Occupational Therapy

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Occupational Therapy Spotlight

Meet Jackie Widmer. Jackie 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, Jackie has had the opportunity to complete a doctoral capstone experience at the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit at SwedishAmerican Hospital-A Divison of UW Health in Rockford, Illinois.

Name: Jackie Widmer
Hometown: Williamsburg, Iowa
Degree Program: OTD, May 2022
Capstone Organization: SwedishAmerican Hospital-A Division of UW Health: Neonatal Intensive Care Unit
Location: Rockford, Illinois
Tell us about your capstone experience at SwedishAmerican Hospital NICU. What were your responsibilities and what did a typical day/week look like?
I am responsible for treating infants in the NICU and providing education to health care professionals and parents about OT’s unique roles in the NICU.
Each day I get to the unit and chart review the caseload I will be treating and evaluating for the day. Next, I coordinate the infant's care time with the nurses to treat at the same time they are performing the infant's care. Once in the infant's room, I treat by providing therapeutic supports, offering techniques to aid in smooth state transitions and pain modulation during nursing procedures, assisting with repositioning of the infant, performing massages, teaching caregivers how to perform swaddle baths, introducing age-appropriate sensory and environmental techniques, and provide education to parents on the role of occupational therapy during their infant's stay. In addition to hands-on treatment, I have also spent my time surveying and developing a presentation on family-centered care for the NICU staff at Swedish American.

What is your favorite thing about this Doctoral Capstone?

My favorite thing about my capstone experience has been developing my skills in an advanced practice setting and working with infants and their families. The NICU is a specialized area and can be challenging, however, it is the most rewarding experience I have had while at Drake. 

What attracted you to Drake's OTD program?

Growing up in Iowa, I have always enjoyed the Des Moines area. After applying, interviewing, and learning about the program, I felt welcome by students and staff and realized this program would be the perfect fit.

Have your career goals changed at all since starting Drake's OTD program? How so?

Ultimately my career goals have not changed since starting Drake's OTD program in 2019. I have always dreamed of working in the neonatal intensive care unit. However, I have been exposed to many different settings throughout my clinical placements which has given me the opportunity to enjoy occupational therapy in many different settings. 

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

With the experience I have received from my didactic coursework, community engagement, fieldwork placements, and doctoral capstone placement, I have had the chance to work with a wide range of populations and settings ranging from premature infants to older adults. Although the experiences were all different, there are many skills that can be transferred over to each setting. This has given me the opportunity to grow as an occupational therapy student. 

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

Enjoy the ride! OT school can be challenging, exhausting, and stressful. However, there are so many fun and positive moments throughout. Learn as much as you can, but also try your best to find reasons to laugh and have fun. Lean on classmates, friends, and family when times get tough, and lastly, find time to take care of yourself.


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