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Putting it into Practice: OT Student Blog

April 10, 2013 11:25 AM by Jennifer Preston

So many changes in my life over the past few months.  I went from an unemployed new graduate to a certified, licensed profession with two jobs!  Last week I had my first assignment with the staffing agency.  I spent a week in a very nice SNF.  The problem was, up until last week, I had never set foot in a SNF in my entire life.  So it was all new to me.  The staff was great, they answered my many questions and helped me through, but I was definitely thrown into the deep end on day 1.  I am very proud of how I did there, it took me a day or two to adjust, but by Wednesday I felt I had the swing of it and had my productivity up to the mid 80%'s and finished Friday at 91% (the standard at the site was 90%).  I was told that I did a great job, wrote excellent notes and they would request to have me back.  That made me feel great about my first experience.  However, as would be expected with a staffing agency, I was given no assignment for this week and currently have nothing for next week. 

This is where job number 2 comes in.  I knew that I needed to have at least some steady money coming in every month and, as luck would have it, I got a call.  I had interviewed with a company back in March, but they had no openings for me at the time.  Then they contacted me last week with a part time position, Thursday afternoons and Saturdays.  This schedule actually works out great as it will allow me to stay on with the staffing agency to fill in the gaps.  What is even better?!  It is an outpatient pediatrics clinic.  Pediatrics.  The field that I have been hoping to work in since day one.  The field that is so hard to break into.  Now here's a company that's willing to crack the door so I can get my foot in there!  I am very excited.  I go tomorrow for orientation and start treating on Saturday.  I'm hoping that this job will be a stepping stone into a full time pediatrics position in the near future either with them or another facility.  Either way, I am in the door and I could not be happier about that!

March 21, 2013 3:41 PM by Jennifer Preston
     Here I am, an employed woman.  It is a great feeling.  I have not started work yet, as I am in the process of doing all the pre-employment screenings, but I may start as soon as next Tuesday.  I decided to accept a position with a staffing/recruiting facility.  All through school and beyond I have had my heart set on working in pediatrics, but was told that pediatrics was tough to get into.  It's true.  After sending out over 20 resumes the past 6 weeks, I was offered no immediate positions.  However, I made contact with several people who said they will keep my resume for future opening and others who know they will have openings, but not till fall.  So it came down to me having to make a decision about what to do.  I cannot wait till fall to start work, that is just not an option.  I also would feel guilty about starting work at a facility knowing that in 6 months or less I will be seeking other employment.  Also, I just was not sure what other setting I would prefer since I have been so fixated on pediatrics.  Then I saw a posting for a staffing agency.  After speaking with them I knew this would meet my needs perfectly.  I will get an opportunity to explore a variety of setting while getting tons of experience and networking all at the same time.  It seems perfect for me right now and I am excited to get started.  Does anyone else have experience working with a staffing facility?  Did you enjoy it?  Do you have any advice to help me succeed there?
Defending COTAs
March 12, 2013 8:39 PM by Jennifer Preston
     My job hunt has been very enlightening thus far.  I feel I have spent more time defending COTAs than actually interviewing.  I have done this on three separate occasions now.  In the first instance, I was called regarding my resume, but was informed that the facility does not utilize COTAs and that COTAs only work in hospitals and nursing facilities.  That was news to me, and I politely explained that COTAs can work in any setting as long as they have the needed experience and have OTs to provide supervision.  The second instance was basically a re-hash of the first only via email.  The third instance occurred during an interview.  I interviewed for a COTA position, however, when the job description was explained to me I discovered it had nothing to do with treating patients and everything to do with assisting the OTs in making schedules, maintaining equipment, creating projects, etc.  When I questioned the interviewer about this, I was told that COTAs cannot treat patients on their own under Medicaid guidelines.  I guess I must have had a very surprised look on face because I was asked if I knew differently.  At this point, I explained what I had observed and done during my fieldwork that would directly relate to this situation, including treating Medicaid patients on my own as a student.  The interviewer seemed genuinely shocked and planned to research this more thoroughly.  I, myself, am shocked about how little is understood about the COTAs role in the work place.  I am curious, have I just had a run of bad luck or is this common?  When you come across this misconception of the COTAs role, how do you handle it?   
How time flies
March 11, 2013 8:51 PM by Courtney Crone
It is crazy to think how long it has been since I posted. In the time since my last post I have survived my first experience as a fieldwork educator and signed up to take two more students! I have a level 2 starting the first week in April and a level one starting shortly after that. My first student must have given me a good review otherwise the school wouldn't be sending me two more students! I am excited and nervous to take on a level 2. I know in the first few weeks it is going to be challenging to get all of my work done while simultaneously training a new student and making sure she is learning. I am excited that she is starting during OT month and have already started thinking about projects for her to do to promote OT within my building. I am excited to continue on this path and take more students as my eventual goal is to become a college professor, of course that is years from now when I have more experiences to teach from. What was it like when you first started taking students?
I am a COTA!
March 8, 2013 7:49 PM by Jennifer Preston

