Q&A on OT

QUESTION VIA EMAIL, SLIGHTLY CHANGED TO MAKE MORE ANONYMOUS, from a few months ago: My name is Jane Doe and I am an older mother of 2 kids. I obtained an OTA degree back in the 1990s but never used the degree.  I did very well in school but was unhappy in my clinical rotations.  I was under two burned out therapists that didn't do anything with the patients.  I also did not like the fact that no one knew what OT's did in addition to the degree being so broad; I felt it was hard to wrap my head around exactly what we did. I never used the degree and went on to pursue  Bachelors/MBA degrees and then became a mom and have been home for the past 8 years.  Now looking forward to going back to work when my youngest is in first grade, I applied for admission to a MOT program for Fall/2011 and think I have a very good chance of getting accepted.  I decided to apply because I still really want to work in healthcare and thought maybe I would feel differently now if I were to pursue the MOT degree.  I would like to work in a pediatric setting which is something I did not gain experience with during my schooling/clinical rotations. I was in an adult inpatient setting and adult outpatient setting/mostly home health.
 
Questions for you:
 
What are the biggest challenges in this field?
Do you feel like you are making a difference in the lives of the kids you work with?
Is there still a misunderstanding/confusion in exactly what you do?
Do you feel the profession as a whole is respected?
What do you dislike about the field?
How do you get away from people thinking you sit with a patient and a pegboard?
Do you still think it's a great profession?

MY (garbled, as always) ANSWER, slightly edited as well:
I am so sorry you had a bad experience in your clinicals. That can really mess your brain up, to see burnt-out and/or poor therapists. I agree it is a challenge that nobody knows what OT is and not only that, it's impossible to explain quickly. I hate being asked what I do!! Because there is no easy response. But at the same time I do love what I do!

Being an OT versus OTA is a big difference in terms of feeling empowered, I think. If you have a MBA you definitely need to be at OT level, and after going through OTA school you definitely are a very strong candidate and will be miles ahead of many of your classmates with your practical knowledge. Now you can add in the theory. 🙂

Working in pediatrics might also be a better fit and make you feel differently. Such a massive difference. Although it may be tiring to work all day with kids then come home to your own.

Okay, to specifically answer your questions.

What are the biggest challenges in this field?
In no particular order, in MY opinion – insurance reimbursement, difficulty quickly defining what we do, sadness that rarely people are aware of our profession, sadness that when people DO know of us its often pegboard related….also trying to do our best work with limited budgets/insurance reimbursements.
Do you feel like you are making a difference in the lives of the kids you work with?
At times yes. It depends. Some kids are just hard. Other kids you will say wow, I made a difference. But it depends a lot on YOUR style and ability to interact with family, other disciplines, etc. If you are a typical school OT for example who pulls the kid, treats them, brings them back, and doesnt say anything to anybody, then um, you probably wont feel like you made a difference bcause you didn't. 30 mins a week is nothing. But if you are proactive and try to really talk to parents, talk to family, look at the child's function within their environment and focus on that….yes, you might feel you made a difference. At times its frustrating. Honestly the ahrdest part of working with kids is the PARENTS – some are great, others are either overly or underly involved. Yes I am making up my own words.
 
Is there still a misunderstanding/confusion in exactly what you do?
Yes, definitely. I know we are actively trying to change that, but it's definitely an issue
 
Do you feel the profession as a whole is respected?
Controversial to answer this one. Yes, I think in general its respected, but there are plenty of individuals who had not had good experiences. It becomes your job to change their perspective. 🙂 
What do you dislike about the field?
Everything I mentioned above about difficulty defining it, insurance issues, case overloads, etc.
 
How do you get away from people thinking you sit with a patient and a pegboard?
Role modeling. You show them that TRUE OT is very different and as they learn to respect your work they will see it's not true. I can't think of a better way than role modeling. One of my favorite books is called the Healing Heart by Ora Ruggles. Hard to get your hands on, but keep an eye out for it online. So worth it. 🙂
 
Do you still think it's a great profession?

Yes – I love it. I think its potential is sky high. Do we have a lot of OTs who dont know what they are doing, or worse, don't care? Yes. Are there times I am one of those OTs who don't know what they are doing? Yes. But I try really hard to be a good OT overall, and I love what we do. I wish I knew more but that will come with time/experience.

Overall I think its a great profession to go into – pays pretty well, very broad so you can essentially change professions within same field (ie adult phys dys, peds, hands, etc) if you get tired/bored of a certain area, or just need flexibility. Its a good job to have with kids as you can choose a job with no weekends or nights and/or part time, and nobody dies if you dont see them. 🙂 I think if you are cut-dry and don't want to deal with all the issues facing OT, then maybe PT or SLP is a better idea although you probably dont meet their educational criteria AND they of course have their own internal issues. I love OT…..it was the right fit for me.

Basically it's all about what YOU make of it. You will encounter plenty of bad apples and plenty of LOVELY apples (are you loving my midnight analogies?). Seek out the good, work hard, and you will rise to the top….don't let the bad ones bring you down. I sincerely hope you are planning on doing plenty of observation in pediatric settings (and other areas)!

Jul 10, 2011 | Category: Occupational Therapy | Comments: none

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