Saturday, December 19, 2009

Rounds in Forensic Psychiatry

Due to a series of fortunate events, I was able to attend the weekly rounds of the Forensic Psychiatry Unit twice during my placement. My problem-based tutorial leader happens to be on staff in that department and invited our group of students to attend. The sessions happened to be held at the hospital site where I was doing my placement. Plus my preceptor was very cool about encouraging me to take advantage of every education opportunity and she let me leave for lunch a few minutes early so that I could get to the session on time, even though the talks had nothing to do with her particular area of practice. I’m a lucky girl!

The first week I attended the guest speaker was Dr. Hy Bloom, who is both a doctor and a lawyer. His presentation was on the topic of workplace violence. Although it was an incredibly interesting topic that was very well presented, I must confess that I left the session feeling a bit disturbed. Workplace violence as a general topic was broken down into “types” based on the perpetrator’s relationship to the workplace. For instance, some have a direct relationship with the workplace as employees and commit acts of violence against coworkers who also have a direct relationship to the workplace. In other instances the perpetrator does not have a personal association with the workplace where violence is perpetrated, and the location has some kind of representative meaning to the person. And there are other types as well… which I’m sure you could look at by looking up some of the publications by Dr. Bloom! My purpose in mentioning a few examples is that each of the different types of workplace violence was illustrated in the presentation with a real life example, and it was the examples that were disturbing. So, I’d say the presentation was great for increasing my awareness of the issue and the resources that are available for further researching the topic, but because of its brevity I left the session with an uneasy feeling and many unanswered questions. Such is the nature of the lunch-time-rounds beast! We only have an hour so it seems as though we just get started when we then have to wrap it up, lol.

The second session I attended was about the assessment and management of suicidal patients and the talk was given by Dr. Larry Chad. He discussed some of the demographic risk factors for suicide and also suggested some strategies he has found successful for addressing patients where there is an overt or suspected risk of suicide. I found this talk to be much more concrete than the workplace violence topic since it focused on what to do in a given situation rather than discussing the topic more abstractly, from a big picture perspective. Don’t get me wrong… both were great! But, since I’ve signed up for a suicide prevention counseling course in the New Year I found the assessment/management topic to be more germane to my current interests.

And that was the last lunchtime rounds session of 2009! Now that my placement is over I’m not sure that I’ll get the chance to attend again… but here’s hoping! I highly recommend taking the time to attend these rounds sessions while you’re on placement if you have the opportunity. Sure, it takes up your lunch hour. But in my humble opinion it’s time well spent. And each department holds its own rounds… so maybe you’re more into pediatrics than forensics? Then check out the pediatrics department to see if they have any postings up about when they hold their rounds! There seems to be something for everyone if you just take a look to see what’s out there.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Term One Placement = DONE!

I've just finished my first placement and it was great!

In our program, each term is divided into an academic portion followed by a clinical placement. The exception is in term five, when the clinical placement is substituted with an evidence based practice project... aka a research project akin to a mini-thesis. So, at the end of the program I'll have had a total of 5 placements in 6 terms. The earlier placements are shorter in length and our skill set is more limited so our level of participation is less than what it will be toward the end of the program when we'll be completing the longer (8-weeks for the final) placements.

So, Term One placement was 15 days over 4 weeks. We would go to "work" Monday through Thursday, and then Fridays we would rejoin our problem based learning groups at the school in order to talk about our experiences. I had my placement at a big hospital, working with the OT assigned to the Nephrology (Kidney) and Urology departments. My preceptor was great and I feel very fortunate to have had her! I have a sneaking suspicion that, more than your placement setting, a preceptor can make or break your experience.

Working primarily in Nephrology, we worked very closely with other members of the allied healthcare team, especially one of the PTs. Our clients were inpatients who are often quite ill. It was a great environment for learning about medical conditions because there are a fair number of reasons that the kidneys can malfunction (for lack of a better generic term). Many clients in that department have renal failure that is secondary to another illness; common culprits include diabetes and hypertension. So, I enjoyed reviewing medical charts to get an idea of medical history!

In terms of what occupational therapy does with clients in this setting, we are commonly referred for assessment, treatment and discharge planning around functional mobility and safe transferring. We would always conduct an initial interview and assessment that looks at a person's ability to carry out their activities of daily living, and that gets a sense of their home environment (physical and social), including any supports or equipment they use. Treatments are usually to do with getting a person mobilizing safely, so determining their needs, prescribing equipment when appropriate, and helping them learn to use it. So, for example, if a person had been ill in hospital for a while they may have lost some standing strength, endurance and/or balance. In this case we may determine that they would be helped by a rollator, so we would loan one from the OT department and get it adjusted to the person, and then train them with it's use. In this kind of case we would often have the PT accompany us as well, so that she can simultaneously do some physical training with the person (perhaps having them walk a bit or do some stairs). Assessments are generally physical and functional, but we also can do cognitive assessments if there is suspicion that there may be a deficit that makes certain activities unsafe. Examples of cognitive assessments include the Modified Mini-Mental Status and the Montreal Cognitive Assessment. Of course, if a more profound cognitive deficit is suspected and the person is 65 or older, then a referral would be made to geriatrics to do a more detailed assessment. Other assessments of function can also include Kitchen and Bathing, which can also give a lot of insight into a person's cognitive and affective status. Finally, as a part of discharge planning, home assessments are sometimes required in order to anticipate what needs a person may have upon discharge and to get the needed supports/equipment in place.

As with any accute medical floor, patients are often not in the ward for very long... either they get better and are discharged home or they get mostly better and are discharged to another level of care (such as to rehabilitation in order to improve physical condition before returning home). Because of the short duration of stay and the fact that our clients are often quite ill while they are on our ward, the OTs scope of practice is a bit narrower than what it might be in other settings. However, I will also say that it's a good thing it is! My preceptor is kept very busy because of the high number of referrals she receives.
My preceptor, as I've already mentioned, was really great. She was quick to introduce me to all of the team members on the unit and to include me in all aspects of her job. She gave me a lot of opportunities to interact with clients directly and to participate in assessments/treatments when appropriate. It was everything that I hoped for from a first training exposure to the profession!

So... do I want to work in this setting when I graduate? Maybe. There are certainly a number of benefits to being in a hospital in terms of support and resources. I also really enjoyed the direct collaboration with a whole team of allied health care professionals (such as PT, SW, Pharmacists etc...) and the fast pace makes the days fly by! Plus, because I have an interest in all things medical (having been raised by a nurse who is interested in all things medical) getting to read the charts and have that information be a part of the bigger picture when working with a client is pretty cool. However, the downside is definitely the limitations in terms of time with a client and what you're able to do with them in that time. Still, it's definitely an option I'm keeping open.

And just like that... my first term is almost done! Just one exam left to write and then it's home for the holidays for me!!

