Saturday, March 15, 2014

Showcase of OT Videos

A little while ago, the below request was posted as a comment on the blog:

We're a small OT company and we've just set up a new OT video wall page on our site - we'd love to hear from any OT students who've found OT related videos that would be worth adding to help describe what OT is all about. The page is:

We'd love to hear from any OT students who may of made any short videos that we could possibly showcase or maybe some who might be interested in making one to help us promote the profession.

Thanks and hope you don't mind us sharing this through your blog,

I clicked through the link and checked out the site... it looks like Matthew has put together a video wall that is a wonderful mosaic of the work that OTs do. It got me thinking of all the great videos students put together each year for the gOT Spirit campaign; this could be another place to showcase the creative efforts that are put into those videos and to have Canadian voices be a part of the international dialogue about Occupational Therapy.

If you're interested in having your video featured on the inclusion.ot website, just click through the above link and all the contact information is there.

I hope to see some more Canadian content there soon!!

Saturday, March 8, 2014

Video: Speak Up, Someone Will Listen

This video moved me. If it speaks to you, consider...
- speaking up; contacting your local sexual assault centre for support
- listening, so those who speak up are heard
- sharing the message
- volunteering your time with an organization who provides support to victims of sexual assault
- if you don't have time, donate money or other resources to those same organizations
We can all do something...

Saturday, March 1, 2014

The First Two-Years of Mental Health Practice

I am coming up on my second anniversary working in adult mental health and the time has simply flown by! The anniversary has reminded me to pause and reflect on all that has happened in those 24 months. A lot has changed and I have certainly changed too.

Some victories?

