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!

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Hammer Time!

I've arrived in Hamilton for interview weekend! Cruised by the campus... found the IAHS building... now just need to get a good rest and be ready to shine tomorrow!!

Best of luck to everyone! And I'll see some of you tomorrow :)

p.s. Did everyone else get this invitation from Queen's? I was surprised to hear anything from them, so I'm curious if it was a generic message that went to everyone or if it's a hint of things to come!! Probably generic, but a girl can hope!

Save the Date!

Queen’s University Open House
Friday, May 22nd 12:00-4:00pm

Queen’s University will host an open house on May 22 for applicants who receive an offer of Admission to the Master of Science Occupational Therapy Program. This will provide an opportunity for those who receive offers to visit Queen’s University campus, see the School of Rehabilitation Therapy facilities, and meet current students, clinicians, faculty, and new graduates. Should you receive an offer of admission, a detailed program and directions will be included in your Offer of Admission package which will be sent following the ORPAS offer date of Friday, May 15th. Best of luck, and we hope to see you there!

RSVP. By May 18th.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Interview Prep, Part III

Now for the hard bit... the part you are most likely to second guess yourself on... the most important bit... Who are you and why do you want to be an occupational therapist?

I've been struggling with this one. It's not that I don't know the answer to the question, it's that I don't know how to say it without sounding completely generic! Three-hundred of us will be showing up for interviews this weekend. Every one of us will say some variation of "I want to help people" and "My volunteer experience with [insert name of population commonly helped by OT services here] has really inspired me/motivated me/made me sure of what I wanted to do with my life!" And it will be true for all 300 of us. So, I think the key is maybe less about what you say than it is about communicating who you are, what your personality is like, what your strengths and weakness are.

In that spirit, I thought I'd just include some questions to help with that self-inventory. This list isn't going to be exhaustive, so please feel free to leave additional questions you've found useful in the comments section!!

So, here we go...

Why do you want to help people?

What was it about your volunteer experiences that inspired you?

Why not become a PT/physician/social worker/psychologist/nurse?

What are three of your personal characteristics that you feel will be an asset to you in your career as an OT?

What are three weaknesses that you know you will need to develop?

Why do you feel that you will excel in a PBL learning environment? Give an example of an occasion where you excelled in group learning and what you contributed to your group's success.

Why do you want to go to McMaster?

What do you think will be your biggest challenge to succeeding in this program?

Where do you see yourself in 5 years? 10 years?

It's unlikely that any of these specific questions will be asked at the interview, but hopefully they will help you to know yourself a little better and answer the actual interview questions more precisely.

Don't forget to take a passport-sized photo of yourself to your interview!!!

Good luck to all this weekend! I know we'll all be signing non-disclosure agreements regarding the details of the interview questions, but I'd love to hear from people about their impression of how they did, whether they enjoyed this interview style, and any tips that they would give to people who are preparing next year!!

Wishing you all the best!!

Monday, April 20, 2009

Interview Prep, Part II

Now that I've come down off of my scholarship high, it's on to Interview Prep Part II: Stuff you should know about Mac. I'm going to say right up front that most of this information is available right on the McMaster rehab webpages... and that's exactly where I've pilfered it from! But some stuff is also word of mouth, reputation type stuff. So read on...

First things first... McMaster's program is based around a pedagogical approach known as Problem Based Learning. The Mac webpage on this topic sites 4 articles that you can go and read if you're really curious. And if you have no idea what PBL is and aren't sure about how/why it differs from other pedagogical approaches then you probably want to read up on it. If you've taken some education/learning/memory classes then you're probably familiar enough to judge whether it's right for you.
I'll come right out an say it!! Just because it's right for McMaster doesn't mean it's right for YOU. Not everyone will excel under this approach, so know yourself well enough to decide if it is best for you. In the end you want to get into a program that will help you to succeed. If you do better with the more linear knowledge-then-application model, using lectures and seminars/assignments, then consider other programs as your first choice instead of Mac.
Now on to the details...

McMaster uses Problem Based Learning because evidence has shown that it is a better way to learn for most people. This approach is based on research that indicates:
- Knowledge is best remembered in the context in which it is learned.
- The acquisition and integration of new knowledge requires activation of prior knowledge (for all you Psyc majors, remember back to your cognition and memory classes!)

