Meet Rylee Steinke. Rylee is a third-year student in Drake's Occupational Therpay Doctorate (OTD) program and will graduate in 2022! In her last year of the OTD program, Rylee has had the opportunity to complete a doctoral capstone experience at the MercyOne Des Moines NICU.
During my capstone, I have focused on developing my clinical practice skills within the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU), with a focus on trauma-informed care. Typical days include completing evaluations on new babies who have been born or transferred up to the NICU and facilitating developmental progression through intervention. Treatment sessions in the NICU are completed around the infants feeding schedule/care times. Sessions vary based on the infant’s individual needs, which include but are not limited to: observing the infant's ability to appropriately transition between behavioral states, observing behavioral signs of stress that the infant displays, providing therapeutic handling/calming supports during routine cares, promote appropriate positioning to encourage deep sleep for muscle & brain development, educating new nurses/travel nurses on proper positioning techniques, providing hydrotherapy, providing manual edema management through massage, educating parents/caregivers on how to touch and support their baby, and make recommendations on infant’s sensory environment based on their gestational age and where they’re at in their development.
It’s hard to pinpoint one thing that has been my favorite during this experience because it doesn’t get much better than working with babies all day every day. But I would have to say the best part was all the hands-on experience along with the knowledge, skills, and overall confidence I have developed within the NICU. Each day brings new challenges, but it has been so rewarding to be a part of and watch these babies grow and develop.
I was initially attracted to Drake’s program due to the opportunities that were provided through community engagement and hands-on experiences. With the excitement that I felt after walking out of my interview, I knew that Drake was the best fit for me as a future professional.
Coming into grad school, I knew that my main career goal was to work as an Occupational Therapist in the NICU. The Drake OTD program provided me with a greater understanding of the various practice areas and has opened my eyes to additional practice settings that I am interested in. My fieldwork within the pediatric setting and this capstone experience in the NICU have further solidified my love for the pediatric population, specifically the specialized care that is provided within the NICU.
The Drake program has offered so many unique opportunities that have allowed me to grow as a future occupational therapist both in the classroom and within the clinical setting. The professors have such diverse experiences within the field which has helped to display and open my eyes to all of the different areas of practice that we as occupational therapists can apply our skills and knowledge.
Give yourself grace! It’s not always going to be sunshine and rainbows and learning how to navigate this new chapter of life can take some adjusting…but it is SO worth it. The days can get long but the next 3 years will fly by, so take it all in.