Saturday, March 28, 2009

High School... just like I remember it.

So, I went to a local high-school to give a presentation to a grade 11 Psychology/Sociology/Anthropology class about majoring in Psychology. I actually covered two classes in back to back periods.
The first group was pretty good. A lot of them were quiet, but a handful of people asked lots of questions and all of them were clearly interested and engaged. Actually a lot of their questions had nothing to do with psychology at all and were more about what's university like, how do I decide between college and university, etc... I was happy to talk about whatever they wanted to. It was for their benefit, so I thought it was probably best to just roll with whatever they wanted to talk about.
But the second class... talk about a tough crowd!!!
One guy, who was sitting right up front (!), fell asleep and wasn't even pretending to be listening. Everyone else seemed to be half listening, but mostly not. And no one asked a single question. Lucky for them I'm chatty enough to fill the gaps, and I just basically was like "This is what the other class asked me, and here's what I told them..."
Anyway, it was two painless hours and if it helped one of them by easing their fears of the unknown then it was well worth it. Plus, the two teachers were thrilled. They gave me a really nice Thank You card, along with a coffee mug that has the school's crest and a gift certificate for Tim Horton's!! I wasn't expecting anything so I was absolutely thrilled.

And, since this IS my occupational therapy student blog I feel that I should at least mention something OT related... here it goes:

In about one week (give or take a few days... they're kind of fuzzy about it) I'll find out if I got an interview at McMaster!!! Incidentally, my thesis is also due in one week :s *freaks out*

Wish me luck on all counts! I'm going to need it. :)


Monday, March 23, 2009

Still waiting...

Only two weeks until I hear back about Mac Interviews!!!!! *fingers crossed*

I'm also still looking for advice from anyone who has been to an admissions interview for OT before... whether it was at McMaster or elsewhere. If you've been to one... or conducted one!!... please comment.

Other than that life is just really busy right now. I'm beginning the data analysis on my thesis this week, and have a meeting with my advisors on Wednesday to discuss it. The thesis itself is due in two weeks!! I can't believe the year has gone by so fast. And I also can't believe how much work I have to do in the next two weeks! Yikes!

I've also been invited to go to a local grade 11 Psychology/Sociology/Anthropology high school class to talk about what it's like to be a Psyc major. I think that will be pretty fun, and I had fun putting together the presentation itself.

Then the weekend of April 4th I've volunteered to be a student rep at the Psyc Dept's table for my University's Open House weekend. I did it in the fall too and it was really fun. I enjoyed answering all the students' questions and helping to put their minds at ease. Plus, we get free lunch! :)

And I'm just putting the finishing touches on my Statistics Exam-Aid session for the second year students. I host a session before each exam and all the money raised goes to charity. I usually have about 20 students come out and the feedback I've had on the session in the past has been really positive. It makes it a really rewarding, feel-good thing to do... so although it sounds weird to most people to call anything to do with statistics "fun"... I really do enjoy it.

So, the moral of the story is I have lots to keep me busy in the here and now. But my mind is elsewhere, focused on my goal... occupational therapy.

Wish me luck!! :)


Saturday, March 14, 2009

The agony of the wait...

Our applications were due to ORPAS by January 9, 2009.
The soonest I'll hear anything about my prospects will be at the beginning of April, when I'll find out whether I've made the cutoff for an interview at McMaster. Interviews are the 24th, 25th and 26th of April, 2009.
After that the soonest possible date to hear from any school about acceptance/rejection is May 15th, 2009.

Le cry! :'(

It's just such a looooooooooooong time to wait to hear anything. My university courses will be long finished by that time. I'll be packing to move... with no idea where I need to move to. Like, not just haven't lined up an apartment, but don't even know what CITY to look for one in!!!
I'm sure this must be the same agony that every applicant goes through, but it doesn't make it any easier. I feel I've got a very good chance of getting into at least one program... but there are no guarantees in life. And what the heck will I do if I don't get in?!?! *hyperventilates*

This spring heralds big changes for me... graduating and moving. But the unknowns about essential things like where I'm going to live and whether I need to find a job in this terrible economic climate (which I'll need to do if I don't get into the OT program - summer employment is already lined up but is contract work) are making me feel all barfy inside. :x
All this anxiety is making it really hard to focus on the last of my thesis and coursework... which is never good. It's like a big anxiety snowball that keeps building steam.

LE CRY!!! :'(

Okay... I'll stop now. I know this entry will just seem like a big whine-fest... but I think this experience of waiting and uncertainty is a significant part of the student-applicant process.
If you're applying in a future year, be forewarned.
If you're in the thick of it with me this year, send me a message! I'd love to commiserate with someone, lol. :)


Saturday, March 7, 2009

A Great Story I Had to Share.