What does this mean? In a nutshell, if you learn something while trying to do it you draw on your current knowledge/skills, figure out what's missing, get info to fill in the blanks, and get the job done. Then when you go to do that same task again, you'll be better able to recall how you did it, what skills/knowledge you used, what worked/didn't work. Plus there's this whole idea in psychology about "priming"... where just being in the same situation automatically activates the parts of your memory that have had to deal with that situation before. This is a really, REALLY, simpled-down version of why PBL works... but I hope it helps for those who just want to get the gist of it.

What makes PBL different from other teaching styles isn't so much why they use it as how it's done. Walton and Matthew (1989) describe the 7-Steps of the PBL Tutorial Process (and my layperson version of each step is in brackets):
1. Identify the problem. (Hey group - here's your case study/scenario for the lesson)
2. Explore pre-existing knowledge. (Group info sharing about what we each know regarding aspects of this situation)
3. Generate hypotheses. (Brain-storm about possible causes of problem/solutions to problem/what the heck is going on in this case study).
4. Identify learning issues. (What knowledge is the group lacking to fully understand/deal with the scenario?)
5. Research and self-study. (Go get info - divide and conquer)
6. Sharing and discussion of new knowledge and insights. (Bring back info to group and examine situation with addition of new knowledge)
7. Assessment and reflection on learning. (How did we do? Did we figure it out? Did we work well as a team? What were our team/individual strengths and opportunities change?)

You'll notice that there's no lecture or expert "giving" us answers. There's also very little independent work. You succeed or fail as a team. But there's also lots of room to be creative and to synergistically (is that a word?) build off of one another! I like team work, so GO TEAM!

What else can be said about PBL?
Features of PBL:
- Integrated curriculum, not separate courses.
- Organized around problems, not disciplines.
- Emphasizes development of cognitive skills (learn how to learn) as well as the acquisition of knowledge (learn stuff you need to know).
- Can meet personal needs based on prior knowledge and experience.
- Allows independent study that you can tailor to your learning style.
- Allows integration of information from many sources (no drawing lines in the sand around "my" discipline and "your" discipline. it's all fair game!)
- Gives you the skills to deal with future problems.

So, other than PBL, what should you know about McMaster?!?!
- They are known for having a really diverse range of placement opportunities.
- They offer the Northern Studies Stream that up to 50% of each class can participate in over the course of the program. (and for anyone who's never been to Northern Ontario... you should definitely try to go!! It's the most amazing place in the world. Not that it's a single place... but you catch my drift ;)
- Although we're all applying to a professional Masters program, McMaster has an excellent reputation for research in the field of Health Sciences. You may not want to be a researcher, but you do want to be an evidence-based practitioner... what better place to learn than where they're doing the research?! Who knows, you may even catch the research bug :)
- Because they publish a lot of research, you may want to check some of it out! Key search terms are the McMaster Lens and C.O.P.M (Canadian Occupational Performance Measure) for starters. Then there's lots more depending on your personal interests.

And I think that's all I know!!
I hope this helps you get prepared... but remember that I don't know everything! I may be leading you astray... I've never done this before either, lol. But I do promise my intention is to help. Everything I put on my blog is the stuff I'm doing to prepare myself.
And tomorrow will be Part III: Self-Reflection. Easily the hardest part (is that an oxymoron?)! I don't know about anyone else, but I'm having a heck of a time articulating myself in a way that doesn't make me sound like a walking cliche. *sigh*

I'm in the Money!$!!

More interview prep will come... I swear. But right now I have to share my happy news!!!

$15,000 WOooooooooooooooo!!!
**Happy Dance**

Now, does anyone know how I go about accepting the funding when we won't have been notified about admissions decisions yet? O_o
SweetPea <--green, like money!

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Interview Prep, Part I

Okay people!! Less than a week to go!!
Have you figured out why you want to be an occupational therapist yet?
Have you decided what you're going to wear to your interview?!
Have you taken a passport sized photo of yourself (in your interview outfit) for your file?!?!
If not, DON'T PANIC! Just grab a towel ;) <-- (Nerdy reference for the day, likely to be appreciated only by those who read/watched Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, lol.)

