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Breaking in to hand therapy

Last post 02-25-2011, 9:22 PM by Amy Deluise. 2 replies.
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  •  02-18-2011, 1:50 PM

    Breaking in to hand therapy

    Hi all - I am a new grad and looking for a job whilst studying for the boards. So far I've applied for an acute peds position entry-level and a hand therapy position and was passed over on both counts for someone with more experience. This makes sense to me but if I how then do I make myself more competitive in the specialized areas that I'm interested in such as hand therapy?

    I'd love to be able to find a mentor in VA or NC but know that I may have to look outside of that area to begin. Does anyone have suggestions about where to look to break in to the hand therapy area of practice? I have had some exposure in both of my level II FW's working within the biomechanical framework and working with hands - it's been great and I find myself very compelled to learn more in this area to see if pursuing licensure as a CHT is in my future. Thanks much.

  •  02-25-2011, 9:20 PM

    Re: Breaking in to hand therapy

    I am also a fairly new graduate (2009).  I worked for 5 months in a skilled nursing facility but really wanted the hand therapy position.  I moved to TX and decided to start looking.  I researched all the available positions and found a few to apply for and was offered a couple.  I have been working for a large national OP rehabilitation clinic now for almost 6 months.  I love it. 

     When I moved here I started networking.  I researched clinics that had hand therapists.  I would ask if they minded if I came in to shaddow them for a day.  While I was there I would talk to them about how they got into hand therapy.  I would ask them for their advice for getting into the field etc.  Often they would pass down some of their home therapy programs that I would copy and keep for my collection.  This was a good way to get my name around the area and get a lot of advice about different clinics and how to get in. 

     Other important things to realize is that there is a reason that hand therapy is a specialized area that takes an additional 5 years to get certified in.  It's important that we realize as fairly new graduatates or even new into hand therapy if you have been an OT for years in another field means that you do not have the knowledge to accurately treat the majority of conditions you will see.  I only took the job I took because there is mentorship.  I have a CHT with me 3 days a week.  I am mentored about my entire caseload on a biweekly basis to discuss how to handle them.  Hand surgeons are picky and good ones will not want to send to you if you are not a CHT or do not know that you are being mentored by one.  It is not just a send to anyone kind of world like with most other OT fields.  If you don't have referrals, you will not have patients to see and you will not have a job.

    Another thing you will need to know is that you have to be willing to put in a lot of extra time and work to work your way into hands.  I let my potential employeers know that I understood that and was willing and ready for the challenge.  I have 8 folders I have made myself (before getting hired - haven't had much time to build on it since).  There is a tab for each diagnosis that I may see.  Each diagnosis has a page on the anatomy and physiology of the disorder, another with how to evaluate for this diagnosis, another for the protocol on how to treat post surgery/conservatively, home therapy programs etc. These take up multiple folders.  There is a folder on modalities and what to use and why.  I have a folder on splinting (and splints per diagnosis).  You get the point.  Not only was this beneficial when I started working but I was very open to letting them know I had taken this time to create this because I was so ambitious about the field. 

    When asked why I thought I should get the job, I always responded "because I am passionate about working in hand therapy and love working in it.  I am also a perfectionist and a hard worker who is willing to put in a lot of time an energy in the things I love."  I would also let them know that it was important to me that I was the right fit for the job and that in return that the job was a right fit for me.  If it wasn't a good match for both then I wouldn't want the position.  I got several responses about my energy and passion for the field being a plus for me.  The one place that didn't offer me the job called me back and said the other applicant was much more qualified than I was but that they had felt I was a better fit for the team.  They told me if they had a better support system for me they would have hired me regardless of my experience level. 

    You can also look into a fellowship program with a surgeon.  You will not get payed as well, but you will get to be trained by the surgeon, see the surgeries, etc. 

     

    Good Luck!

     

     

  •  02-25-2011, 9:22 PM

    Re: Breaking in to hand therapy

    look into TWCC (Texas Women's College).  They have a great program that I would love to take just for hand therapists.  It's an online class too.

     I live in Houston. It's huge for hand therapy!