Thursday, November 26, 2009

November Update

Wow! So, it's been a month since my last post... which was not my intention at all. I must confess that since beginning the Masters program I find that my time management has not been up to par, mostly because it's just so different from how things were in undergrad I think. Also, I've been experimenting with not having internet at home! :o
So far it's been pretty good. I get all my email on my phone so I'm in the loop, and I spend a lot more time reading books or getting out of the house to see friends face-to-face rather than wasting time surfing the net and streaming video. But I admit... I miss it. I miss it a lot. And my blogging has suffered from the lack of convenience. I think I'm going to try and stick it out though, just to prove to myself that I can. I was spending a lot of time on the net, which is not great. Plus, I have a more pragmatic reason for the decision...
I'm going North to Thunder Bay for Term 3!!!!
That's right... I was selected in the lottery to spend the third term, academic and placement, in NorthWestern Ontario. Me and 11 of my classmates will be going to Lakehead University to partake in the Northern experience! I'm really psyched about it :) So... because we'll be up there for the better part of 4 months it just doesn't make sense to set up net at this point. I'd be paying for it while I'm not even home!
I hope we'll have internet at the residences in Thunder Bay, so my blogging should get a bit more regular at that point and I will definitely be setting it up at my apartment when I get back. Until then I'm afraid my posts might be a bit spotty. I also know that there are a lot of people who are going to be putting their application packages together over the holidays and I wanted to extend an invitation to anyone who is... feel free to email me if you have any questions about the application process, the profession, or the program. I'm sometimes a little slow to respond, but not too bad. And I'm happy to answer any questions you may have.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

The Lived Experience of Student OTs at UWO!

Thanks to a very generous contributing student at the University of Western Ontario, I'm happy to be able to post a first hand report of what life is like in that program! Thanks so much UWO!
I hope you all enjoy hearing about the student OT experience at Western as much as I have!

UWO OT Reflection

I can’t believe it is already October! The first month of this program has absolutely flown by - it is definitely a fast-paced program. Orientation week was filled with social events to break the ice between the classmates and professors. During my undergrad I didn’t get to know many people due to the large size of my program, so it is a nice change to be making friendships so quickly, and feel at ease talking with profs.

Following orientation week, each student was matched with a local OT to observe them for two days. This was in order to give everyone a clear idea of what OT is all about, in case someone might decide it isn’t for them after all. I loved this experience! I was matched with an OT at an outpatient mental health community centre, and learned so much in the short time I was there. Even though I was a psych major in undergrad, I wasn’t sure what the role of occupational therapy is in mental health. Students were intentionally matched with OT’s who worked in areas that the students did not have experience in. The OT I shadowed was very experienced and had a lot of knowledge to share about this area of practice. I`m really glad that Western threw us out there right from the start – it was a good way to put the theory we’re learning in class into context.

From what I`ve heard, one of the biggest differences about the OT program at Western are the anatomy and neuroscience courses. We are required to take them first term, and anatomy involves working with cadavers in the lab each week. I was very apprehensive about this at first, but after the initial shock of seeing the bodies and smelling the formaldehyde, I have come to find the labs very interesting, and appreciate the learning opportunity given to us. However, some people are still having a hard time with it, and leave the lab visibly upset. So, Western may not be for everyone because of this, and it should be something you consider if you have a choice of schools. (I am not sure if any other programs require working with cadavers, some might).

Besides overcoming the whole examining dead bodies thing, anatomy is very stressful because of all the memorization involved. We have quizzes every week on what we learned in the previous lab. Fortunately the course ends in December! Neuroscience has also been very challenging, and most of us are struggling with it. It sounds like some changes are going to be made to the way we are assessed though, hopefully for the better.

As far as all other courses go, most are fast-paced also, and require a lot of reading and assignments. Lectures typically involve quite a bit of discussion about whatever topic we are discussing that day. We break into our mentor groups fairly often, which have 7-8 students, to work on projects or discuss an issue. These groups have an OT mentor also, but we haven’t met them yet. The OT lectures at Western really stress client-centred and evidence-based practice, along with interprofessionalism between the different health fields.

It seems as though there is always something going on, a committee to join, an event to go to, etc. I joined the Grassroots committee, which aims to promote occupational therapy in the community. At the end of the month there is a rehab formal which should be a lot of fun. Overall, I am very much enjoying the program and my classmates, even though it does get a bit stressful at times. I think the worst of it will be over once we are finished with anatomy and neuroscience. Our first placements happen in January, and I`m sooo excited for it!

This post was just a brief overview of what the OT program is like at Western, but there is so much to it that I could go on talking about. Hopefully this helped to get an idea of the differences between some of the other schools though!

Learning Contracts: Bane of my existence!

I don't know if these "things" are used as much by other programs, but here at McMaster they are used extensively as part of the self-directed learning approach. They are intended to be a tool that helps a student to identify their learning gaps, set SMART goals, and create a plan for achieving those goals by identifying the resources, strategies and evidence of accomplishment that will be required. We use them for everything, and while they're a good idea in principle they are currently the bane of my existence!!
We have goals (aka Learning Objectives) for Foundational Knowledge, goals for our Problem-Based Tutorials, goals for improving our interviewing skills, and a 12-goal Learning Contract for our placements! Now, I have to say... I DO get it. I understand why we use the tool and I can even see how it's useful. I will even concede that they will get easier to do as time goes by. But right now I hate them. The process feels very contrived, it doesn't come naturally, and it takes a LOT of time.
So, what is this tool I speak of? The Learning Objective (or Contract... a series of objectives) has four parts:
1. Objective - The end result you're looking for (ie. Become an expert at using the CPPF in practice).
2. Identify Resources and Strategies - What tools do you have access to and what will you do with them (ie. Resource = Textbook Enabling Occupation II, Strategy = Read the chapter about the CPPF and make notes about how it could be applied in my placement setting). You'll list every possible Resource and Strategy you can think of, but at minimum will identify one text, one human, and one other resource.
3. Evidence of Accomplishment - Here's where the SMART goals come in. These are all "I" statements that are measurable and timelined and all the other things that SMART goals should be. As with the Resources and Strategies, there will be a number of different evidence statements (ie. At the end of week one, I will discuss with my preceptor the different stages of the CPPF as they applied to one client during the week and ask for feedback regarding the accuracy of my understanding).
4. Grading Scheme - How will your success be evaluated. Must include specific measurable outcomes for a grade of Excellent, Good, Incomplete, and Fail (I'm not doing an example for this... it takes too freakin' long! lol).

So, as you can see... setting proper learning objectives can be a really lengthy process, especially when it comes to detailing exactly how you would demonstrate evidence of accomplishment and evaluate your success in the grading scheme. Just talking about it now makes me feel like I'm dying a little on the inside.
The upside of all of this... and I'm glad to say that there is an upside... is that in time (I'm told) it gets easier. And the great part about that is this: Once we are practicing OTs we will be required to create professional development plans each year that include identifying our learning gaps, resources, strategies, and evidence of accomplishment... and we'll be required to submit our professional portfolios, which include these learning plans, to our regulating body (in Ontario it's COTO) every two years. So, if it's something I'm going to have to do for the rest of my professional life, and my license depends on it, I'd rather get some practice in now! That way it won't be quite so stressful when the time comes that my professional life depends on it.
So the moral of my story is this... hate them now all you like, but find it in your heart to learn to love Learning Contracts. Perhaps that should be my next Objective? ha ha ha ha... um NO. That's not going to happen.
One day I will love them.
For now, I strongly dislike them.
I hope everyone else's objectified learning is going well!! All the best, :)SweetPea

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Week 4? 5? Who knows anymore!?

