Occupational Therapy

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Occupational Therapy Spotlight

Meet Kate Crane.  Kate is a third-year student in Drake's Occupational Therapy Doctorate (OTD) program.  As a student, Kate had the opportunity to complete a fieldwork experience at On With Life in Ankeny, IA. 

Name:    Kate Crane
Hometown:    Plymouth, MN
Degree Program:    OTD, May 2019
Fieldwork Organization:    On With Life
Location:    Ankeny, IA
Type of Experience:    Brain injury inpatient rehabilitation hospital

If I had to define myself in three words, I would use passionate, honest, and balanced. Everything I do in life is out of passion. I am particular about what I invest my time into, to ensure it is in line with my passions. And whenever I set my mind to something, I give 110% to it. I am as honest as they come. I mean what I say and I say what I mean. There is no room for speculation on my intensions. I believe there is value to being vulnerable and human with other people. I strive to live a life full of balance. While school has been a priority over the last three years, I try to maintain balance in my life by investing in other hobbies as well. When I am not in school, I love spending time out in nature with my perfect dog, going to the gym, reading, writing, or being around the people I love, and I work to ensure I can make time for this, despite the busyness of school.

Why did you choose to pursue a career in Occupational Therapy? 

I believe my passion for OT came out of a handful of primary principles. 1. The importance of holistic medicine. I believe everything about healthcare and the human body is inter-related. There is likelihood that a deficit in one area will affect many others, not only physically, but also will impact mental health and occupation. 2. I believe that humans deserve to live their best life and thrive off the opportunity to successfully engage in desired occupations, whether that be taking care of themselves/others, leisure interests, or completing their day to day job. I believe that engagement in these occupations helps a person feel satisfied by being able to meet their specific needs. 3. As an OT, I love being able to meet people where they are and help to bring back meaning into their life by considering all of these areas. I love being a part of putting the puzzle together until it looks exactly the way the person wants it to, allowing the person to function at their happiest/highest level.

An author once said, "Be careful, for if you hang around me for too long, I will brainwash you into believing in yourself and knowing you can achieve anything." As an OT, I believe this "brainwashing" is what I get to do everyday. I get to be a part of the process of playing with the puzzle until it fits together exactly how the person wants it to. I get to be creative in my interventions, to meet people where they are for that day, and help them to dream bigger, be happier, and do more of the things they want to do. Every single day, I get to see people, to hear their stories, and I get to remind them, no matter where they are or what circumstances lead them here, they are allowed to be happy again and do the things they want to do. It's just a matter of figuring out a way to allow them to be successful in doing so. In moments when hope feels lost, I get to re-instill that hope by allowing the people I work with to see new opportunities, and their new successes and to celebrate that with them.

What are your professional goals as a future OT? 

For almost all of my years in the Drake OTD program, I had no idea what setting I wanted to work in because I loved so many of them. And while that is still true, that I love many areas of OT, I believe my strongest passion right now is for those with neurological deficits (brain injury, stroke, head trauma), specifically in the inpatient rehabilitation setting. I love this setting as neurological deficits are a huge puzzle. Every single one of them presents just a little bit different, making the puzzle that much harder to solve, but that much more rewarding every time you do. The brain and its ability to heal is an incredibly magical thing, and I love being part of that process, specifically in the early inpatient rehabilitation stages. This setting is often vast in interventions, as the mental health components of accepting the injury play a huge part in it, but it's also a chance when a therapist can see so much improvement, meaning I get to constantly celebrate success.

Why did you choose to attend Drake?

Submitting my application to Drake was actually a rather impulsive decision, and truthfully I can't say I ever planned on attending Drake. As a senior in college, I ran in Drake Relays, and I would be lying if I said that wasn’t the reason I turned in my application. Going to school in Iowa was never in my plans, but coming to the interview at Drake changed everything for me. During the interview, I felt the student-centered atmosphere on campus. I felt the way the faculty interviewing me wanted to know me and see me be successful. I saw the wide range of opportunities the program was going to offer me in order to help me reach my professional and personal goals. By the end of the interview process, I felt known, heard, and excited for the future, and like my passion for OT, I was brought into that light in a holistic way. So when I got the call that I had been accepted, I couldn't think of any reason to turn it down, and to Iowa I came.

How are your experiences at Drake helping you to pursue your career goals? 

Over my years at Drake, the student-centered atmosphere that brought me here was something that never changed. My professors and faculty took the time to know and support me in discovering and reaching for all of my passions. Further, the education I received was in line with the most up to date and evidence-based practice in my field. By the end of my didactic coursework, I felt like I had a wide range of experiences and educational tools to be the best occupational therapist I could be in the future. The faculty and staff all had unique backgrounds and this was used to greatly impact my education and help me to be a well-rounded therapist. Further, I was challenged in the classroom to develop important critical thinking skills. My professors always challenged me to think for myself and to reason through my decisions. While they were there to offer support when it was necessary, they also strongly encouraged me to think for myself first. I was also encouraged to entertain many ideas different than my own in order to better my understanding of these perspectives, so I could use this skill with my patients in the future. I believe the combination of these skills are something I used often on a daily basis in practice. Lastly, I was provided with many real-world experiences to practice patient-centered care.

What is your favorite Drake memory?

I loved being a part of many things throughout my time on campus. I served as a CPHS Ambassador, was a member of the Des Moines Health Partnership and competed in the CLARION competition. On top of the many experiences I had throughout the OTD program, I loved also being able to connect with the other professions on campus and to learn from them. I also loved the many opportunities I had to be involved as an OT student in the community setting and advocating at the capital for the field of OT. I felt like I was always a part of something I could be passionate about and the opportunities were endless.