First, many thanks go out to the people who organize the TED talks lecture series. I've just recently discovered them and have been devouring the videos like smarties!

As the website bi-line states, these are "Ideas worth sharing." And so, I am sharing one of my favorites.
This one was just titled Aimee Mullins on Running, and being an aspiring runner myself I clicked "play." What I got was a wonderful first-hand story of a girl who became a paralympic athlete. She's really funny and a great story-teller.

I highly recommend giving this video a watch (it's about 20 mins), and I hope you enjoy it as much as I did!!


Wednesday, March 4, 2009

MMI - Scenario Ten

Station 10: Standard Interview 2

What experiences have you had (and what insights have you gained from these experiences) that lead you to believe you would be a good occupational therapist?

Discuss this question with the interviewer.

MMI - Scenario Nine

Station 9: Preferential Admission (Knowledge of the Health Care System)

Due to the shortage of occupational therapists in rural communities, such as those in Northern Ontario, it has been suggested that programmes preferentially admit students who are willing to commit to a 2- or 3-year tenure in an under-serviced area upon graduation.

Consider the broad implications of this policy for health and health care costs. For example, do you think the approach will be effective? At what expense? Discuss this issue with the interviewer.

SweetPea ~ Note that I changed the wording from "shortage of physicians" to be for OTs. However, this may change how you read/interpret the health care costs bit. Still, it's good practice.

MMI - Scenario Eight

Station 8: Parking Garage (Communication Skills)

The parking garage at your place of work has assigned parking spots. On leaving your spot, you are observed by the garage attendant as you back into a neighbouring car, a BMW, knocking out its left front headlight and denting the left front fender. The garage attendant gives you the name and office number of the owner of the neighbouring car, telling you that he is calling ahead to the car owner, Tim. The garage attendant tells you that Tim is expecting your visit.

Enter Tim’s office.

SweetPea ~ Who wants to bet that Tim is hopping mad? I'm suddenly thankful for all the customer service jobs I had dealing with irate customers! :)

MMI - Scenario Seven

Station 7: Class Size (Critical Thinking)

Universities are commonly faced with the complicated task of balancing the educational needs of their students and the cost required to provide learning resources to a large number of individuals. As a result of this tension, there has been much debate regarding the optimal size of classes. One side argues that smaller classes provide a more educationally effective setting for students, while others argue that it makes no difference, so larger classes should be used to minimise the number of instructors required.

Discuss your opinion on this issue with the examiner.

MMI - Scenario Six

Station 6: Circumcision (Ethical Decision Making)

The Canadian Pediatric Association has recommended that circumcisions not be routinely performed. They base this recommendation on their determination that the benefits have not been shown to clearly outweigh the risks and costs. Doctors have no obligation to refer for, or provide, a circumcision, but many do, even when they are clearly not medically necessary. Ontario Health Insurance Plan (OHIP) no longer pays for unnecessary circumcisions.

Consider the ethical problems that exist in this case. Discuss these issues with the interviewer.

MMI - Scenario Five

Station 5: Standard Interview 1

Why do you want to be a occupational therapist?

Discuss this question with the interviewer.

MMI - Scenario Four

Station 4: Deterrent Fees (Knowledge of the Health Care System)

Recently, the Prime Minister of Canada raised the issue of deterrent fees (a small charge, say $10, which everyone who initiates a visit to a health professional would have to pay at the first contact) as a way tocontrol health care costs. The assumption is that this will deter people from visiting their doctor for unnecessary reasons. Consider the broad implications of this policy for health and health care costs. For example, do you think the approach will save health care costs? At what expense? Discuss this issue with the interviewer.

MMI - Scenario Three

Station 3: Air Travel (Communication Skills)

Your company needs both you and a co-worker (Sara, a colleague from another branch of the company) to attend a critical business meeting in San Diego. You have just arrived to drive Sara to the airport. Sara is in the room.

SweetPea ~ This one is observed by the "interviewer" who just watches the interaction between you and an actor. What is not said here is that when you get into the room Sara is going to be really upset. She will reveal that she is scared to fly, and though she has travelled a lot in the past she has not been on a plane since the tragedy of 9/11. I only know this additional information because this scenario was used as an example in the training manual I linked earlier. I think it's safe to say that in any of these interactive scenarios we can expect that the situation we walk into will not be entirely what is on the description we're given in advance.