It's been a very busy couple of weeks and it's about to get busier, so I thought I'd post a quick note before I get swamped. Things are going well, but it's a lot to take in. There's a lot of knowledge acquisition (from theories of occupation to anatomy that affects occupational performance) and even more development of process skills. You're very dependent on how well your group works together, and what I forgot is just what a different skill set is required for group functioning. It's been a long time! The sad truth is that in today's workplace (most of them, in my experience anyway... and especially the corporate ones) teamwork is a catchphrase that's more of a euphemism for "I'll pretend to work with you while competing to look better than you and then stab you in the back!" It bears little resemblance to actual teamwork... which is what is required of me now. Here competing and oneupmanship just make you look bad and subvert the learning process. Not that there aren't people who try... there are. But they learn quickly that it just doesn't fly. And that's mostly due to another group process thing that I'm adapting to: FEEDBACK! Incessant, positive, constructive, even if you don't have anything to say... feedback.
In addition to the feedback, I'd like to give a shout-out to Learning Objectives/Plans/Contracts. I have a love-hate relationship with you. Mostly hate... but I'm holding out hope that the love will come. lol I'll post on those another day.
My first scholarly paper is due next Tuesday on the term "Occupation" as its use in the profession of Occupational Therapy. That same day my group has a presentation to do on the Canadian and Ontario Health Care Systems. The following week I have a paper due that goes along with the group presentation, an evaluated interview, and a critical analysis assignment evaluating qualitative and quantitative research articles. None of it is particularly onerous, but it's a lot all at once... when we're trying to do it at the same time as our independent learning (which is most of our learning) and foundational knowledge sessions and our learning contracts and Exploring Perspectives on Disability assignment. Come to think of it, it's like being pecked by birds. Lots of little birds, when one alone wouldn't be bad but in a flock they're KILLER!
So, for this weekend I'm going home to eat my Mom's yummy cooking and watch some big screen TV... and to RELAX!!! And eat bird ha ha ha. Ohhh... the sleep deprivation is not kind to my sense of humor.
Happy Thanksgiving Everyone!! No matter how busy your weekend is, I hope you get the opportunity to hug someone you love and reflect on all the things you are grateful for.
All the best, :)SweetPea

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Week 2.0

Thought I'd do a quick mid-week post on my mid-week break! And by "break" I mean day off from classes to do research and get caught up. The pace of the program is pretty fast, and I'm told it only gets more so as the terms go by. I think part of why it feels so hectic at the moment is that I have yet to find my groove... how to pace things, when are good times to do library research vs. reading texts at home, when's a good time in my schedule for writing or organizing, etc. Plus, with the PBL it's very difficult to get the hang of it. We really are given a LOT of free rein and very little structure or guidance. For instance, my group got a problem scenario dealing with a senior who has osteoarthritis and needs to do prehab in preparation for a full-hip arthoplasty. Then they just kind of say "Go!", and all of us are looking at each other like "go where?!" lol. In response to the uncertainty I, and it seems like many other students, try to research EVERYthing. When you're not sure what you need to know, it's hard to know when to stop. You also end up researching a lot of things that are interesting, but irrelevant to what an OT will do. And finally, you end up missing some important stuff because it didn't blip on your radar as "need to know."
The good news is that (I'm told) it's all part of the learning process. Every student feels lost on the first attempt at PBL. Every student spins their wheels and learns inefficiently. But you learn from the mistakes and get better. Next time (I'm told) I'll be more efficient, I won't waste time on needless information and I will remember to look at the relevant theory (a huge oversight in my first attempt). Then I'll make other mistakes and miss other important details, lol.
In the end it's left me feeling pretty disoriented, but I'm hopeful. I AM new at this. If I was expert then I wouldn't need the schoolin'!
All things in time, I keep reminding myself.
All things in time.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Term One - Week One

First week down!

It’s funny because I imagine that the first weeks of our program will be the lightest… nothing is yet due, we’re still doing a lot of introductory stuff… but for me it felt HUGE. It’s a lot to take in at first, plus we had a number of extra sessions scheduled, like CPR and library orientations, and we’re doing all of that first of the year settling in type stuff, like getting OSAP and trying to get OGS applications together. It’s all very new and very busy! Coming from an undergrad program that had few in-class hours and a lot of independent research, plus a very limited social life (I really focused on academics in undergrad, practically to the exclusion of all else), this new schedule for school and life is a big adjustment.

The other thing that’s a big adjustment for me is the McMaster culture… both in regard to the problem-based learning (PBL) and just the OT department’s culture in general. Group learning is a new challenge in the sense that you’re learning on two fronts… the content of whatever topic you’re dealing with, plus adjusting to the group dynamic. It takes a lot of self-awareness to see not just what you need to get out of the class, but to also see how you are affecting the participation and/or development of others. And at first, while you’re just getting to know one another, it’s really hard. Other than that I can’t really say much about problem-based learning because I’m still so new to it myself! I will try to talk about it more as time goes on though… I know people who are not in the program are curious about how it all works.

The other culture kind of thing that I’m trying to wrap my head around has to do with grades, and I’m really conflicted about this one. We have basically been told that students who meet all the expectations of the program will get B-grades… that B’s are perfectly acceptable and that we should not be motivated by the need to get A’s any longer. Now, part of me is freakin’ out about this revelation. I’ve been so driven for the last three years in order to get the grades that would make me a competitive candidate for grad school and scholarships that I’m not sure I can turn that instinct off right away. Plus, there’s a part of me that thrives on the external validation that grades provide. But on the other hand, the more time I have to sit with the idea of focusing on my own process and not just the end goal, the more there is a piece of my self that unclenches and starts to breathe. I’m not a competitive person by nature and I’m only now starting to really appreciate the internal burden I was carrying around in order to throw myself into the rat-race and succeed. So I guess what I’m saying is that I’m actually glad that the culture in my program is more focused on the process rather than solely on the product. In both cases I will arrive at the same end… a MSc in Occupational Therapy… but with the Mac way I might also get to have a balanced life while I’m doing it! I simply need to convince the little voice in my head that is really unsure about this whole “grades don’t matter” thing that it will all be okay.

All things in time, I suppose. :)SweetPea

Saturday, September 12, 2009

McMaster OT Orientation Week!

Well, o-week just wrapped up and WOW what a whirlwind it's been! Days filled with welcome sessions, training sessions and paperwork... nights filled with great social events with some of the most awesome people in the world. It really is true that when you show up for o-week you feel as though you've just been introduced to 64 of your closest friends. I'd heard that was the case, but I honestly didn't expect to actually feel it. Now I know... and it's awesome! :D
The second year students who planned our o-week social events were great. They put us all at ease, answered our myriad questions, and organized some great evenings out. Stuff we did included a brewery tour (though "tour" is really a euphemism for all you can drink beers, lol), bowling followed by drinks, a scavenger hunt followed by drinks with the PT students, and a night out at a local pub with appetizers and drinks (drinking always being optional, of course). They also hosted a pizza lunch for us one day, where they gave us some inside tips about what to expect from the program and placements etc... I hope that everyone has a great team of second years to guide them like my class has had. They're wonderful.
Other daytime stuff was hit and miss. The low of the week was probably the grad student "lunch"... where we unexpectedly spent an hour drumming (I know... random, right?!) and listening to speeches with our stomachs growling before seeing any food. And the food, when it arrived, was disappointingly soggy :( That was a let down... but a very small one in the scheme of things. And in hindsight I think I could have really gotten into the drumming if not for the low blood sugar, lol. Highlights of the week were WHMIS, Fire & Safety, and Infection Control training... along with Mask Fit Training and Testing. The mask training/fitting was for the N95 masks that are used to help protect health care workers from airborne diseases, and with the worry about H1N1 swine flu this year they spent a LOT of time making sure we were clear on how to use them. Plus, there are different sizes and styles of masks... hence the fitting session to ensure you know which mask will protect you before you actually need the protection. The way it works is you try a mask on and they put a big haz.mat-style hood over your head. Then they spray either a bitter or sweet aerosol into the hood and ask you to breathe with your mouth open. If the mask works you taste nothing. If there's a gap because it doesn't fit, you get either a strong bitter or sweet taste in the back of your throat... neither of which is very nice. The pic I posted above is of me during my mask fitting so that you can see how silly it all looks. So, while it sounds quite serious (and it is), they find a way to make it fun. But, I think the biggest highlight of the week was the anatomy lab tour. If you've read my previous posts then you know I was very impressed with the anatomy lab at Queen's... well, I was equally impressed with the lab at Mac. Plus, it was a different kind of experience for me! In this lab most of the samples had not been plastinated and they definitely felt different. It was so cool to me that I could tell the difference between a vein, artery and nerve just by feeling the structure! I'm fascinated by this stuff.
Last night was our big pub night out and everyone who could attend (we have some students who commute in the class so it's not always feasible for them) really let their hair down. It was a great time! And it was funny to me how on Tuesday it seemed so overwhelming to be meeting so many new people, but by the time Friday rolled around we were all very comfortable with each other... even though we don't know each other all that well yet. It just doesn't seem overwhelming anymore. Instead, it feels like we're all one big family and, for better or worse, we're in this together! I'm really looking forward to getting started next week.
Well, I need to call it a night... but I wanted to just note two other things really quickly before I do. First of all, one of my classmates had a compound fracture of her ankle a few years back and she SET IT BACK IN PLACE HERSELF! I don't care if you were in shock Jen... that's still seriously hard core in my book (some would even say heroic! lol). The second thing is, I mentioned in a previous post that I'm a zombie-genre fan and that I was so excited to have the lead actress from Dawn of the Dead speak at my convocation ceremony... well, it turns out that one of my classmates was a zombie-extra in that film!!! Isn't life interesting? Everyone has such great stories to tell.
Enough out of me for one night. I'll post again soon about my student OT experiences and about applying for the Ontario Graduate Scholarships (OGS)!