Tell us about your experience at On With Life.  What were your responsibilities and what did a typical day/week look like?

On With Life is an inpatient neurological rehabilitation site. Patients are seen for up to three hours of therapy per day, meaning I saw most patients twice per day for 30-minute sessions. I would see anywhere between 12-14 patients per day, starting at 7am until around 4pm. Sessions were a combination of one-on-one sessions, group sessions, and collaborative sessions with other healthcare professions (Speech Therapy, Therapeutic Recreation, Physical Therapy). The patients also got to do outings into the community and I was able to tag along to some of those as well (such as bowling, grocery shopping, meals in the community, golf course). If I was not seeing patients, I was attending meetings to update the family on patient progress or staff meetings to increase my level of education. Any gaps in my day were filled with documentation.

How did Drake prepare you for your experience at On With Life?

I think my didactic coursework helped me to understand the range of deficits I would be interacting with. I also had a vast understanding of activity analysis, how to break something apart and consider all of the components that could be impacting it. Further, I had the critical thinking skills to know how to problem solve through what I was observing and come up with solutions. Drake also taught me the value of seeing a person instead of a deficit. Lastly, Drake taught me the importance of always looking for room for improvement. Of being aware of my own strengths/weaknesses and working to constantly be better than I was the day before.

What was your biggest lesson from this fieldword experience?

The biggest thing I learned by being at this site was the importance of occupation-based and person-centered care. When it comes to effective therapy, there is so much value to meeting a person where they are for that day, seeing the whole person, and working towards helping the person to do the things that are important to them on that specific day. As a therapist, we should seek to treat patients like people, seeing them not for their deficits but for their strengths. In doing so, we can help our patients to learn that while brain injury (or any other deficit) is a part of their life, it does not define them. Further, we should provide patients with the dignity they deserve to make decisions, as this is so vital to their recovery. A relationship with a patient should be a partnership, sharing expertise with one another. Lastly, I learned by treating the whole person and incorporating desired occupations/leisure interests into everything I did, how people with brain injury can begin to see that while the injury is a part of their life, it doesn’t have to define them. They can still be the person they want to be and engage in the desired roles and routines they want to, they just get to do so in a new way. And as a therapist, it is my job to jump on board for suggesting ways for this to happen. Life after brain injury doesn’t have to be miserable, there can still be a million reasons to smile by doing what they enjoy, and I get to play a part in helping them do that.

What was your favorite part of being placed at On With Life?

I loved many things about this site. I love the patient population. I loved that it always kept me on my toes and I was always using my brain at full capacity to problem-solve the best solutions for my patients. I loved seeing the progress they made, how you’d put in this hard work and see big successes. I loved the collaborative team approach. I loved working on a team that was all about working together and using each person's skills to their highest level for the greatest success of the patients. I loved the use of patient-centered care. I loved that patients were always at the center of everything that happened, and their voices were heard. I loved that patients were treated with dignity and allowed to be in control. I loved that the goals established were realistic to what the person wanted to get back to. And I loved that the number one goal by all the therapists was to make patients smile. There was an atmosphere of support and positivity at this site that I could never get enough of. I also loved that it was really fast paced, that there was always something I could be doing for the success of my patients. Every single day, I felt like I was a part of something bigger than myself. It was so challenging, but so rewarding.

Share a few things you've liked most about your time at Drake and in the OTD program.

I love that the Drake OTD program encompasses a wide range of topics. I felt that throughout my education I was given the tools I needed to address a wide range of patient populations. Further, I appreciated how the faculty and staff were always on board to help me succeed. I felt challenged, but always just enough that I was able to be successful with hard work and dedication. I also loved that they are always striving to be better and improve, open to any and all feedback.

What are some of your accomplishments at Drake and in the OTD program?

My biggest accomplishment will be graduating from the program. Over the last three years, I have worked so hard to get to where I am today. There were many long hours of studying, trying times of problem solving, and exhausting moments, but I have made it to the end and that’s a beautiful thing. I feel equipped and excited to use what I have learned to impact many patients in the years moving forward. My second would be winning the National CLARION Competition during my second year in the program. This experience was a lot of hard work, but I learned so much by working on a collaborative team to problem solve real world complex cases. I am also a part of Pi Theta Epsilon, which is a national OT honors society. 

What is one piece of advice you would give to future OT students?

I cannot pick one thing so here are a few. First, embrace every moment. OT school is hard and exhausting, and not everything will go the exact way you had planned. But there is MUCH to take in from every moment if you choose to look at it in a positive light. Find reasons to laugh, make time to build a support system, take breaks from school, take care of yourself, and enjoy the ride you are on. Learn as much as you can and put your heart into everything you do.

Second, one of my clinical instructors once told me, “There are days you will be a great OT, and days you will be the worst one, neither of these things defines you.” Your primary job is to show up each day for your patients and do your best. Sometimes your best won’t give you success and sometimes it will give you everything you and your patient need, but don’t let either of those things define you. Be humble enough to never stop learning, and passionate enough to never stop trying.

Third, make the most of your clinical rotations. Ask lots of questions, seek out opportunities to learn, and come in every day with a positive attitude. Further, be an advocate for yourself about what you need to be successful.

Lastly, seek out the opinions of others. While you are fresh out of school and need to be confident in your education, also be humble enough to know there is more than one way to do things. Really listen to why other people are using other methods and seek out the truth in those things. Be wise enough to know, you always have more room to learn and grow, for the day you stop learning should be the day you stop practicing OT.

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