There's still ample time to get ready, so don't sweat it too much. Odds are that you have already put a lot of thought into this career choice before you put out the up to $500 in application fees. And you've done a lot of research in order to write your statements for the application package to other universities! So at this point, it's all about getting focused on what's important, refreshing your memory about what you know, and nurturing a sense of calm confidence.

So, in Part I I'm going to refresh your memory about some key points to do with the profession of Occupational Therapy.
Then, in Part II, I'll review some of the McMaster specific issues to remember.
And then I might tack on a Part III: Questions to encourage self-reflection. We'll see how it goes. :)

Part I: Key Points about OT
(all content appropriated from other sources, primarily from the CAOT website)

The Profile of Occupational Therapy in Canada (2007) identifies seven main roles for an occupational therapist:
1. Expert in enabling occupation.
2. Communicator
3. Collaborator
4. Practice manager
5. Change agent
6. Scholarly practitioner
7. Professional

What the heck do they mean by each of those terms?? Good news... you can download a copy of the Profile where they define each. For a quick overview, scroll down to page 28 of this document.
Some questions you may want to ask yourself are:
- What personal characteristics do I have that will help me be good at each of these roles?
- Describe an occasion where I have exhibited each of these characteristics.

From Enabling Occupation II: Advancing a Vision of Health, Well-Being and Justice Through Occupation (Townsend & Polatajko, 2007), there are five essential elements of occupational therapy practice (this goes with #1 from the list above).
1. The presence of an occupational challenge
2. The possibility of solutions that enable occupation
3. Client-specific goals/challenges/solutions and client-centred enablement
4. Multi-disciplinary knowledge base
5. A reasoning process that can deal with complexity.

Some things to note are:
- Demonstrate knowledge of these concepts in your answers about the OT profession.
- Emulate these characteristics in other responses... for example, in ethics questions demonstrate that your reasoning process appreciates the complexity of the given scenario.

Last, but not least, TRENDS! Those that affect OT and those within OT.

Current Trends Affecting OT:
- An aging population
- Increased awareness of the needs of persons with disabilities
- Higher survival rates from accidents and injuries
- Increased emphasis on health promotion and prevention to keep healthcare costs down
- Higher incidence of mental health and family problems
- Changes in working conditions, such as job stress and early retirement
- A more informed public, regarding health and health concerns.

Not sure how each of these applies to occupational therapy? Check out the CAOT position statements :)

Emerging Practice Areas in OT:
- Private Practice
- Home Modifications
- Assistive Technology
- Ergonomics
- Research
- Retail Business
- School Systems
- Long-term care settings
- Higher Education Programs

What do these trends have to do with your interview? Well, you need to be familiar with the profession and that means knowing what the hot-topics are! Again, I highly recommend reading the position papers to get a sense of the issues that current professionals are dealing with. Volunteer experiences are also invaluable... but try to connect your experiences to the larger issues they represent.

Okay... enough writing for now! I have to go and answer some of these question myself, lol.
But in the days to come, Parts II and III will follow.
Good luck in your preparation!!
And seriously... don't forget to take your picture :D

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Out of Curiosity!

It's been so long since we all submitted our applications to the various OT programs we want to get into... and it feels like it will still be so long until we hear back about offers of admission... that waiting for an interview invitation to McMaster, and getting ready for the interviews, has seemed like some real excitement!

And it is exciting, if Mac's your top choice!!

But not everyone has dreams of living in steel-town, and there are three other schools with great OT programs right here in Ontario. Not to mention the great programs elsewhere!

So, just for the sake of curiosity... and because I feel like all I've done for the last two weeks is talk about my thesis and the McMaster interviews... I thought I'd throw in a little poll!

If you could choose admission to any Master's of Occupational Therapy program, which would you select??

And please... leave a comment stating why you picked one school, or didn't pick another!!

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

The Inside Scoop!!

Isn't it funny how sometimes life gives you just what you need, right when you need it?
I, like most people, have a lot of facebook "friends" who are people I know casually through activities or organizations that were once important to me, but who I don't actually hang out with or talk to on a regular basis. Fortunately for me, many of these people are awesome and I'm lucky to know them!