I passed the exam!  I am now officially a COTA!  I can't believe it's finally done, that was the last hurdle I had to jump and now I can officially be on my way to my new career.  It's such an awesome feeling to know that there will be no more lectures, no more studying and no more exams.  My time is again my own.  It is weird to sit and watch tv and not feel guilty for not studying.   Now it's time to seriously start looking for a job.  I can't wait to start working and helping people!

The Exam
February 28, 2013 6:52 PM by Jennifer Preston

Today I took the NBCOT certification exam.  Wow.  That was not fun.  I have studied diligently for the past 2 months and I do not if I will pass.  It is just one of those exams that you do not walk away from feeling great about your performance.  I say this not only based upon my experience, but of that of my classmates who have taken it before me.  The good news is that, no matter how badly my classmates felt about their performance, they passed.  So I am trying to be optimistic in that I am feeling the same way they felt, so I have a chance of passing as well.  Now, the long wait begins.  I will not get my results till next Thursday.  It is going to be a long 7 days!

Last Minute Studying
February 23, 2013 3:19 PM by Jennifer Preston
     I only have 5 days left until I take the NBCOT certification exam.  I cannot believe how fast these past few months have flown by.  While a part of me wishes that I had more time to study, the other parts knows that there's not much more I can do, so lets just get this over with.  I hate taking tests.  I know there are not many people out there that enjoy them, but I would gladly write a 15 page research paper instead of taking a test.  The next 5 days will be spent preparing myself for the actually test taking as opposed to the test content.  I will be taking a 200 question exam each day to build up my endurance.  I will work out when I need to schedule in some mini breaks (probably just some deep breathing seated at my desk) and, if necessary, a break a way from the desk.  So far I have taken the practice exam in less than 2 hours, so I have plenty of time, but I do not know that I want to go through the stress of having to recheck-in after leaving the testing room for a break.  A classmate took (and passed) the exam last week and after speaking to her I am more worried than I was.  She, of course, did not give me any specifics but did state that it was much harder than she thought.  Since she and I are at a similar level academically, this scared me a bit.  So I am trying not to think about it.  I think that the best decision I have made so far is to not study on the day before the exam.  I am going to relax (or try to).  I am not going to cram or go over last minute problem areas, if I do not know it by then, then I do not know it.  Hopefully this will be a good idea and I go in to the exam as relaxed and prepared as I possibly can be.  Wish me luck!
February 10, 2013 3:48 PM by Jennifer Preston

Last week was full of surprises.  It started out Sunday morning with me receiving my ATT letter.  On Sunday morning.  That was quite a surprise!  So I promptly reviewed my information and scheduled my certification exam for February 28th.  On the one hand, it is a relief to have it scheduled.  On the other hand, I now have a date to worry over.  Regardless of my worrying, I cannot wait to take this exam and move on!

Speaking of moving on, Monday I got a call for a job interview.  It was another surprise for me as I have only sent out one resume thus far.  I had been waiting to schedule my exam so that I could include a date with my resume, however, I saw a COTA opening that sounded just perfect so I decided it could not hurt to try for it.  I figured it was a long shot and so I was thoroughly shocked when they called me.  My interview is tomorrow, so that has given me something else to stress over and has been distracting me from stressing about the exam.  I have everything ready for tomorrow and plan to go over a few more things tonight.  Wish me luck, I would really love this job!

January 30, 2013 10:43 AM by Jennifer Preston
     Yesterday I sent in the last piece of paperwork (and check) required to get the licensing/certification ball rolling, now I just need to pass the test.  It is all out of my hands for the moment and I am so anxious!  Before, I was able to exert some control over what was happening by choosing when to send in the paperwork and the checks.  Now it is all out there.  Not that there is going to be a problem with anything, but I still feel so anxious.  I should have my ATT letter by Monday.  I check the site everyday to see its status.  If I am this obsessed with the ATT letter, I cannot imagine what I am going to be like waiting for my test score!  There is just so much riding on this, so I cannot help but to obsess.  So as a way of distracting myself I have decided to remodel my bathroom, starting yesterday.  I am probably crazy, but it gives me something else to focus on for a week or two.  I know that as soon as I schedule my test, I am going to be one giant ball of nerves until after I get my score.  Maybe I'll have the whole house remodeled by then.  Distractions can be good.
January 28, 2013 4:21 PM by Courtney Crone

This week my student starts, even though I have been a COTA for nine years now this is the first time I will be taking a student. I am very excited to be able to help someone in the way I have been helped in the past. I am also nervous since I have never taken a student before I hope that I impart enough knowledge to her with out overwhelming her. This is a niche placement for her there are very few work hardening sites in my state so it is something most students do not get the opportunity to see. I just hope I can teach her everything she needs to know about work hardening in the 30 hours she is alloted to be here! Do you have any advice? What should I make sure she sees and what should I skip?