  • I was part of creating an OT program at my place of work. Previously our employer had only part-time and intermittent OT involvement; there hadn't been an established OT program in a few years. When I started, there were two of us who were hired around the same time (my partner started 3 months before I did) and we built the role of OT within the institution from the ground up. There was a lot of leg-work in developing the programming and a LOT of education provided to staff and clients about what Occupational Therapy is. We've come a long way!
  • I developed two of the four psychoeducational groups that are offered by OTs. My first program is called Building On Strengths; it is a program that facilitates self-discovery of personal strengths, values, and priorities and then uses that information to help clients create a personal mission statement and set SMART goals. It's all about how to build a life of meaningful occupational engagement; I love it and the clients I've delivered it to have loved it too. My second program is the Supporting Healthy Interactions Program (SHIP) and I cannot take credit for the foundations of this program! There was a pre-existing SHIP program at our facility that was an anti-bullying program for people who tended to be aggressive. It was a pretty short program and, in my opinion, only covered one end of the spectrum of problematic interpersonal styles that I typically see in my client population. But it was a strong place to start; what I did was build on what was already there. Now, the SHIP program teaches about aggressive and passive interpersonal styles as being on different ends of a spectrum, with assertiveness being the balanced middle ground. The program helps participants to understand their own style, how to set interpersonal boundaries, the benefits of assertiveness, and how to communicate assertively in a variety of different situations. There is a lot of role-play in this group, but while the skills-practice is serious we try to keep the scenarios on the humorous side. 
  • I've been lucky enough to have two OT partners at work in the time that I've been there and both have been the most amazing women a girl could ask to work with!! I really can't overstate how grateful I am to each of these women. The first developed an Empowerment Program that we use to this day; it's fantastic for working with women who struggle with self-esteeem and/or feeling disempowered/marginalized in our society (which really, isn't that most women who have serious struggles with mental health?). The second (and my current partner) developed our Mindfulness Program, which teaches about mindfulness, observing, non-judgement, and a variety of different mindful and meditative practices. It's been a great foundation tool for all our clients.
  • OT is now involved in some of the tasks on our mental health team that were historically assigned only to psychologists. I think that was more a function of the team being historically made up of only psychologists; but still, there were some people who were not sure OTs were capable of contributing in this way. Those tasks are: risk assessment related to suicide and self-harm, and triage of mental health referrals. Not glamorous stuff, but an important contribution to our team as a whole.
  • I introduced a sensory modulation intervention to our environment for clients were were under observation due to self-harming or suicidal gestures. It's no snoezelen room! But given that we had no resources before, were given the tiniest budget imaginable, our clients had a real need, and we also had to consider safety issues (i.e. that the items in the intervention could not be adapted for purposes of harm to self or others) I think we did pretty well. Our intervention includes an assessment of the various stimuli available to determine which will be helpful to the client and then, based on the assessment, a "comfort kit" is put together and given to the client to facilitate self-soothing through interaction with the sensory stimuli. Now... if only we could get more funding to restock our missing items and create a larger inventory of stimuli! A girl can dream.
  • I've received specialized training in Cognitive Behavioural Therapy, and engaged in peer-supervision with a psychologist friend of mine who also took the training. I've had mixed success in implementation, as I'll probably discuss in a future post, but the training has certainly informed my practice in a lot of ways.
  • I've just recently received specialized training in Dialectical Behavioural Therapy!! I'm excited about this particular intervention, but my training is very recent and I do not yet have any clients who are involved with DBT.
  • This past July (2013) I began supervising para-professionals! They are not OTAs, as our mental health team has not historically had OTs, but they serve a similar role and the supervisory relationship is the same as you would see between an OT/OTA. The folks I work with coach our clients on their behaviours and assist them with working on behavioural goals.  This clinical supervision was previously always done by a psychologist, but the transition has gone really well. Currently I have six people that I'm supervising in this way (four full-time and two part-time) and it has been great. The people I work with are amazing and passionate about their work; they make my job as the supervisor really easy! And it's been great to work closely with others as part of a team with a common goal.
  • This past December (2013) I had my first OT students!!! I had two students, each of them came to my workplace to join me for one day of job-shadowing. They were on a role-emerging mental health placement in the community and their day with me was just to give them a chance to connect with an OT who works in mental health. They were both wonderful and had a lot of great questions. It was a fantastic way for me to start giving back to my profession. I hope to be able to offer a full student placement opportunity in the future, but challenges at my workplace make it difficult to see how I'll find the time.
The challenges?
  • As noted... time is a big problem. With funding cut-backs, our mental health team has been trimmed and trimmed and trimmed again. We have a number of people on parental leaves of absence and our employer does not fill the position while the person is absent; we simply do without. Because of this we're spread pretty thin... to be honest, I'm not sure how sustainable this model is. I see my teammates getting burnt out; I feel burn-out creeping up in myself. I recognize that this is the situation for many of us right now; it's a sign of the times. But I'd be curious to hear feedback from others about how they manage their time or their burn-out. email me at if you have some ideas/strategies that work well for you. This is the biggest pressing issue that I'm dealing with right now.
  • Maintaining a core sense of your professional identity on an interprofessional team is something that you have to work at regularly!! For a while, when I was new, I struggled to see the niche within my practice context that OT fit into. I looked for where there was an unmet need and then set about filling it. But as time goes on and you start to have a better understanding of your role in the environment, you also come to better see the overlap with other professions. I find that taking time to debrief with my OT partner at work is really helpful for this. We compare notes and consult on complex cases; in doing so we anchor each other to the core values of our profession.
  • It's also worth mentioning that the work environment I am in is stressful all on its own, even without the extra challenge of limited human resources. When you work for a large organization and need to coordinate client care with a variety of different stakeholder groups it can sometimes feel like not everyone is on the same page. Additionally, working with other human beings... who have moods and struggles and priorities of their own... can be tough and I've noticed that the most difficult thing of all (for me) is not letting the negativity or low-morale of others affect how I feel about my work. I do my best to support the people I work closest with, to insulate us from the worst of the negativity in others, but you can only do so much. I find I'm always having to remind myself just how much I love the work I do with my clients, because it's not the clients that are causing the stress. But that's the nature of the beast in a large organization; it's not unique to my workplace, I'm certain.
What's on the horizon?
  • The situation on my team, with regard to staffing levels, is going to get worse before it gets better. So seriously, if anyone has any tips for managing your time in this kind of environment, or managing your burn-out, I am all ears!!! I will likely be putting together future posts about both these topics.
  • It's been a whirl-wind of training and development for me these last two years. I think year three is going to be about consolidation! I need some time to fully absorb and implement all that I've learned thus far. Plus, I have to take the time to care for myself in all of this... so, my themes for 2014 are about finding balance and consolidating the development I've achieved thus far.

