Occupational Therapy

Skip Sub Menu

Meet Karissa Olson.

Karissa Olson is a recent graduate of Drake University's Occupational Therapy Doctorate program. Karissa graduated in May of 2023 and completed her Doctoral Capstone with the ChildServe in Johnston, Iowa.

Name: Karissa Olson
 Lanark, IL
Degree Program:
 OTD, May 2023
Doctoral Capstone placement:
 ChildServe - Johnston, Iowa

Tell us about your Doctoral Capstone. What were your responsibilities and what did a typical day look like for you?
My capstone was completed at ChildServe's main campus in Johnston IA. During the 14 weeks I spent at ChildServe, I constructed and implemented programming based on an identified need there. This gap in treatment was found after an in-depth needs assessment, literature review, interviews, and ChildServe's most recent outcome survey report. The identified need was in the 8-20 year range facilitating therapist, client, and caregiver access to interventions that address sensory, ADL, IADL, and mindfulness areas of occupation that were age appropriate and motivating.


First, a fundraising campaign was created to build and maintain sustainability within the programming. I met with community philanthropic organizations to advocate for the occupational therapy profession and the program. Once adequate funds were raised, the programming kits were built. There were 21 physical kits created with a catalog detailing every kit with evidence and user directions. Handouts that detailed how to replicate the kits at home with common materials were also created for clients and caregivers. This extends the reach of therapists far past the treatment window and promotes accessibility to interventions.

To further meet the needs of the client and caregiver in the 8-20 year range, educational materials and handouts were created to address age appropriateness of education and health literacy. A client/caregiver portal was also created for clients/caregivers to access tools, links, videos, and more to further address goals within the home. Outside of the program development during the capstone experience, I held a caseload treating children of various abilities and ages addressing all areas of occupation.

What was your favorite thing about the capstone?

The ability to play to your strengths as well as address growth areas is vital to any emerging clinician. My capstone allowed me to advance my clinical skills in addition to creating something that allowed me to access creative outlets and engage with the community to meet an identified need. 

What attracted you to Drake's OTD program?

I chose Drake's OTD program because of the emphasis placed on community engagement and strong faculty with diverse backgrounds. When I interviewed I knew it was the right fit. Dr. Griffiths and Dr. Urish have extensive knowledge in their respective areas of practice but led with compassion during our initial interactions.  

How has Drake helped you prepare for your future career as an occupational therapy professional?

I was able to gain diverse clinical experiences that will further guide my clinical decisions as a new grad. Drake allowed each student to pursue more in-depth coursework in a specific area they were interested in. I was able to participate in an additional orthopedics course to further promote orthosis fabrication and more complex orthopedic diagnosis and interventions. Many programs only offer a single day lab for orthotic fabrication, so this was highly beneficial to my clinical development.  

What are your career goals? Have they changed at all since you started Drake's OTD program?
I have so many aspirations for the future. I hope to work with pediatrics in whatever capacity to build my clinical skills and experience. In the future, I hope to open my own practice melting my two passions of occupational therapy pediatrics and orthopedics. When I entered school, I only wanted to work in orthopedics and eventually gain my CHT. It was not until after a level-one fieldwork experience did I grow an appreciation and passion for pediatrics. It was a setting where I could use familiar knowledge of how the body works and why it works to center it around the contextual complexities of each client. With pediatrics you are able to use creativity and flexibility to treat in all the grey areas, not just black and white. 

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

The advice that I would give future students is simple - be present. Every lecture, client, fieldwork, and 400th group project. Ground yourself in the moment and soak every ounce of the experience in. That is easier said than done as the days can be long, but the years are fast. 

Return to the OTD Capstone Spotlight home page here.

CPHS Calendar