At the beginning of the session he had mentioned that he was suffering from an immense amount of pain and he wasn’t sure what he was able to do and would possibly prefer to engage in bedside exercises. Then, it seemed out of the blue he brought up information that he had heard about upcoming Occupational Therapy research and how he was fascinated by the strides we were making in areas such as Autism. This began a deep conversation about not only Occupational Therapy but every now and again we were able to get a little bit about his background, The background information helped us piece together his occupational history as well as fun interesting facts that we may be able to later incorporate into his therapy sessions.

Then without skipping a beat the therapist I was observing mentioned the possibility of taking a few laps around the floor because it seemed as if he was ready and able to. Without hesitation the patient started getting up out of his bed and continued to conversation. As we were walking and talking about various subjects in the medical field one lap became two and two became three and finally we had to migrate back to his room in order for him to get to his lunch tray in time. While we were wrapping up the patient said “Thanks, I needed that.”

The time spent with him allowed us to help put him at ease with his hospital visits by reminding him of his knowledge of current medical research but also taught us a lot about him and how he was perceiving this hospitalization. It especially gave us insight on how to best tailor his occupational therapy sessions so that he would get the most out of them with his particular goals in mind. I know it seems simple but sometimes I feel that people get so caught up that the importance of just listening is no longer a priority due to the increasing demands of time and billing placed on all medical professionals.


5 more months . . . ⟩
January 13, 2011, by Yao

Classes What are OS/OT?

My last Spring semester, I can’t believe it but I’m looking forward to my courses!

It’s the start of our last semester — I never thought that this time would actually come; I knew that it was coming but it was the ever-elusive last step until I enter the real world. Well it’s here. And oddly enough it promises to be one of my most diverse semesters and for once my choice of electives outweigh the number of core classes that I’ll be taking.

The first of my electives is “Sensory Integration,” which was introduced to me while volunteering at a local occupational therapy clinic whose main treatment revolved around sensory integration. After seeing how it positively affected the children were engaging in treatment at the clinic sparked my interest. Ever since my first pediatrics class I’ve been fascinated by the fact that your senses can be used as processors and organizers of information from the environment. As a result some people may have issues using their senses to organize their environment and as a result may react negatively to their environment. This is going to be a very interesting and intense course in addition to being a typical class it also counts as one of four parts of a SIPT al certification in sensory integration through USC and WPS for practitioners. One of the things that I’m most excited about regarding this course aside from the material is that both of our teachers actually studied with and knew A. Jean. Ayres (the woman who developed the sensory integration as it is used in occupational therapy, here at USC)!

My second elective is motivational interviewing. Motivational interviewing can be a way of gathering information from potential clients as well as a relationship-building tool. I decided to take this class because not only would it provide another type of training that would best benefit potential patients but also can be used in furthering my OT skill project that a classmate and I will be presenting on in April in Philadelphia. Especially in this day and age it is very important to gather as much information about the person and their lives throughout the process of rehabilitation to ensure the success and relevancy of treatment.

And the third and last elective that I will be taking is a course that is offered at Keck Hospital of USC. It’s another opportunity to gain hands on clinical experience with the hospital population, which is one that I’m highly interested in. And it’ll be the first elective and fieldwork that I’ll be able to wear scrubs! Believe it or not I haven’t worn a pair of scrubs as a part of fieldwork or as part of my elective courses.

It’s so sad that although this semester is going to be full of meaningful classes and plenty of group outings and projects, it will be the last semester that all my classmates and I will be together, in the same place, on similar schedules. Through my experience in graduate school I’ve began to learn the importance of enjoying the moment and not focusing too much on the future because you’ll lose sight of the present.  Here’s to an amazingly awesome last Spring semester!


Interdisciplinary Communication ⟩
December 6, 2010, by Yao

Community Getting Involved What are OS/OT?

The importance of interdisciplinary communcation and engagement.

This past weekend Amanda and I were a part of an interdisciplinary health fair put on by Keck Medical School at one of the local high schools. It was a great opportunity to learn about the other members of a potential medical team and interact with the community.

One fact that I found fascinating was that although a lot of the participants were medical school students, pharmacy students, physician’s assistant students and physical therapy students, many weren’t really sure of what occupational therapists did and to what extent. On the same side we weren’t aware of the full breadth at which these groups also participated in patient care, so it turned out to be an amazing learning experience on both ends. It’s important to have more events that include the different members of a potential team.

I have to admit that Amanda and I had a hard time thinking of what to say when the other disciplines asked what exactly it was that we did as occupational therapists. It wasn’t because we weren’t sure, it was the fact that there were so many ways that occupational therapists went about treatments depending on the situation and patient. We weren’t sure how to give an in-depth understanding including all the different capacities at which and occupational therapist could work.  Finally, we decided to use the sensory integration station that we had set up to help open up discussion about the role of occupational therapists. The station consisted of two large Tupperware containers, one full of black beans and the other with lentils. Buried inside each container were little miniature animals (Polly Pocket sized) and the goal was for the participant to find as many animals as possible with their eyes closed. Skills such as touch discrimination, stereognosis, maintaining attention, and standing balance were all used in this one activity. It helped the other professions understand that occupational therapists used meaningful activities and in this example of a pediatric client, play would be their meaningful occupation as a way to work on developing skills to help them engage more successfully with the environment. It was the most popular activity at the fair and gave us an opportunity to talk about occupational therapy and for the participants to understand through hands-on experience what occupational therapy can do. I’m so glad we had the opportunity to participate and get to know about all members of a potential interdisciplinary team and I’m looking forward to future mixer events.

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