MMI - Scenario Two

Station 2: Aspartame (Critical Thinking)

A message that recently appeared on the Web warned readers of the dangers of aspartame(artificial sweetener – Nutrasweet, Equal) as a cause of an epidemic of multiple sclerosis (a progressive chronic disease of the nervous system) and systemic lupus (a multi-system auto-immune disease). The biological explanation provided was that, at body temperature, aspartame releases wood alcohol (methanol), which turns into formic acid, which is in the same class of drugs as cyanide and arsenic. Formic acid, they argued, causes metabolic acidosis. Clinically, aspartame poisoning was argued to be a cause of joint pain, numbness, cramps, vertigo, headaches, depression, anxiety, slurred speech and blurred vision. The authors claimed that aspartame remains on the market because the food and drug industries have powerful lobbies in Congress. They quoted Dr Russell Blaylock, who said, “The ingredients stimulate the neurons of the brain to death, causing brain damage of varying degrees.”

Critique this message, in terms of the strength of the arguments presented and their logical consistency. Your critique might include an indication of the issues that you would like to delve into further before assessing the validity of these claims.

MMI - Scenario One

Station 1: Placebo (Ethical Decision Making)

Dr Cheung recommends homeopathic medicines to his patients. There is no scientific evidence or widely accepted theory to suggest that homeopathic medicines work, and Dr Cheung doesn’t believe them to. He recommends homeopathic medicine to people with mild and non-specific symptoms such as fatigue, headaches and muscle aches, because he believes that it will do no harm, but will give them reassurance. Consider the ethical problems that Dr Cheung’s behaviour might pose. Discuss these issues with the interviewer.

Admissions Interview for McMaster Occupational Therapy - The Multiple Mini-Interview (MMI)

In my asking around about the admissions interview for McMaster I got a second hand account of the process. The sister of a classmate attended the interview two years ago and summed it up simply as "It was weird!" O_o This made me even more curious to find information.

Although I'd been unsuccessful in finding specific information online about the admissions interview for the Masters in Occupational Therapy program (actually, an MSc (OT) program), I was not deterred. When I dug a little further I found that the McMaster University medical school pioneered a new approach to admissions interviews that has since been adopted by many other schools, in a variety of health sciences disciplines. This approach is called the Multiple Mini-Interview or MMI. If you look it up there's a ton of available research on it. And if you were expecting a traditional interview but got this instead, you would definitely walk out thinking "That was weird"... so I think it's a safe assumption that this is the kind of interview us OT applicants can expect as well. And, while I don't like assumptions generally, I think this one's a safe bet. The rehab programs fall under the umbrella of the Faculty of Health Sciences, so it makes sense that they would use the same interview format that is favored by other degree programs in the department. And barring any revelations between now and my interview date, educated guesses about what to expect are all I have!

I won't go into great detail about the MMI, because there is readily available information about it online. I even found a "Training Manual" for interviewers that you can check out!

In a nutshell, the MMI is a series of 8 minute interviews that you will have at different "stations" with different interviewers. Before each interview you'll be given a topic to discuss or a scenario related to the interview for that station and have 2 minutes to prepare. Here's the quote about them from the McMaster website:
"During the MMI, applicants will move between interview "stations" in a 12-station circuit. Each station lasts ten minutes (two minutes to read the scenario and eight minutes of interaction). At each station, applicants will interact with, or be observed by, a single rater. The stations deal with a variety of issues, which may include but are not limited to, communication, collaboration, ethics, health policy, critical thinking, awareness of society health issues in Canada and personal qualities. Applicants are not assessed on their scientific knowledge."

Also, they don't note it here but they do in the training manual for interviewers... there are no right or wrong answers. What they want you to do is demonstrate communications skills, the ability to express an opinion and articulate your reasons for support. As well, the ability to see an issue from more than one point of view and empathize with others is taken into consideration.

For some people, this style of interview might cause nightmares. But for others (me included!) I'm excited by the diversity and the opportunity to interact with many evaluators, rather than being dependant on the impressions of a few people in a single interaction. I think the idea with this style is that each candidate is bound to flub a few and shine in a few but that, on average, the school will get a fair assessment of the applicant. Furthermore, you can't just give canned responses that are prepared in advance. You need to think on your feet, be a little flexible, and while you're doing that your true colours will show through. Fakers will be found out!

In my next few posts I'll put up a number of practice scenarios I've found. Feel free to discuss what you think they're looking for in the comments section!

I hope others found this as useful as I have. And, naturally, I'll post back after my own interview to confirm whether or not this is the style used for the OT Masters program.