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Movin' On Up

I’m happy to say that with the help of friends and family my move to Hamilton is complete!! However, it’s also worth noting that in one of the coldest summers on record I managed to select a moving date that had me hauling heavy boxes, suitcases and furniture around the province during a heatwave… with humidex temps in the 40’s. It was HOT. And it’s pretty typical of my luck, lol.

Despite the heat my move was relatively uneventful and went smoothly. And since I’ve arrived at the new place I’ve been hiding in the air conditioning with the curtains drawn to avoid the heat, and leisurely getting the apartment cleaned and my stuff unpacked. It’s worked out well actually. I had expected the move to be a nightmare and I can’t even tell you how grateful I am that it wasn’t.

The book lists were also posted online by the McMaster bookstore this week. They have 15 books listed that (before taxes) total just under $1100. The good news is that one of the second year students posted a note to our class’s facebook group that not all of the books are “required.” Unfortunately the student did not specify which ones we need… which means keeners like me can’t go and buy our books before o-week (when we’ll presumably be able to find out which texts we have to get).

One other thing I did notice… some of the texts on the book list I had seen for sale on the CAOT website for a LOT less money. Sure enough, I doubled back to check it out and some of the books were as much as $30 LESS than the Mac bookstore list price. That seems like a huge difference for one textbook to me. I’ll investigate further and let you know. One reason may be that CAOT members get a discount on all products sold on their online store. And what many students may not realize is that CAOT membership is FREE for students enrolled in OT programs. They say membership has its privileges!! This is definitely something that all OT students should look into.

Well, that’s enough out of me for now. I have to finish unpacking my house… and packing for vacation! I’m going white water rafting and then visiting family for a week. So excited!


Sunday, August 2, 2009

Great Mini-Documentary: Matthew Sanford

I definitely grabbed this video from someone else's blog >.> (Thanks Karen!)
But this story really inspired me and I wanted to spread the word.

Saturday, August 1, 2009

Call for Contributors!!!

As I mentioned in a previous post, one of the things I'd like to do in this blog is to post about the experiences of other students. And rather than me telling the story second hand what I would really like to do is have other OT students submit entries of their own that I'll post on their behalf, or link to if the poster happens to have a blog of her/his own.

Here's what I'm looking for:
- regular contributions, or one-offs! No pressure, no commitment.
- post anonymously, with a pseudonym, or take credit for your contribution... totally up to you. However, I would like for each person to disclose what school they attend. The purpose is so that students considering OT after us have a chance to see what different programs are like so that they can find the best fit for their own needs.
- Possible topics: Anything related to being an OT student... whether it's classes, research, placements, being on a committee or part of the student association, volunteer work, juggling grad school and the rest of your life, financing grad school, etc... Just be sure you don't breach any confidentiality rules, especially when talking about placement experiences.
- posts are meant to be informative, so be honest about the good and tactful about discussing the bad. It's also not meant to be a competitive thing... as in, my school's better than your school. I want it to be a resource that future students can refer to when trying to make admissions decisions.

Plus, when it comes right down to it... I personally would really love to hear about some perspectives and experiences other than my own! I'm curious about what the similarities and differences will be! And after all, we may be in different programs now but we'll all be colleagues one day.

If you're interested or have any questions, please email me at
I'll be glad to hear from you any time!

Saturday, July 18, 2009

On this Episode of The Waiting Game!...

More waiting!! Woooooooo... lol.

I was so excited about this summer. It was going to be my very last one, as I'll be a working stiff soon enough. I was going to take a bunch of time off. I was going to relax. I was going to have a social life, and go out with friends, and sip drinks on a patio, and work out every day, and eat better, and sleep better. I was going to start to live a balanced life again and do all the things that I've been putting on the back burner in the name of achieving my goals and it was going to be glorious!! Now it's the middle of July and it doesn't feel like glory. It feels like waiting. It feels like I'm killing time... and I think that that is one of the most terrible things I've ever admitted.

I think part of it is that I've been so future focused for so long that I'm having a hard time just being in the here and now. Plus, I'm just so excited about moving and starting my new program, meeting my classmates and beginning this journey that it's hard to just enjoy myself. The next chapter of my life seems so much better than the one I'm in right now! I want to read ahead. Basically, it's a classic case of "the grass is always greener" someplace else. *sigh*
Why do I do this to myself?

So, I am waiting... but I am also trying to learn how to be in the now. I'm setting goals for other areas of my life and I'm learning about myself in the process. This may not be the way I thought my summer would go, but perhaps it's exactly what I need.

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Awash in Paperwork

You got into an OT program? Congratulations! Here's your paperwork. *thwomp*

LOL. I've been through a lot of paper work in the last year... applying for OSAP, funding, grad programs, jobs, etc... But I've never been as awash in forms as I was when I got the paperwork for admission to the Occupational Therapy program at McMaster!

There was the form to ORPAS to say I accept, the online form to McMaster to say I accept, the form to pay my tuition deposit, the form to request my final transcript be sent to ORPAS. Then there was the form to request a background check for working with vulnerable populations that went to the police and the form that came back to me saying I have no record that I'll send to Mac. I filled out a Photo Collection form for the School of Grad Studies and sent it to them with a photo for my student ID. I sent a form to the government telling them what program I'd accepted so that they would forward my scholarship to them, filled out a form for Mac saying that I'd be getting a scholarship, and filled out a payroll request form to have the money deposited.

I completed a form to tell McMaster which of the Orientation week activities I planned to participate in and advise them of my t-shirt size. Then I filled out a form to say that I waived my rights to hold McMaster responsible if anything bad happened to me during Orientation week and another one saying I also wouldn't hold them responsible if bad things happened while on a field trip during my two years in the program. I completed online training in ergonomics, accident prevention and asbestos and filled out three different forms verifying that I'd done the training and learned the appropriate lessons.