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Dear abandoned blog,

I have not forgotten you, dearest blog of mine. I was simply too busy to dedicate any time to writing. Now that I have some time, I am faced with some questions about what direction to take you in.

My earliest posts were all about the application and admissions process for the Masters of OT programs in Ontario and they remain as a solid resource for future applicants. But I am no longer a student and there are years of life and experience between where I was then and where I am now. I can't really speak to what the admission process is like these days; I don't even know if it has changed.

Now that I am working as an Occupational Therapist in adult mental health I would love to post about my work! I am passionate about what I do. I feel grateful to work with my clients and team members. But I don't think any of them want their confidentiality breached, which means I can't really write about my work except in the most general of terms.

So what's a girl to write about in her poor abandoned blog?

I'm not entirely sure yet... but I'm going to give it a go! With the intent of sharing the things I care passionately about and drawing attention to things where I feel the advocacy of occupational therapists would be a meaningful addition to the dialogue, I will follow my instinct and see if this little blog can find a new voice and momentum.

And thank YOU, dear readers, for taking a leap of faith and taking this journey with me.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Mental Health in the Workplace

I may or may not have mentioned before that Occupational Therapy is a second career for me. I'm not sure if it has ever come up in this blog? At any rate, my previous career was working in Human Resources for a large corporation that shall remain nameless. I wasn't an executive... just a worker bee like many other corporate working bees in this world. I liked my job. There were many parts of it that I was good at, and I found great satisfaction in mastery of my work. I also had the fortune of working with a number of really great people over the years. I was paid well, I had good benefits, a pension plan, full-time status, stock options... and for 6 years I hated myself for every minute I was there.
The industry this corporation is in was going through a HUGE transition when I worked there. Stress levels were high. Toward the end the only constants were that we were being expected to do more and more with fewer and fewer resources, and big change in the way of executive turn-over and corporate restructuring was a monthly occurrence. I had to move to an unfamiliar city, I had a new commute of one hour each way if I didn't hit traffic, I was working crazy amounts of overtime, and I was profoundly lonely. The irony of it is that part of the reason I found it so hard to leave is because I could see how much better off I was than many of the other worker bees... those in sales and marketing, in management, in customer service... they had it far worse than I did.
In the end I did leave. I was lucky... not having a spouse or children; having a family who was supportive of my decision to change my life's course... I was able to make a change in support of my long-term health and well-being that many of my co-workers did not have the luxury to choose. So, even on the hardest days in school or when I'm lamenting the fact that I live on debt, I am grateful every second for the opportunity I've been given to do something else with my life.
My experience, and having witnessed the experiences of so many others in that corporate environment, has made me very aware of the toll workplace stress can take. Physical ailments, relationship strain, coworker bullying, weight gain, drug use, gambling, the compulsive need to attain material items to demonstrate the value of one's life, mounting debt... these are all common symptoms I have seen exhibited by employees who were struggling with the stress of a toxic work environment. And for some (I would argue many) the cost to their mental health was the greatest of all.
So, when I saw this little video by the CMHA it affected me deeply.
I hope you will take 2 minutes to have a look, and maybe even spread the word.
Thanks, :)SweetPea

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Cystic Fibrosis

A friend of mine from high-school has a daughter with cystic fibrosis (CF) and I've been on the lookout for information to help me better understand this condition. In particular I've found two wonderful video resources! The first is geared to children and explains CF from a kid's point of view. The second is a documentary done by the CBC show The Passionate Eye.
Even if you don't know someone personally affected by CF, I strongly urge you to watch these two videos. They are simply quality viewing.


Questions Galore!