One such person, who shall remain nameless, participated in MMI interviews last year, got into the program s/he applied to, helped her/his school with the organizing of MMIs this year, AND was willing to take some time this evening to chat with me about what to expect!

Of course, the details are all very confidential... I couldn't ask about scenarios or questions or anything like that. But all the same s/he had some great suggestions from an insider's point of view and I will be eternally grateful for his/her kindness!!

Here are some of the things s/he had to say:
  • You can't really prepare for the MMI. It's intended to put you off balance and force you to think on your feet. They don't want your canned answers, they want to see how you do under pressure.
  • Having said that bit about you can't really prepare... it is really important to know yourself! Spend some time reflecting. What are your strengths/weaknesses? Why do you want to be an OT? Why do you want to get into this program in particular?
  • Then just try to relax and go with the flow. Be yourself! Let the assessor see who you really are, in all your awesomeness :) You can't fake being something you're not, so trust that who you are is exactly what they are looking for and let that shine through.
  • If you leave a station feeling like you messed up... shake it off and move on!! The next person won't know that you just stuck your foot in your mouth at the last station unless you walk in all flustered like you just stuck your foot in your mouth at the last station, lol. Remember: you will be evaluated on your overall performance, not on one assessment alone.
  • Try not to be too rigid in your thinking. Yes, they want you to take a side on an issue and defend it sometimes... but do so in a way that shows you can consider other points of view.
  • Don't wear black or blue. Everyone thinks of these two colors when they are getting dressed in their serious interview clothes. But at the end of the day when the assessors say to each other "Hey, what'd you think of that person in the black suit?" They'll be like... "Dude! There were 100 people in black suits!" Instead, go with a nice brown or grey. Accent with a little color. On the flip side of that... don't be TOO memorable. You don't want to stick out like a sore thumb.

And that was about it, as far as tips went!

Now, for what to expect:

  • You don't have to stand there and talk for the whole 8 minutes *phew*! You'll walk in, introduce yourself (unless it's a scenario where you're acting out a scene), then sit down and talk. Give your full answer, but don't ramble just to fill time. They have questions to prompt you if you finish early and there's no penalty for being prompted... it's the quality of your answer, not the duration that counts.
  • Most people don't sleep the night before their interview. Don't worry about it. Everyone else will look like a zombie too ;)
  • The best thing you can do for yourself is to relax and not over-think it. The MMI is designed to reveal who you really are, what your attitude is like, whether you're a good fit for the program. So, let them see the best, optimal you! Try not to be the dry-mouthed, anxiety ridden, trying to figure out the "right" answer you. Be fabulous-you!

I hope that this helps you to be the best You you can be on interview day!!

(Hopefully) Your Future Classmate, SweetPea

Monday, April 6, 2009

Multiple Mini-Interview... Here I Come!!!

**Happy Dance** **More Happy Dance**

I got my invitation to an admissions interview for McMaster's OT program today!!!

Dear Ms. SweetPea,
We are pleased to inform you that based on the rank order interviews list, you have been selected for a personal interview which serves as the final stage for recommendation for admission to the Master Science program in Occupational Therapy at McMaster University.

That was a nice present to wake up to. And now... the preparation begins!

Penny Salvatori, who is a member of the McMaster OT/PT admissions committee, wrote a chapter for the book Innovations in Rehabilitation Sciences Education titled "Evidence Based Admissions in Rehabilitation Science." If you can get your hands on a copy, check it out (this link might work). In it, she details that Mac uses a 7-station circuit and notes what the general topic of each station will be.

"The MMI involves seven interview stations for each applicant over a 70-minute period.
Each of the seven stations had a different focus.
Four of the stations pursued the applicant’s knowledge of:
- the occupational therapy or physiotherapy profession,
- the McMaster Occupational Therapy or Physiotherapy Program,
- problem-based learning, and
- health care issues in general.
Three of the stations involved ethical scenarios that required moral reasoning.

Interviewers were drawn from the faculty, clinical community, and student body and were required to attend a training session.
Applicants were assessed at each MMI station on the quality of his/her response, general communication skills, and overall impression in terms of suitability for the McMaster program and/or profession."