And last, but far from least, I filled out a 7 page health screening form. That form required me to handle lots of other forms too! Blood work requests and immunization records mostly. Thank goodness my mother is super organized and had kept all of my public health records from the time when I was a baby. The other good thing, that made the health screening part of this form-filling business much easier, was that I'd checked to see what kinds of things would be on the form (McMaster gives a bit of a list, but by digging around on the web pages for other programs I was able to find some detailed info) and I started getting my documents together, blood work processed and immunizations up to date way back in January! That way when the form came all my doctor and I had to do was fill in the blanks. Except for my TB test that is... but I've already talked about jumping through that hoop, lol. But I do highly recommend informing your doctor about your intent to go into OT and the tests/paperwork that it will entail; so that you can start on the blood work and immunizations early!! I've heard of lots of people having a hard time and scrambling to do it before the deadline... so if you can, avoid the headache.

The good news is that I am all done with forms for now!! Until next week that is... when registration opens. I'm sure that there are more forms awaiting me in the near future!
(p.s. I know the bee poster doesn't really have anything to do with this post, but I really liked it :)


Saturday, July 4, 2009

Adventures in TB Testing!

chest x-rayImage by Aidan Jones via Flickr

Great News!! I'm TB negative!!
But oh what an ordeal to find that out!! o_O
I knew back in January when I applied to OT programs that I would need to get a 2-step TB test done, since I'd never had a test before. For those of you who are not familiar with the process, the TB test involves having some of a special solution injected just under the surface of your skin on your forearm. It forms a little bubble that quickly subsides. Two days later you go back to have it "checked." If it bubbles up again or becomes red itchy/inflamed then they measure the diameter of the reactive area. If it's bigger than a certain size it's considered "reactive" and you have to go for a chest x-ray to see if you have any active TB in your lungs (I believe... for truly accurate information, please refer to the Canadian Lung Association webpage). If the reaction is smaller than a certain area, or if there is no reaction at all, then it is considered "non-reactive" or "negative" for TB and you go on to step-2. The second step is exactly the same as step one, except that you're repeating it one to three weeks later.

So, I knew that I would need this test way back in January, but I was busy. I called the student health centre at my university and got all the information I needed about booking an appointment and cost and all that. But I thought I had time. I didn't need the results until summer! Why rush?
Well, in June after I'd accepted the offer from McMaster and got the health screening forms I called the university health centre again to book my appointment. Here's how the conversation went:
Me: I'd like to book an appointment for a TB test.
Her: Certainly, are you a Trent student.
Me: Yes, and I'm working for the university this summer.
Her: Okay great. Did you convocate this year?
Me: Yes I did! Just last week. :)
Her: I'm sorry we can't see you in that case. You must be a current student and you are now a former student. Our insurance won't cover us to see you and our director is adament that we not see any former students, no matter how recently they graduated.
Me: (grasping at straws) Okay, but I am an employee of the university otherwise I wouldn't bother you with this. Is there any way I could come in?
Her: Unfortunately, no.
Me: (thinking, no biggie I'll go elsewhere) Okay, can you refer me to where I can get a TB test done?
Her: Unfortunately, no. There is nowhere else in Peterborough to get a TB test done.
Me: ...
Her: You can call public health, but I don't think they'll do it. You'll likely have to go out of town. It really is the responsibility of your new school to provide you with testing facilities if they require them for your program.
Me: ??? (at a loss for what else to say) Okay, thank you for your time.
*Calls public health in Peterborough*
Me: I am wondering if you do TB testing.
Her: Yes we do. Do you believe that you've been in contact with it?
Me: No, I need to have a 2-step TB test done for admission to a grad program in Occupational Therapy.
Her: Oh, in that case, no. We can't see you.
Me: ...
Her: We don't have the staff or the funding to provide the service. A few of our doctors have left in recent years and they have not been replaced. We simply can't handle the extra volume that voluntary testing would create.
Me: (>_<) Okay, I understand. Can you tell me where I could go to have this testing done? Her: I'm really sorry, there's nowhere in Peterborough to have the testing done. I have heard of some students driving down to a clinic in Pickering. Me: Okay... Thank you. If I had to travel out of town for a TB test I thought I'd at least roll it into a visit with my family in Kingston. I called the public health unit and found that they do TB test administration on Tuesday mornings and TB test checks on Thursday mornings. I work Monday and Wednesday nights in Oshawa... so it was doable, but not ideal. And that's exactly what I did.
I have to say that the people who staff the immunization clinic at the KFL&A Health Unit are wonderful and efficient... but my travails did not end there.

Because I work on Monday nights and don't get home until about 11pm I had to pack up my things very quickly for the two weeks in Kingston and get on the road, so that I could get to bed at a decent time to be up the next morning for my test. I rushed. I got to my parents' in good time. I got out of the car and realized that I'd left my suitcase... with all my clothes and my laptop... standing in my driveway in Peterborough -_-. I was so mad at myself! lol... but at the same time, it was funny. So on Tuesday I had a TB test AND went shopping for something to wear.

On my first trip to the health unit I put out my right arm. The nurse prepped it, inserted the needle, loosed her grip on my arm and said "Oh! That's weird. Your arm pushed the needle right out! Oh well, we'll just have to do your left arm instead" and she put a cotton ball over the area where my arm had been pricked. She then injected my left arm with no issues, turned her attention back to my right arm, removed the cotton and said "Oh my! I must have hit a veiny area" (her words not mine). There was a black and purple loonie-sized bruise where the first injection had been!
And the next week... step 2... it happened again! Except this time was a different nurse and when I warned her about what my right arm did the last time she made sure to brace my skin securely... after injecting the fluid and removing the needle she said "Oh my, that's not right!" My arm, rather than forming a little bubble, pushed all the fluid back out the injection site, lol. I'm not even kidding. So I was left with another bruise on my arm and a total of 4 TB injections for the two steps. LOL... if not for the fact that I did not react to the injections, I don't think there's anything else that could have gone wrong with what is typically a very straight forward process.

The good news is that it's DONE! I also got my background check and the rest of my health forms completed... but I'll post more information about those later. I know this post is really long, so thanks for bearing with me.
Hopefully YOUR adventures in TB testing will be a little less adventurous than mine.
All the best!

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Now What?

I've been giving some thought lately to what the purpose of this blog has been and where it is headed. Although it started as a personal account of my journey, one that I hoped future students considering occupational therapy might find useful, it quickly became a vehicle for sharing information with my fellow applicants (and now classmates/colleagues!!). And it was very useful at the time. We all had questions, anxieties, were striving for the same goal... and I enjoyed finding the information and sharing it with others! It made me feel like I was contributing something to my community of fellow students, and subsequently made me feel like I wasn't going through this process alone. That was the wonderful gift that all of you have given to me.

But now we've reached our goal and the sorting hat has placed us each in our respective houses (to use a not necessarily related Harry Potter reference, lol). The first stage of our journey to becoming occupational therapists has come to an end. And so, I think it's also time for this blog to make a change. I will still be trying to keep on top of the information we students need, and I'm happy to share it with my classmates. I just think that there are better venues for doing that... like in person, or via email, or even on facebook.

So, where am I going with this thing then? What am I going to blog about now?

I think I'd like to redirect this narrative back to my original purpose... to document my personal journey to become an occupational therapist. Although it may seem a bit narcissistic at first glance, it is not my intention for this to be an exercise in navel gazing. When I was considering my own options one of the BIGGEST aids that gave me insight into the OT profession, and what I would be getting myself into if I decided to pursue a Masters in OT, was the blog of another student. Many of you may also have read Karen's blog Occupational Therapy Students BeLOnG. She began documenting her own journey when she started her Masters program, and it was by sharing her experiences... in class, in placement, and personal... that I was able to see what the reality was like, and therefore able to start visualizing myself in that role. I am so grateful to her for sharing her personal story in a very public way!!! She has been an incredible ambassador for the profession to new generations of people who look to the Internet for information and insight.

