Occupational Therapy

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Occupational Therapy Spotlight

Meet Emily Nadolny.  Emily is a third-year student in Drake's Occupational Therapy Doctorate (OTD) program.  As a student, Emily had the opportunity to complete a fieldwork experience at St. Florian Fire and Burn Foundation's Miracle Burn Camp

Name:    Emily Nadolny
Hometown:    Willmar, MN
Degree Program:    OTD, May 2019
Fieldwork Organization:    St. Florian Fire and Burn Foundation's Miracle Burn Camp
Location:    Camp Foster, Spirit Lake, IA
Type of Experience:    Burns

Emily Nadolny is a third-year occupational therapy student at Drake University in Des Moines, Iowa.  Although she was born in Duluth, Minnesota, she spent the majority of her life in Willmar, a small town in west central Minnesota.  Emily attended St. Olaf College in Northfield, Minnesota where she majored in biology with a focus in neuroscience and genetics.  She originally planned on becoming a physician, however, after a skiing accident and an internship with pediatric occupational, speech, and physical therapists, she changed her focus to occupational therapy.  Emily is currently completing her Doctoral Experience at the University of Iowa Hospital on the Burn Unit.  In her free time, she enjoys spending time with her family, gardening, birding, and reading.

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

I was introduced to occupational therapy 10 years ago following a skiing accident which greatly affected my right hand and arm.  I was treated by a wonderful certified hand therapist, who not only assisted me in recovering function in my arm, but also repaired my spirit.  However, I was unsure if I wanted to work specifically with the hand and arm as an occupational therapist, so I investigated other careers.  During my time in college, I chose to do an internship with a team of pediatric occupational, speech, and physical therapists in my hometown in Minnesota.  I had a very enjoyable experience with those individuals and, after speaking with them about the different roles an occupational therapist can fill, I chose to return to the profession and investigate all of the aspects to being an occupational therapist.  It didn’t take me long to discover that occupational therapy is a vast and comprehensive field which I could see myself fitting into as a professional.

What are your professional goals as a future OT? 

My preferred area of practice is with individuals who have sustained burns.  I was introduced to occupational therapists on a burn unit following an e-mail sent to me by my mom.  She had read an article posted by Dr. David Hilden on his blog which highlighted the burn unit at Hennepin Health Care in Minneapolis, Minnesota and thought it was an interesting area of practice.  I agreed and began looking into the area to learn about an occupational therapists’ role.  At that time, I learned of the St. Florian Fire and Burn Foundation’s Miracle Burn Camp at Camp Foster in Spirit Lake, Iowa.  Through the assistance of my faculty at Drake, who advocated for me going to a few days of the camp and the agreement of the foundation board, I was able to attend.  Since that time, I have completed a one-week internship at Hennepin Health Care and found it to be a challenging, inspiring, and fulfilling setting.  I would like to be in a facility which would allow me to float between a burn unit and a typical acute care unit as well as follow my burn patients through to the outpatient setting.  I would also like to work with children in equine therapy either in a professional capacity as an occupational therapist or as a volunteer.

Why did you choose to attend Drake?

I chose to attend Drake because I was eager to be a member of a class which would have the opportunity to shape the program itself through feedback and constructive criticism.  I also enjoyed having the professors heavily involved in the interview process and speaking with them about their vision for the program before attending.

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

While at Drake, I have had many unique opportunities, and the continued support of my professors throughout my experiences has greatly assisted me in pursuing my career goals. Specifically, Drs. Plutschack and Wuebker have been very supportive.  I have grown both personally and as a future OT through my experiences and exchanges with them.

What is your favorite Drake memory?

I have several fond memories from my time at Drake, however, one that stands out is taking a series of courses in Advanced Hand Therapy with Dr. David Plutschack and a small cohort of students.

Tell us about your experience at Miracle Burn Camp.  What were your responsibilities and what did a typical day/week look like?

While I was at the Miracle Burn Camp, I was assigned to the youngest group of campers, those from 8-12 years old.  The campers had some assigned activities throughout the day including physical activities such as horseback riding, teambuilding on the obstacle course, and time when they could swim in the pool or paddleboard on the lake.  The campers also had a free period every day when they were able to mingle with other campers from the other cabins and reconnect with their friends from other years at Miracle Burn.  During that time, I was able to participate with the campers in activities and visit with other counselors and members of the foundation board.

What was your favorite part of being placed at Miracle Burn Camp?

This site is one of those experiences which becomes one with your heart and makes you feel warm and happy.  The Miracle Burn Camp’s magic is allowing kids who have been burned to experience normal, everyday activities and allows them to see that they are not different than any other child.  The camp connects burn survivors to each other and to kids who have never been burned.  Lifelong friendships are created through one week at the Miracle Burn Camp and it is the most sought-after week of camp that Camp Foster hosts in their entire season.

What is one piece of advice you would give to a future student who is interested in going to Miracle Burn Camp or a similar site?

Being at the Miracle Burn Camp solidified the idea that I wanted to work with burn survivors.  In order to be successful, a student would have to have a lot of passion for burn survivors and be able to have fun with children that could be in a vulnerable state both when being away from home and when dealing with the physical, mental, and emotional scars of surviving a burn.

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