Will I ever be good enough? OT student Fears

Okay, I got this letter from a sweet OT student, sharing her fieldwork fears, who is clearly going to be JUST FINE. 🙂 So my answer is on top, her e-mail is on bottom.

Regarding the fear of not being good enough yet, or that you’ll never be good enough: ASKING THAT QUESTION MEANS YOU ARE GOOD ENOUGH. 🙂 if you have a healthy respect (sometimes fear) of what you don’t know, you will always strive to learn more – with continuing education, reaching out to mentors, etc. It means you are far above most people/therapists and that you clearly show the compassion/concern/desire for growth that makes you an excellent clinician.

It’s true, your skills aren’t perfect yet -and won’t be for a long time. But with each day you will learn new things and slowly you will see the growth you want. Having a good mentor – or multiple mentors – is huge. Reach out to people you admire in the field. Talk to your co-workers. Read books written by people with the diagnoses you treat. Read community forums for those people. Put yourself in their shoes. Practice with your cooperative friends. Observe people in the supermarket. I promise you, these skills that seem so elusive, will eventually come.

Just keep working at them and realize you are doing your best. Also, everyone has their own strengths and weaknesses. There are things that you as a new practitioner bring to the table that an experienced practitioner can’t – such as fresh eyes, recent education, a (hopefully) still unjaded attitude, a creativity for “out of the box” ideas that mostly comes from not knowing any better/different, and then your own therapeutic value. You may have more compassion, more kindness, more creativity, who knows. A lot of times patients are helped just by having someone there who cares. Realize that half the battle – if not more – is just having the patient feel that sense of value/connection with you. Using your “therapeutic use of self.”

So have faith in yourself. Believe in yourself. Know that as long as you ALWAYS know – even twenty years from now – that you don’t know everything and that’s okay. Know that we are in a profession that thrives on constant growth and development, and NONE of us, not even the AOTA president or your most revered OT mentor, know it all. There will be periods you feel great about your growth, periods where you are depressed about what you don’t know, and periods where you don’t care or think you are doing fine. It will all balance out. Just keep growing the way you are now and you will be fine.

PS: I guarantee you will do things in your first year (or years) where you will look back and go WHAT WAS I THINKING OH MY GOSH. Or “I’m such a fraud. They like me and think I am doing a good job but I have no idea what I’m doing.” That’s okay. Everyone feels like a fraud. Everyone has those movements of retrospection where they realize what all they didn’t know. Just keep working to improve your skills, realize you don’t know what you don’t know, but as long as you follow the mantra of “Do no harm”, you’ll be okay, and you’ll survive those moments of WHAT WAS I DOING?! 🙂

Hi Karen,
I am a fourth year OT student at the University of EDITED, currently on my level II Fieldwork. I came across your blog when researching one of my many projects and it was a big encouragement (and nice distraction!) for me. Thank you for writing it!  I needed a little humor, and reading many of your postings rung true with my own experiences in OT school! It’s so nice to know that you have been there, made it through and are now a successful practitioner (because sometimes we wonder…is it all worth it? Will I make it through, graduate, practice for a while, learn, become awesome, and NOT hurt my patients? lol)

As I have been both excited and challenged by my experiences in fieldwork,  I found that I would really love to ask you a few questions, if you wouldn’t mind.

First, I am very afraid for my first patients. I have learned treatment planning pretty well in an inpatient rehab setting (as well as can be expected after three months), but I am still struggling with evaluations. I’m missing silly things like tone, or misjudging ROM or balance, things that I am super super annoyed with because I feel like I should know them! Ugh! I really want to believe that I’ll be a great OT, but that’s hard right now when I can’t imagine it, although I’ve been trying very hard to master skills, (I know I lack clinical reasoning). I’m scared that I won’t be able to pick up on all the details I need to to holistically treat my patients and give them the quality care that they deserve, It’s so frustrating! Any suggestions for how to improve, and/or what the first few years are like after graduation?

I won’t take up any more of your time, but I am so glad I found your blog, wish you all the best, and hope to hear from you soon!

Thanks so much!
JANE DOE, Occupational Therapy Student
University EDITED

Apr 13, 2011 | Category: Current OT Students, Educators, Occupational Therapy, Prospective Students | Comments: 1