But what struck me was that, as awesome as Karen's blog is, she was a lone voice. There were a few other blogs. Most of them are inactive. Some active ones are posted by professionals for other professionals, and they are great! But I'm not their target audience yet. So, my hope is that I can lend my voice to the chorus, and provide a Canadian perspective while I'm at it.

Furthermore (because I'm not one to do things the easy way, lol) I'm hoping to feature monthly guest-posts from students in other OT programs!!! I'll post a separate entry about this for those willing to be involved (send me an email if it sounds like you!). By doing this, my hope is that future students will gain insight about our chosen grad program and profession that gets them as excited and enthusiastic about the choice as we are!


Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Academic Timeline for the McMaster MSc OT Class of 2011!

Woot! The sessional dates (the whole academic timeline) for the MSc OT Class of 2011 has been posted on the McMaster website!!

Class of 2011 Schedule

Also, for anyone who has not yet seen them there are two Facebook groups you may be interested in joining. One is for the Orientation Week and has been set up by the organizing students for us new kids. The other is a McMaster MSc OT Class of 2011 group where members are introducing themselves to one another.
If you're in the class and on Facebook... hook it up!

Saturday, June 6, 2009

Convocation 2009

I will say up front that I am not one for long ceremonies that involve being crammed in like a sardine unable to move in the hot sunshine while people go blah blah blah. lol. I also understand that this is a perspective not shared by most people... I know I'm the odd one out here. So, when my own convocation date was coming up and it turned out to be on a day I work I thought I would have a good excuse not to go. Afterall, I never attended my highschool grad nor did I go to my first degree convocation (my current one was degree #2 for me, 1st one was in English Lit).
But as the day drew closer I started to feel differently. Whereas in the past I was simply going through the motions of what was expected of me, this degree was a very personal choice. I sacrificed a lot to come back for another round and I had a very specific goal in mind. I worked really hard and accomplished my goals. I felt like I'd really earned something and it felt good to have all of the work and focus pay off!

Suddenly I found that I wanted to go to the ceremony. This was a right of passage. By achieving this goal I have become someone different than I was before. I know what I am capable of and I am proud of my accomplishments. I wanted the ritual that would mark the transition. So, at the last minute I decided to go! And I'm so glad I did. It was a beautiful day. It was not nearly so long or boring as I thought it would be. And there was a wonderful energy in the air as everyone seemed to be feeling as elated as I was.

The best part was when they read out my name and I took my walk across the "stage" (Trent does their convocations outside, so it's not really a stage... more like a quad). I shook the chancellor's hand, smiled for a photo, and continued my crossing. What I did not expect was the reception I got on the far side. In our circuit across the stage and back to our seats all students walk past the gallery where any attending faculty members are seated. When I came across the stage my Profs and the other faculty, who I'd worked closely with for the last three years as a member of the Psyc Dept Committee, were standing in wait to shake my hand and give me a hug. I was almost in tears! It felt so great to be literally received with open arms by the people who have been my mentors and role models. It really meant the world to me.

I'm so glad I went. :)

And as icing on the cake...

Each year someone of note gets an honorary doctorate degree. At my convocation that person was Sarah Polley. People were really excited by this and I just didn't get it. And then I saw her!! In my program it said something about blah blah blah Canadian Actress, blah blah blah Road to Avonlea, blah blah blah Oscar Nominee... But as soon as she walked out I said (in my head) "OMG, it's Ana from Dawn of the Dead!!!!" Being a zombie-genre aficionado I was thrilled. I will never again disparage the inclusion of random public figures at these events. :)

So, that was my convocation experience. I hope that everyone else had the chance to enjoy their moment in the sun too!!

June 3, 2009 - Trent University
(that's me in the middle!)

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Round Two... Here We Come!!!

Good news for the waitlists... Round Two is almost here!!!
The round one offers expire on June 5th and hopefully everyone has had a chance to make a decision they are happy with and submit the appropriate paperwork (and send your monies and transcripts).

For myself, I've sent my response and transcript request to ORPAS. Then I submitted the electronic response that McMaster requested, along with the deposit. Now I'm in the process of getting my health forms filled out (I've never had a TB test before), scheduling a first aid course, getting my CPIC (criminal record check for working with vulnerable populations), and trying to take a reasonable photo of myself to submit to McMaster for their ID cards (you have to send in the info 6 weeks before registration!!).

For the CPIC, McMaster sent links to the Hamilton Police Force website and they have a special deal with them so that it only costs $15. However, I don't live in Hamilton to pick it up when it's ready. So, I'm looking into what it will cost to have it done in Peterborough, which is where I currently live. In reviewing the acceptance packages I got (before I recycled them) I also noticed that Western recommends a central service for these things that provides you with the report and a wallet card indicating your clearance that are both good for the 2009-2010 academic year. I checked it out and it seems pretty good... plus I can do it from a distance and they will mail me the report. The catch? It costs $40.
I thought I'd post the link to the website for this service anyway... just in case there was anyone who might find it useful. The service is called the Ontario Education Services Corporation and the link is in the title. It looks like it's primarily set up for students in Teacher's Ed programs... but as I mentioned, Western recommends it.

Anyhoo... now for the ranting portion of my blog. I don't rant very often. I find it is usually unproductive and just puts bad ju-ju out into the world, but today I find I am compelled to rant a little. I just found out that the ex-girlfriend of one of my friends... a woman who came to my home once when she was sick with an unspecified illness for which she was taking antibiotics... actually had TB!!!!! So, I'm freaking out a little. And perhaps I'm overreacting, but I'm genuinely concerned that my TB skin test will be reactive... which just makes the health screening SO much more complicated than it need be. So my rant is... why do people who know they are sick with contagious illnesses feel compelled to attend social events where they will expose other people? Especially with something like TB :( *kicks sand* And who even gets TB anymore?!
Nothing to do now but get tested and hope for the best.

Best of luck to all the Round Two people and congratulations on your decision to all of the Round One people!!
Pretty soon we'll all be searching for room mates (I already got dibs on the best one!! ;) and hunting for apartments (already started this one too, lol... I'm such a nerd). The summer is going to fly by and this will be the last one we have before diving into our program! Enjoy it!!

Tuesday, May 26, 2009


I got off the fence! I signed on the dotted line. I paid my money. I'm filling out my forms.

McMaster, here I come!!

It seems like I may have put myself through the wringer for nothing, because I clearly was leaning toward Mac in the first place. But it was part of my process. I needed to "try on" the different options to make sure I purchased the one that fit... in a manner of speaking. I'm thrilled with my choice and I feel all the more certain about it for having really wrestled with the decision. As you can probably tell by the rest of my blog as well... I don't take these things lightly.

Anyway, now is the time for celebrating! I feel like I can finally enjoy the success of being admitted now that I don't have the big decision looming over me.

And for those of you on the wait list for Western and Queen's OT... one spot just opened up on each list!! Hang in there! ;)

If you're reading this and also become a member of the McMaster MSc OT Class of 2011, drop me an email! We're classmates!!


Fence Sitters Anonymous...

Hello. My name is SweetPea. I have been sitting on the fence for 10 days now. Sometimes I tip one way and I think I'm going to get off the fence, but then I tip back the other way and I get nowhere. I want to kick my fence-sitting habit and commit to one yard. My butt hurts.

I debated about whether to make this post or not, but I thought the decision making that has been torturing me for the last 10 days has been a significant part of my journey thus far. While most people won't have to deal with this, some will... and I want you future choice-makers to know you're not alone!!

