PT Solutions doesn’t just employ physical therapists, we also have an amazing team of Occupational Therapists that help people build their independence and restore their everyday lives. In honor of April being National Occupational Therapy Month, we talked with occupational therapists Stacy Moses of Kentucky, Kaley Grant of Florida and Susan Denham of Alabama about what it’s like to be an OT.
For someone who has never had experience with Occupational Therapy (OT) can you briefly describe what it is?
Susan: Occupational Therapy is a skilled service provided to individuals who lack the ability to complete daily tasks. These daily tasks can range from feeding (in infants) to standing up (in geriatric clients). Each client is viewed holistically from a psychological and physiological view point to establish a treatment plan specific to that client’s needs.
Kaley: Occupational Therapists want to help people return (or maintain) the ability to perform all the activities they want to do every single day, or perhaps simply what they enjoy doing. If you want to be able to play Bingo with your friends, paint in your garden, or play with your grandchildren, we want to help you be able to do those things. These activities of daily living (ADLs) are our focus for planning your treatment. Could be as simple as putting on your socks in the morning or as complex as figuring out the most feasible way to walk your dog every day.
Stacy: The most distinct difference is the use of functional activities and client-centered goals to increase patient’s independence and function.
What made you want to become an Occupational Therapist?
Susan: A great mentor and friend was an OT, I liked what she did!
Kaley: I have a Fine Arts, studio art, major in undergrad and I was raised by an occupational therapist. I knew that this was a career in which I could help people become more independent and enjoy their day-to-day lives while also having creative license to achieve these goals.
Stacy: There were many factors that influenced my decision to become an OT but the desire to help others influenced my decision the most. There was a local program so my decision seemed like the right fit.
How has the field of OT (or healthcare in general) changed since you first started?
Susan: The field is much better known (there were 5 OT’s in Montgomery when I graduated) and research based practice is a much stronger push.
Kaley: Well, I graduated in August of 2015. So not much that I’m aware of. I am however, constantly learning new tricks of the trade!
Stacy: OT has become a more utilized field that has increased skill in treating upper extremities, sensory difficulties, etc.
What’s your favorite thing about being an OT?
Susan: It’s never groundhog day, each patient is different and has different needs, so each day is different.
Kaley: I love the endless possibilities! At this time, I am working in a pediatric outpatient clinic 3 days a week and in acute care setting 2 days a week. I absolutely love that I can have one job and work with all sorts of populations!
Stacy: My favorite part of being an OT is never having to touch feet! YUCK! Haha.. I love treating hands/shoulders and as an OT I feel I have a special interest in this area and a strong desire to improve a patient’s ability to use their upper extremities. The saying is true, “You don’t know what you’ve got til it’s gone.” Patients are generally very motivated to regain the use of their hand or upper extremities so its very rewarding to be part of that process
What are the biggest challenges you face as an OT?
Susan: Being creative.
Kaley: Constantly being challenged to come up with innovative ways to help people. This could be creating a game to make handwriting exciting for an 8 year old or attempting to get a sleeping patient out of his hospital bed and up for some therapy.
Stacy: I’d say the biggest challenge is getting a doctor to actually understand the difference between OT and PT and write the order. It has taken years of marketing and education in our area to make this happen.
What’s the biggest success story you’ve seen?
Kaley: Hard to say. I love hearing my patients talk about how much they feel they’ve learned from 25 minutes with me in the hospital. They feel safe and ready to go home because they have been taught how to get dressed safely, how to use their DME, or how their spouse can effectively and safely assist with transfers.
Stacy: The biggest success story I have seen recently is a patient who lost his thumb and index finger in a traumatic amputation learn to use a mechanical hand.
Tell us about a memorable moment, recovery or advancement you’ve seen during your time as an OT.
Susan: When I started practicing, joint replacements at the shoulder and hand were unheard of, now they are common place.
Kaley: After helping an elderly woman get out of her bed, to the bathroom, and back to her chair all with so much pain, she looked at me in the end and said, “Thank you so much. You have been a delight to work with. You are wonderful at what you do.” Perhaps at that time I felt like I was just causing this little old woman so much pain or perhaps I was just insanely relieved she made it back to her chair. . . but that moment stands out. She and others like her are a constant reminder of why this profession is so important.
What’s the most important advice you give your patients?
Susan: Listen to their bodies and “use it or lose it”
Kaley: Please communicate your complete needs to your therapist. What your goals are and what you want out of OT. Don’t know what OT is and you’re sitting there with one. . please ask! Occupational therapy is completely client based, we should always know exactly what our patients want and need.
Stacy: Most important advice is posture, posture, posture
What advice would you give to an aspiring OT?
Susan: Talk to the schools you are interested in attending EARLY, the programs are competitive and you have to think about it early. Also, observe in several OT areas, unlike nursing or PT, OT is VERY different in different settings.
Kaley: Only become an OT if you genuinely care about what each person has to gain. If you do not like to get to know strangers and are not intrinsically motivated to find ways to help them, then you should probably not be an OT.
Stacy: Never stop learning!
Where do you see the profession of OT in 10 years?
Susan: Moving into lot’s of different areas, evolving as healthcare evolves- more health and wellness.
Kaley: Hopefully way more common than it is now! The majority of people still don’t know what OT is, I hope that changes and referrals are increasing! Perhaps we won’t even need referrals.
Anything else you want people to know about occupational therapy?
Susan: It’s a great profession, but it is hands on and people oriented. IF you don’t like to have lots of contact with people, it’s not for you!
Kaley: If you choose to be an occupational therapist and enjoy working with children. . . one day you may be lucky enough to spend your “work” day building scissor skills via hand puppets!