I've received a few email messages lately (maybe a lot) regarding the application process and I wanted to post my reply because I've noticed some common questions coming up each year. I hope that you find this helpful! I also have a caveat... I don't represent the school, I've never been on an admissions committee, so I don't know what the magic combination is that will get you an offer of admission. The following represents my opinion, based on my experience and that of others I've spoken to. Each applicant is different. Each school is different. And each year the selection committee, their priorities, and the pool of candidates may be different. I'm no expert, and I also don't believe that there is a single answer to the question of who/what makes a good candidate. I suspect that students are considered on a highly individual basis (mostly - see below).

I get a lot of questions about grades and what constitutes a competitive GPA. Sadly, I don't know how to answer that question. Both the OT and PT programs are highly competitive, as are most graduate programs. This is also the one area where students are not considered as individuals, since research has shown (I'm told... I don't have a reference) that past academic performance is the greatest predictor of future academic success, including your ability to successfully complete the MSc OT program.
Common responses I get to that statement are "But I've had a lot of life experience since then and my grades don't reflect what I'm capable of!" and "My grades are just above the cut-off, should I even bother to apply?" I'm going to address each of these separately.
If you feel your grades don't reflect your ability... good! It probably means that you've been out of school a while, you've got some life experience under your belt, and your choice to pursue a career in OT is probably both considered and informed. The bad news is that your grades, if below the cut-off, will put you out of the running for consideration or, if just above the cut-off, will significantly impede your odds. The good news is that if this is a passion of yours you can always go back and take a few courses to pull up your GPA! After all, if you're capable of doing better then demonstrating this fact will make you look good on paper. Plus, it's an indication of commitment on your part. This was the exact position I was in when I decided to make a career change. Yes, it took me more time... but it's been incredibly rewarding and I've not resented a single second of the extra time. I was so motivated by the fact that I was working toward a goal that was really important to me and I ended up with a highly competitive GPA that got me both admissions offers and a scholarship. Not to mention the boost to my sense of self-efficacy!
If your grades are above the cut-off but not in the "competitive" range that's a tougher position to be in. Essentially you have two options... spend the money to apply, put together the best application you can, and hope for the best OR defer your application for a year, take a few more classes to bring up your GPA, and then apply the following year. The only reason I could see for not applying is if money is so tight that you can't afford it. If you can put together the money then apply! Some people in my class had less competitive GPAs but still got in. You may get wait-listed... then get in. You may get denied an interview at Mac based on grades, but then get a call 3 days before the interview weekend asking if you're still interested and available for an interview. And you might not get in anywhere... but that's also true of people with high GPAs. No matter what, it will be a valuable learning experience for putting together a better application the following year when you've had a chance to take some courses to improve your grades. Having said that, money is a legitimate concern for many people so taking the extra year before applying is not a bad strategy, especially if you have a plan on how to use that year to meet your goals.

More than anything... be yourself! This is the one area where you don't want to be a clone of all the other candidates and where the schools don't expect cookie-cutter answers. What you DO want to make sure you achieve in your statement is a coherent narrative about who you are and why OT is the inevitable choice for you. Think about your life and your interests... what have been the milestones on your journey to OT? What do you love about the profession? What personal characteristics do you have that will make you a good match? What achievements do you think show your suitability for this profession? What experiences have you had, personal or professional, that make this an informed choice and/or a passion for you?
Once you've answered those questions for yourself in point form then draft a story... where you are the protagonist and becoming an OT will be the climax. I've seen friends write these in a chronological way (first I did this, then I developed that, and now here I am!) and I've also seen them written in a thematic way (these are the characteristics I have that match the profession, here are my educational experiences that are germane to OT, and here's my roster of related professional achievements). Plus, I'm sure that there are many other ways to write these statements. The key, as I said above, is for it to be a coherent narrative rather than just a collection of facts about you. It's your statement about who you are, how you developed and what you value. It's kind of like your brand.
Finally, get a friend... preferably one who is also applying or who has applied before to a medical, OT, or PT program... to read your draft and give you feedback. Lots of feedback. On more than one draft. I did this and my friend definitely picked up on some awkward phrasing that I missed, and I hope I did the same for her.

I can't really say any more than what I've already posted while I was going through the process myself. I highly recommend going back in my archive and looking at all those posts. I got really good feedback from my classmates, and from peers who have joined the class following mine, about how well the steps and pointers I outline prepare a person for the MMI. So, check those out!