My paperwork is not in yet... so it's not like I'm off the fence and can speak from experience. However, I'd give this advice based on my own trials:
- Find someone who will listen to your convoluted thought process about how to decide and not judge you.
- It's helpful if this person knows what they're talking about... either knows you really well or knows the programs you're deciding between.
- It's more helpful to have people's opinions rather than just their support. You might not adopt their view as your own, but at least then they've articulated some arguments for or against a choice that you might not have considered.
- Be kind to yourself. Beating yourself up with ideas about what you should do is unhelpful. It's also self-defeating if you pile anxiety about choosing on top of anxiety about the choice itself. Believe me. I know.

I'm feeling very close to a decision and I think it's for real this time. Wanna know how I know? One option makes me certain that I won't second guess the choice, even if it's a tougher row to hoe.
I'll let you know when I've signed on the dotted line and sent in my monies!

Sunday, May 24, 2009

So... How Was the Open House Experience?

In a word... Influential!

I went to the Open House hosted by the Queen's University School of Rehabilitation Therapy thinking that it would simply help me to be sure about the other university whose offer I thought I would accept. Boy was I wrong. They completely changed my mind.

The faculty were wonderful. They were not only approachable, but actually approached the students to strike up conversation and get to know them. They reiterated many times that they wanted to be sure we left with all the information we needed to make an informed decision. And it wasn't just the instructors... staff in the clinical education centre, the library, the anatomy lab... everywhere we went the people were friendly and made me feel at home. And that's the impression I left with... I felt like I was home.
Now, before I go into detail gushing about some of the highlights of my visit, I want to extend a special thank you to the students who led my group's tour. Chelsea and Andrew (I didn't write down their names :S I hope those are right!!) were wonderful... and SO patient about answering all of our questions. It was very clear that they loved the program and they represented it admirably.

Okay... now to gush!

The clinical education centre is super cool, with volunteers from the community coming in to serve as practice patients. It's a great space and a great system for learning skills.

The library was impressive. It's in a great location with a stunning view. And it looks like it's a very welcoming place to do some serious studying and group work. Given that I expect I'll be spending a lot of time in the library no matter which school I choose, that was a big seller.

And THEN... 9 floors up from the library is the anatomy lab. Or should I say, The Anatomy Lab of Awesome! I held a femur and a clavicle and I wiggled a spine. And then I went into the "hands-on" squishy part of the lab and held a BRAIN and a liver and a heart and I gawked at a human rib cage that looked disturbingly like it ought to be slathered in BBQ sauce. The techs up there were great... answering all of our questions and laughing at our (I'm sure completely lame) jokes. Plus, the view from the windows was stunning... really really stunning. Unfortunately, no cameras allowed in the lab itself.

So, in a nutshell, I'm saying two things:
- Queen's is awesome.
- The programs that do not have post-admission offer open houses are losing out on a great opportunity to help students make their admissions decisions.


Photos from the Open House at Queen's, May 2009

Images from the Queen's University Open House, May 2009.

The Rehab Sciences Building... also houses the clinical education centre for the medical, nursing and rehab programs.
Reception - The wonderful Laurie Kerr helping a visitor get signed in.

The dedicated Health Sciences Bracken Library - on the first floor of Botterell Hall.

The Stauffer Library - Main undergrad library

Porch of the Grad Club peeking through the trees. Famous for good pints and live music.

View from the 9th floor, on the way to the anatomy lab.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Arrived In Kingston!

Drove to Kingston today for the Open House at Queen's tomorrow!

My parents live here, and I've always used their address as my "permanent address", so this is also where all of the schools sent my acceptance packages. I've been pouring over them thinking that somewhere in their pages will be the key piece of information that swings my decision one way or another. No luck so far though. There isn't really any new information in them that I didn't already know.
That's not to say that there aren't pros and cons to attending each school. But I think that what makes a school good or bad for a particular person is a very individual assessment to make.

Anyway, I'm hoping to take a few pics tomorrow and I'll post them once I'm home!
With any luck I'll have an epiphany that helps to make my choice more clear.

I'll see some of you tomorrow!!

Friday, May 15, 2009

Presents from the Acceptance Fairy!

What a great way to start the long weekend!
I woke up this morning to find offers of admission from both UWO and Queen's in my inbox. :)
That makes it a clean sweep for me! Woot!

For anyone wondering, I didn't apply to UofT. That choice had nothing to do with the school or program, both of which are excellent. I simply didn't want to pay the cost of living in Toronto.

I'm not going to be making any decisions until after the Queen's Open House next Friday. Although I am leaning toward one program in particular, I want to be certain about my choice. So, if anyone else is planning to attend the Queen's Open House please send me an email!! I'd love to meet some people at the event. And, if you're thinking about Queen's but can't make it to the Open House... I'll be taking my camera with me and will try to post some pics & video, so check back next weekend and I'll let you know what it was like.

Congrats to everyone!! And, if you got waitlisted... hang in there!! No one I've spoken to got only one acceptance... if they got one, they got more. And that means that in the coming weeks those waitlists are going to start to MOVE! Keep thinking positive thoughts... the admissions fairy might just be running a little late to your house ;)

All the best,


The ORPAS site is not updated (yet?), but one of my commenters suggested that I was incorrect about that and it won't be updated. What we all need to do is check the email account that we indicated on our applications.
Anyway... no news from anyone else yet.

But I got in at McMaster!!!!! Woooooohooooo!


p.s. I'm totally freaking out... I'm giggling, I'm crying, I have a smile that won't wipe off. This just feels so surreal. Probably because it's after midnight so I can't call any of the people I normally would to celebrate this news with. *happydances*

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Decisions, Decisions

First, I would just like to say:
And I know I won't be the only one who stays up way past midnight tonight to repeatedly check the ORPAS site in case they update early! (although I recognize that it's not likely)

So the thing that's on my mind lately is:
If I get more than one offer, how do I choose?

I thought I knew which program I wanted to get into, but the more I consider the options the more I see how each of them has advantages. In the end I don't think that one is better than another and I'll be thrilled to get into any one of them. But that makes the decision even harder in some ways. There is no clear singular choice, only equal but different choices.

So I'd like to ask... and I sincerely want feedback from others if you're willing to share... how are you making your choice?
Is it based on features of the program?
The university? City?
Is your choice based on practical considerations?
Or maybe personal and emotional ones?

Please comment with the program you will choose/have chosen and the reason you selected it.

I wish the best of luck to everyone!
Good, bad or ugly... at least tomorrow the wait will be over!!


Sunday, May 10, 2009

Admission Offers, Provisional Acceptances & Waitlists, Oh My!

In doing my research and reading for this blog I do a lot of hunting around the internet and integrating information from different sources. I keep track of where I get most of my information, but in cases where the info is repeated a number of times on different sites in different ways I sometimes lose track. This is what has happened with the admissions information and now that I've found some conflicting information it's a problem.

A couple of posts ago I stated that:
"If you get in at one place but waitlisted at the place you really wanted to get into, you can provisionally accept the one you got and then there will be an option you can select that will keep you on the waitlist of the 2nd institution. However, I think all provisional acceptances need to be made firm by June 5th. Or maybe it's the 12th? They'll tell you anyway."

