Occupational Therapy

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Occupational Therapy Spotlight

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

Name:    Mariah Roe
Hometown:    Essex, IA
Degree Program:    OTD, May 2020
Fieldwork Organization:    On With Life
Location:    Ankeny, IA
Type of Experience:    Neurological, Outpatient
What is it about Occupational Therapy that attracts you?  Why did you choose to pursue OT? 

I chose to pursue occupational therapy because it is a constantly changing profession that offers opportunities both in existing and emerging fields that other healthcare fields do not. Additionally, OT allows the clinician to be creative and make treatment a fun and truly meaningful experience for the client.

What are your professional goals as a future OT? 

I am passionate about working with adults/aging adults but am not sure what specific setting I want to work in. I have always been interested in the neurorehabilitation, mental health, intellectual disability, and acute care populations. I have had the opportunity to gain experience with these populations during my time at Drake, but would also like to observe trauma and burns. Regardless of what setting I work in, I plan to emphasize mental health with my clients. As a clinician utilizing a holistic approach to treatment, I am passionate about advocating not only for mental health services for my clients, but also to the public so that those experiencing any sort of distress or mental health disorder know how to seek help. I think it is important that we destigmatize seeking out mental health services and provide more access to these services for everyone.

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

I worked at On With Life in Ankeny, Iowa for my Level IIB Fieldwork from September to December. On With Life specializes in providing both inpatient and outpatient services to those with neurological disorders. During my fieldwork, I worked primarily in the outpatient setting.  My experience was in outpatient neurorehabilitation. The most common diagnoses I worked with were stroke, traumatic brain injury, concussion, post-concussion syndrome, multiple sclerosis, epilepsy, cerebral palsy, Parkinson’s, brain tumors, brain cancer, etc. On With Life provides services to a wide variety of individuals and diagnoses, and I appreciated the opportunity to gain experience in such a great facility.  My responsibilities were to research clients, their goals, neurological impairment, etc. and formulate client-centered treatment plans. On a typical day, I would get to OWL early and either finish treatment plans or documentation, then see approximately 5-8 clients, often staying late to finish documentation or treatment planning for the next day in order to provide the best care possible to those on my caseload.

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

Drake prepared me through various neurorehabilitation and related courses, but also by constantly reinforcing communication and rapport building as key skills to have as a clinician, whether it be with clients, their families, or coworkers, etc.

What was your biggest lesson from this fieldword experience?

I learned how important it is to remember that, as a Level II student, you may have more expectations, but you are still there to learn. I put so much pressure on myself to be perfect at the start of my experience that I consistently found myself worrying about seeming like I had it all figured out when I should have been enjoying myself. Since then, I have been much more encouraging and accepting of myself, which has greatly improved both my self-confidence as a clinician as well as my stress level!

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

I loved the clients I worked with at this site and had the opportunity to grow close with many of them as they were there during my entire fieldwork experience. The first of my two favorite memories was when I was leading a session with a client who had been receiving services at On With Life for longer than I had been there. This client enjoyed outdoor activities but was unable to participate in them due to hemiplegia of his dominant side. That day, we simulated a variety of outdoor tasks, including fishing; he reeled the line in while I provided resistance as a stubborn fish putting up a fight. He, his sibling, and I could not stop laughing. My other favorite memory was during my last week when I discharged one of my clients and he brought me a signed copy of the book he wrote. I read it over break and it was really good!

Why did you choose to attend Drake?

I chose Drake because I had such a great experience during my site visit the winter prior to completing my application. I met with a member of the faculty, as well as one of the admission officers. They were so excited and eager to start the program, teach students, and advocate for the profession. They made me feel wanted and valued as a student and were professional and well-spoken, which gave me confidence that I would graduate a well-rounded and competent clinician. I was awarded interviews at each school I applied to, but cancelled my interview dates at other schools once I was accepted to Drake. None of the staff members on my visits to other schools seemed eager to meet and teach the next generation of OTs, and it felt like I would be a number to them instead of a unique individual.  Drake made me feel like I was an individual.

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

Drake’s program provides frequent opportunities to work with the community, complete research, and build connections not only in the Des Moines area, but also with staff who have extensive experiences and professional networks of their own. My relationships with my professors have been the most influential aspects of my academic experience so far. The professors here are eager to assist us with whatever we need, whether it is further explanation on a course topic, assisting us with the research process, helping us find a capstone placement, or just making us laugh and giving us advice.

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

I was inducted into the OT Honor Society (Pi Theta Epsilon) during my first year. My second year I applied for and was selected to spend my Level IIB Fieldwork experience at On With Life. Additionally, my research group was accepted to present our poster at the national conference (AOTA) in Boston this year.

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

I would say the thing I enjoy most is the camaraderie that comes with being in an intensive program with a small cohort. During the time you have together, you get to know your classmates well and make memories, whether it’s meeting up to hang out after class or laughing at each other’s jokes throughout the course of the day. I can’t say that I have a favorite memory specifically, but more of a collection of the simple joys of daily life spent with friends.

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

Be open to learning. Take in all of the information and experiences you can; you will be so thankful you did when you start fieldwork and begin to apply for jobs. Also, enjoy the time you have with your classmates, you will go through a lot together and will hopefully make lifelong friends along the way. Your time at Drake will go by fast, make it count!

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