So, now the question becomes: How do we best prepare?

Personally, I'm going to break it down by station type.

Occupational Therapy Profession:
- Rehearse personal experience statement.
- Continue reading online blogs written by occupational therapists.
- Stay up to date on reading of the CAOT website, with particular attention to the Position Papers.
- If you haven't already seen this, check out this 2007 PowerPoint presentation posted by CAOT about trends affecting healthcare and the role of OT.

McMaster OT Program:
- Review course structure and rationale.
- Look up information about the Northern Studies Stream option, including additional information on the Northern School of Medicine.

Problem Based Learning:
- Mac gives a good run down of this approach and their rationale for using it in the FAQ of the admissions section of the webpage.
- Read the publications Mac references in the above mentioned run-down.

Health Care Issues in General:
- Probably look at a lot of the same resources I used when I was trying to write my personal submission for my other OT program admissions.
- Read back-issues of the Canadian Medical Association Journal (CMAJ online).
- Ditto for the Canadian Journal of Nursing Research (CJNR) and the Canadian Journal of Nursing Leadership (CJNL).

Ethical Scenarios and Moral Reasoning:
- The training manual for Interviewers has some great information. For instance, they note that there is no right or wrong answer for these questions. What they look for in an answer is a well articulated response, good support for opinion, and evidence of an appreciation for alternate points of view. Think "grey" rather than "black and white."
- Read the rationale given for the answers to questions in the CAOT Certification Exam.

I've been searching online for some practice ethical scenarios that are specific to OT, but haven't had much luck yet. If anyone else finds some please share!!
Here's the one I did come across (unfortunately, it doesn't say how you should respond):
"A physician refers a patient to you with specific instructions to treat osteoporosis. Upon assessing the patient, you disagree with the course of treatment suggested by the physician. What would you do?"

Okay... and that's enough from me for one day!!
I hope someone else finds this information useful. I by no means claim to have the best suggestions... and would sincerely love to have recommendations from others based on their approach to preparing for this interview. For example, one question I have is: How should I dress for this interview? Do I want to be conservative/generic or is it better to dress nicely but in a way that shows your personality (say with bright colours or bold jewelery/ties)?

I'll be finishing my thesis this week and then will be spending a lot of time preparing for this interview!!! I'm happy to share more ideas and would love to hear from other students who were invited to Mac. Send me an email! (address in my profile description)

Best of luck to all!

Friday, April 3, 2009

Wait... just a little bit longer...

Well, I hoped that the invitation to an admissions interview for the McMaster occupational therapy program would be waiting in my mailbox for me when I awoke this morning. It wasn't. And it didn't show up any of the times when I refreshed the mailbox at 5 minute intervals throughout my day, lol. I'm pretty sure I'll get one, because my GPA is well above the cut-off score that's been used in recent years, but I was still hoping for that little bit of validation that says "We think you might be good enough."

And I really need that validation right now. I've been working non-stop on my thesis for the last two weeks. And when I say non-stop, I mean 12-14 hour days of sitting and analyzing and typing and editing SO much that my back is aching and my hamstrings want to murder me.
Anyone who thinks that qualitative research is easier than quantitative should really have their head checked.

I have loved my undergraduate thesis all along... I have wonderful advisors and a really great topic. I enjoyed the lit review, and I loved conducting the interviews. But I am SO SICK of trying to write up these results that it's really tempting to just run up the white flag and say "I'm done!"
And just to give it some perspective, so that people know I'm not just being a whiner, the typical undergrad thesis is approximately 60 pages. They get into the 80-100 page range when it's qualitative, just because quotes take more space than stats do. But my thesis is going to be in the 270+ page range -_-
Because it's the "best use of my skills" or some crap that's supposed to make me feel better about writing a thesis so big it will need to be published in a two volume set.
*CRY*!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! I'll be really glad when this is all over.

On a positive note, I've been given more information about the McMaster interviews (thanks AW!!) and I'll be posting about that once I receive my invitation.

Also, did anyone else notice the slick new updates to the Mac School of Rehab Sciences webpage that went up today? It's really nice and FAR easier to navigate.
Check it out! Fancy, Re-designed, Mac Page

See you on the flip-side of my thesis!!