I know I didn't make this information up... but I can't find the original source where I read it. The ORPAS site does note a June 12th deadline for provisional acceptances to become firm acceptances, but does not explain what that means. To make matters worse, I've since read this little tidbit of information posted in a 2007 document from Queen's:

"If an applicant accepts an offer from another Occupational Therapy Program through ORPAS, that applicant will in effect be taking themselves off the waitlists for any other OT programs. Alternatively, if you accept an offer from Queen’s occupational Therapy Program, you will not be eligible to remain on the wait lists of other Occupational Therapy Programs. Since there is no provisional acceptance to the OT programs through ORPAS as of 2007, you will need to respond to only one offer. When you accept the offer you are agreeing that other OT programs will cancel your application as you have firmly accepted an offer of admission. If you have applied to physical/Physiotherapy (PT)programs, your application to PT may remain active."

So, if you find yourself in this situation... you are waitlisted at the university you really want to get into, but accepted at another university... read the instructions in the packet carefully with regard to how you should proceed. And, I'm sorry if my previous post caused confusion for anyone.

Less than a week to go now! And I'm freakin' out! Fortunately, the course I'm TA-ing starts this week, so that will provide me with a little bit of distraction at least. It just feels like there's been SO much build up... and everyone I know who applied to a non-rehab program has already found out where they'll be next year. :(

Here's hoping this week goes by quickly and that Friday brings good news!!!


Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Got a Summer Job!

This is not an occupational therapy related post... but there's nothing really new to say on that front other than "Still Waiting." This IS a good news post though... I've got a summer job!!

My undergrad university has hired me to TA one of the workshops for a third year statistics course this summer, two nights a week. I'm really excited about it because:

a) I like statistics and tutored this course all year.
b) I like teaching statistics! I know. I'm weird.
c) It will be a great experience to build up my CV.
d) It's only two days a week and enough money that I'll be able to pay my bills... which is all I was looking for!

I applied for another full-time job with the government (had an interview on Monday), and have worked for them before. It's a lot of work, but the money has always been excellent. This year... for the new job I applied for... they only want to pay $12/hour, and the interview guy said it in a tone of voice that implied he thinks it's a great deal. I thought "Forget it. I'd rather have more time off." In the end it will only make a gross difference of about $2000, but it will make a HUGE difference to my sanity and quality of life.

I got thinking, this will be our last free summer as students EVER! The OT programs all go through the summer term, with just a short break for a few weeks in August between 1st and 2nd years. And after graduation we'll be looking for jobs and entering the working world. So for me, as long as my bills are getting paid, my time was more important to me than anything this summer.

So... what are YOU going to do this summer to celebrate getting into an OT program and to restore the balance in your life before jumping into the intensity of grad school?
I believe I'm going to reacquaint myself with my local YMCA and take full advantage of patio season! Throw in a wedding in July (someone else's, not mine!) and a camping or rafting trip... I think it's going to be a great summer!


Friday, May 1, 2009

Hanging Around in Limbo Land

I don't know about anyone else, but it seems that lately I've been doing a lot of busy-work and waiting. I think maybe it's just the big exhale after the mad rush of the last weeks leading up to the McMaster interviews. Suddenly I find myself with TIME on my hands... which I'm filling up with wonderful tasks such as packing!! OOooo... fun packing times. It's just so weird to be loading all my stuff into boxes without yet knowing where I'm going to be moving. For this summer I've applied to two jobs, each in a different city. And then in the fall I'll be going somewhere, but where?! And which job will I get this summer? It's just weird. I'm used to things being much more certain. And I'm NOT used to having time to relax and stuff, lol. How pathetic >_<

Anyway, while I'm hanging around I thought I'd post some info that might be useful in two weeks time when we all get our offers of admission (I'm trying out some positive thinking ;)

For those who don't know, the offers will be posted on the ORPAS website on May 15th. Technically they could be later than that... but it's the long weekend and I can't see them making us all wait till the following Tuesday. PLUS, Queen's asked for people to RSVP to their open house by the 18th (which is the Monday) so we'll have to have found out on the Friday. Makes sense, right?

Anyway, this does NOT mean that you will get your admission packages in the mail that day. So if you want to know if you got in anywhere, don't stand by the mailbox waiting to jump the letter-carrier; log into the ORPAS site! You'll also need to know your application ID number (starts with "IT", will also be printed on the verification form they mailed you in February) and your password. If you're not sure where they are you may want to look them up now... the ORPAS customer service people will be swamped on admission-offers day and it would suck to have to wait.

So once you're in you'll see which of the schools has or has not offered you admission. I'm not sure what the actual status labels will be, but there are three possibilities here:
  • Offer of Admission (*happy dance* Break out the champagne!!)
  • Waitlisted (hopefully they give you your number on the waitlist too)
  • Declined (which sounds marginally nicer than "rejected", I really hope they don't go with that particular label).

If you're a super-fabulous smarty-pants you might even get more than one offer!!! Fancy! If you're lucky enough to have that happen to you, just remember that you can only accept ONE offer at a time, even if you're having a hard time choosing.

If you get in at one place but waitlisted at the place you really wanted to get into, you can provisionally accept the one you got and then there will be an option you can select that will keep you on the waitlist of the 2nd institution. However, I think all provisional acceptances need to be made firm by June 5th. Or maybe it's the 12th? They'll tell you anyway.

Once you accept admission to a school then you have to do a few things:

  1. Send them money. All schools require a deposit. They'll tell you how much to send and how to pay it. It's usually around $500.
  2. Get your health record check completed by a doctor or nurse practitioner (maybe registered nurses can do it too, but I'm not sure). Do it early! You never know how long the lab will take to get your serological proofs back and you may need updates to some vaccinations. You'll need the two-step tuberculosis skin test too.
  3. Get your criminal record check for working with vulnerable populations. It's better to do this in your home town, or where ever you've lived the most in the last 5 years. For those who haven't done one before, you give the police your addresses for the last 5 years and if you've lived in other cities then they have to call the other municipalities, which takes time.
  4. Some programs require you to have Basic Rescuer First Aid (C) and CPR (Red Cross and St. John's Ambulance are two organizations that offer this. SJA calls the course Standard First Aid with CPR-C, it takes two full days and costs $135 according to their website). Even if the program you choose doesn't require this certification I highly recommend it. All it takes is needing the skills once in your lifetime and you'll see it's well worth the time and money it cost you.
  5. Fill in the Transcript Request Form on the ORPAS website to have your University forward over your final transcripts.
  6. Enjoy your summer!!!! This will be the last real break you'll have for the next two years and after that it's working-shmoe status for you, so enjoy your freedom while it lasts!! Oh... and you probably want to make some money at a job too. You won't have time for a job once your program starts!

I can't wait to find out!!! Fourteen more sleeps!!!


Friday, April 24, 2009

Interview Weekend at McMaster

Interview weekend is upon us! And what a gorgeous weekend it is :)

I had my interview today (Friday), and as you may or may not know I can't really disclose any information about the questions you're given. I will say a few things about the experience though!!

First I'd like to thank the great student volunteers who kept us company while we waited for our interview group to be taken in. We were all very nervous and the volunteers were awesome at helping us to relax, putting our minds at ease and answering our questions. They were really wonderful. And actually, I'd say the whole experience was pretty great! It was super organized and the assessors were very welcoming... so even though I was nervous walking into each interview, it was easy to relax and be myself.

I think the assessments themselves went pretty well, but it's so hard to tell. Nothing to do now but think positive and cross my fingers.

AND... I got to meet a few people today who know me via this blog!! That was super-cool :)
D. and N. ... it was a pleasure to meet each of you! I wish you all the best... and with some luck we might all be classmates next year!

Well, it's late... but I just wanted to post a quick note for those who haven't yet interviewed. There's no need to be worried or stressed... the experience is a positive one.
And if anyone feels like it, I'd love to get an email with your impression of how it went!