January 22, 2013 5:24 PM by Jennifer Preston

“‎I’m an occupational therapist, an obscure profession if there
ever was one. We are few and far between, maybe because
we have chosen to serve people with disabilities. All disabilities.
Not a glamorous endeavour, nor a lucrative one.
And I say serve because we deem that in helping we see
weakness, while in serving we see wholeness. We’ve opted
for wholeness nearly a century ago and have been at odds
with the system ever since. We don’t fix people, you see:
with them, we simply try to find a way to meaning, balance,
and justice. I chose occupational therapy because it
blends science and humanism, intellectual rigour and compassion.”
—  Rachel Thibeault (Occupational Therapists without Borders)

I stumbled across this quote while cruising the internet today and it spoke to me.  It is, in my opinion, a wonderful summation of the career that I have chosen for myself.  So often I trip over my words when trying to explain to someone what Occupational Therapy is and what I will be doing with the rest of my life.  I may have to carry a copy of this quote with me to just hand to people when they ask.  This quote is both inspiring and motivating as I continue to prepare to take the NBCOT exam.

No, it's not glamorous when you are teaching self-care techniques, educating on energy conservation or demonstrating the use of adaptive equipment, but it is so rewarding.  To know that you have helped a person reach a goal, regain some level of independence or raise their self esteem is so rewarding.  To know that you are not just helping people with their physical needs, but their emotional and social needs as well is so rewarding.  "We don't fix people..." because people with disabilities are not broken.  They may need some help achieving their goals and we work with them to make that possible, but they are not broken.  We do not only help people, but we serve them in whatever capacity they need.  I am proud to be a part of this non-glamorous profession and cannot wait till I can serve my clients as a COTA.   

*Disclaimer: I found this quote in an OT student's blog.  I was able to confirm the name, but not that this quote came specifically from her.  So I am going on faith that this student had it correct. 

Life is unpredictable
January 14, 2013 4:09 PM by Courtney Crone

Today was my first official day as an OTR/L, I recieved my official results from NBCOT last weekend and my license this weekend so I can finally use the initials I have been working for over the past 2 and 1/2 years. I am so excited to finally be done but the real pressure of the job has come down on me today. I had two patients unexpectedly need to be dishcarged on top of the patients I already had scheduled for today. It was madness but I learned to cope and got through it now I am ready to face tomorrow. I recieved the final okay that I will be taking a student and she will be starting in the next week or so which means more preping and curve balls to come!

Paying it forward
January 8, 2013 8:57 PM by Courtney Crone
This week we have a PT student observing in our clinic and it made me wonder how soon before I could take a student. I decided to email the fieldwork coordinator at my school and I got more than I bargained for... I can take a level one now! Since I have been a licensed COTA since 2003 I can take level one students now, I can't take level two until i've been licensed for over a year. I was thinking I would take a student in the March quarter or maybe July but she had a placement fall through and asked if I could take a student now! I still have to okay it through my boss but I am excited at the thought of being the supervisor for a change. If it all goes through it will help me further my skills forcing me to know that anatomy to make sure my student is getting the right answers! Have you taken your first student yet? What did you think? How did it go?
Studying Has Begun
January 8, 2013 5:10 PM by Jennifer Preston

     Last week I began studying for the NBCOT exam.  I am not happy with how I’ve been doing it so far.  Currently my system has been to take practice exams and then study the questions I got wrong and the questions that I did not fully understand the reasoning behind.  This has led to very sporadic and disjointed study sessions and I don’t like it.  I need a system with set goals but I don’t know how to set up that system.  So how did you study for the exam?  Did you just use the practice exams?  Did you pick up each old textbook and start from chapter one?  I have another study guide and flashcards on the way and I am hoping they will help bring some order to my study sessions.  Advice and suggestions are appreciated!

Ringing in the new year...
December 31, 2012 9:38 PM by Courtney Crone
It is new years eve and I am looking back on the year very happy. Over this year I finished my Master's degree, took my certification exam and.....passed! I have been so excited and can't wait to get my official certificate and license and officially call myself an OTR/L. This year my daughter turned two and what a fun age it has been! She is the funniest kid I have ever met and all I do is laugh at her! I can't wait to see what next year brings now that all the stress of my life has been relieved!


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