Occupational Therapy Spotlight
Meet Jamie Bryan. Jamie is a third-year student in Drake's Occupational Therpay Doctorate (OTD) program and will graduate in 2022! In his last year of the OTD program, Jamie has had the opportunity to complete a doctoral capstone experience at Iowa State University's Digital Accessibility Lab in Ames, Iowa.
Name: Jamie Bryan
Hometown: Sioux Falls, South Dakota
Degree Program: OTD, May 2022
Capstone Organization: Iowa State University's Digital Accessibility Lab
Location: Ames, Iowa
Tell us about your capstone experience at Iowa State University's Digital Accessibility Lab. What were your responsibilities and what did a typical day/week look like?
I am completing my doctoral capstone in collaboration with Iowa State University’s Digital Accessibility Lab. My capstone focuses on the use of virtual reality (VR) for patients recovering from a stroke. At the beginning of my capstone, I researched and played several VR games to find ones that would be appropriate to target skills such as ROM, grasp, bilateral coordination, attention, reaction time, and more. My goal was to find games that are playable for commercially available systems that patients or clinics could obtain. I was only able to find a select amount of games that may enhance functional performance, though the games weren’t designed with a therapy focus. Most games that are designed for rehabilitation purposes are often not commercially available. I have made one educational handout so far that compares various commercially available systems that are intended to provide a basic overview of what VR is.
Since the digital accessibility lab is on campus, I do not have direct access to working with patients. I reached out to clinics around the Ames area to find patients who would be interested in trialing VR as an adjunct to the standard therapy they were already receiving. My goal was to find patients over the age of 18 who had a stroke within the last 3-6 months and had some sort of functional impairment. One patient expressed interest and came in for an evaluation/orientation session toward the end of March. She has participated in five VR treatment sessions so far and has played 4-5 different games. The main focus of my capstone experience is to create an educational video that highlights how VR may or may not be effective in the stroke rehabilitation process. I plan on seeing the patient through the end of April to ideally see some progression in ROM or grasp. In addition to the video, I will also be making a second educational handout that addresses ways to make VR more accessible for users who may not be able to hold onto the controllers. Different input options, such as depth-tracking cameras, will be included in that handout.
What is your favorite thing about this Doctoral Capstone?
My favorite thing about the Doctoral Capstone experience is getting to use VR (Oculus Rift S). I was intrigued by VR prior to starting at Drake, though I didn’t know how feasible it would be. I also appreciate that I was able to find a patient to work with. By mid-March, I wasn’t sure if I was going to find anyone to work with.
What attracted you to Drake's OTD program?
I felt like I really connected well with the faculty/staff during the interview process and it helped calm my nerves. Drake seemed like a good fit for myself and my goals and I also liked the city of Des Moines when I visited. I have made so many incredible friends/connections through Drake and the Fieldwork experiences I went on. I also had the opportunity to present at a couple of conferences and participate in a leadership development series.
Have your career goals changed at all since starting Drake's OTD program? How so?
Not really. When I first came to Drake, I wasn’t sure what kind of area I wanted to work in. I decided to keep an open mind about different practice areas even if I wasn’t quite interested in them. I’m still not entirely sure what practice area I want to start in, but I’m confident I will be able to find something in the near future.
How has Drake prepared you for your future career as an occupational therapy professional?
Drake has provided me with resources and materials to continue to learn well past graduation. The didactic coursework helped me learn clinical skills that could be utilized and enhanced through fieldwork experiences. Occupational therapy is a profession of lifelong learning and I’m excited to continue to learn throughout the course of my professional career.
What is one piece of advice you'd give to future occupational therapy students?
Keep the end goal in mind. There will be days when you doubt yourself and your abilities and wonder if you made the right choice. It is imperative to find the positives in negative situations whenever possible. Setbacks are inevitable but manageable. Try to keep moving forward while progressing as a student and future practitioner. Additionally, try to find a balance in life between studying, work, and leisure activities. To avoid the feeling of burnout, occupational therapy students should not dedicate too much of their time to any of these three occupations. Studying is essential and working to earn money can be beneficial, but time should also be set aside to have fun/unwind.