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When OTs Wore White Shoes

Giving OT Presentations to High School Students

Published June 2, 2014 9:04 AM by Debra Karplus
Over the years, I've been asked many times to talk to a high school health careers class, of perhaps a dozen students, about occupational therapy. A few years ago I created a simple thirty-two slide Power Point presentation that I tweak a bit with a few revisions before each class I visit. It makes it easy to cover the points I want covered and not be dependent on notes. I usually ask the teacher to have the students prepare questions for me in advance and I incorporate those into my presentation.

I include the typical topics when speaking to a group of high schools students, most of whom will not become occupational therapist, and many will not even embark on a medical career. I tell why I became an OT and some of the settings where I have worked. I tell the students some of the responsibilities OTs have in various clinical settings and what a typical day might involve in terms of patient care, meetings, documentation and other tasks.

I give my audience a quick overview of the profession. I speak on the requirements for becoming an OT such as the schooling, passing the certification exam, and maintaining a license to practice in each state. I also talk about the history of OT and how it has changed in its one hundred years, especially the past forty years that I have been an OT. I discuss the medical team and specifically how OT and PT are different with different schooling and license though often related modalities. I discuss professional advancement in occupational therapy and also opportunities in management, education, and administration. I usually conclude my talk with a discussion about becoming a certified occupational therapy assistant as I suspect that my audience is more likely to choose that professional route than the Master's Program OTs.

After my talk, I always leave time for questions.  Most often, my high school audience wants to hear about some of the patients I have had.  I usually tell them about Ted. He was sixteen and had been a new driver when he became my patient during one of my three-month field work experiences at a nearby rehabilitation hospital.  He seemed so young to me then, but I was only twenty-two, so it's all relative. There was a picture above his hospital bed of him in tuxedo, wearing a boutonniere, looking rather animated with his arm around his adorable prom date. But alcohol changed his life in a split second and when I looked down at him in his hospital bed, he had only a blank look on his face and was barely responsive.

I love telling that anecdote to my high school audience because I think it gives a memorable and relevant lesson in drinking and driving with perhaps much more impact than any thirty second television commercial or driver's education class message.  The facial expressions on my young audience shows me that I have touched them and perhaps really made a difference.

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