With regard to how your grades, experience, statement, references, interview, resume etc. etc. are weighted... I have no idea. I believe that McMaster uses grades only as a cut off for offering interviews and that the interview scores are given even weighting with grades in the final decision to offer admission or not. But I'm not privy to the actual decision making of the admissions committee, so I can't be sure. And I don't know about the other schools. However, given that each of the programs in Ontario considers different components in their decision making, I think that it's reasonable to assume that they give weight to the things they ask for. For example, UWO asks for references and McMaster does not. So, if you have strong references you may have a better chance at UWO. If you don't have great references, you might have better luck at Mac. But I'm just guessing.

I wish all future applicants the very best of luck! And on that note I'm also going to say that I'm a tapped out resource as far as these applications go. Everything I know about how to get into OT school has been said somewhere in this blog already. I don't have any specialized knowledge that will help me to assess an individual's odds for getting in. I don't know much about the other OT programs, since I chose McMaster. And as each year passes I get further from the experience myself, making my recall of the process more clouded and my advice less timely.
So... I still welcome your email! But if you have questions related to the application process then I'm just going to refer you back to the blog. And now a favour request! If you find any information in my blog helpful and you get an offer of admission, please let me know! I love hearing the success stories... they always make my day :)


Saturday, June 12, 2010

Thunder Bay! Northern Studies Stream :D

I'm a terrible blogger, I know. What can I say... I've been busy! I also confess to struggling with the fact that people who know me read this blog... so I'm always censoring myself to not talk about people when I haven't gotten their permission and also I'm reluctant to share my more personal thoughts and reflections. I'm trying to get over it.
But then, there's still the time issue.
Failing a proper post, I thought the least I could do is post some photos from my time up here thus far! I'll be in Thunder Bay for one more week, then I'm moving to Geraldton Ontario for my clinical placement. It will be my first 2-to-1 placement (two students, one preceptor), which I'm a little nervous about but I'm also told is a great learning experience. We'll see how it goes!
We had our practical exam for the term last week. Not really sure how it went. We are given a client scenario (like a referral) 24 hours before the exam to research about the condition and develop an assessment and intervention strategy (which always includes theoretical approach). Then the first hour of the exam is an interview with our client, played by an actor as a "standardized patient." Just like in a real client interview, you have to budget your time to do all the assessments you want to. Then we have two hours to write it up... including theoretical approach, what we did in our one hour with the client, reporting our findings, analyzing them to identify the occupational issues, then writing treatment goals, objectives and a plan... plus a session plan for one particular session. And finally we tell them what our outcome measures would be, when we would assess them and how we would determine when discharge would occur. Phew! So, I don't think it went horribly. The interview was good. But time was short for the write-up and I ended up having to rush the last half. In talking to my classmates it seems that this was a common problem, with some people handing in late (and taking grade penalties) or not finishing. Nothing to do now but wait and see. I did my best and that's all you can do. :)
I will say, however, that there is some concern that the students in the northern studies stream we placed at a disadvantage. We've heard from some students at the McMaster site that the specific details of the exam grading criteria were discussed with them during their small group learning sessions. We didn't get that here in the north. But again, nothing to do but wait and see.
Now I'm writing the final paper for the term, which is worth 50% of my grade in one course. No pressure... right!
And on that note, I really have to get back to the writing!
Good luck to all my classmates...
And congrats to all those who will be joining us next year as the Class of 2012!!

UPDATE: There was no advantage to being at McMaster vs Lakehead. We all had the same challenges with this exam and they tell us that an analysis comparing the North and South showed there was no significant difference between the groups on grades. Yay!

A nice view from a trail
Terry Fox Monument
That's my gnome-away-from-home, Cedric
The Sleeping Giant

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Placement and Thunder Bay and Interview Questions, Oh My!

I just wanted to put up a quick post before I fly to Thunder Bay tomorrow! I've received a number of questions from candidates for the Class of 2012 who will be attending interviews next weekend. I've been able to reply to a few people who contacted me early, but this last week has been hectic with getting ready to go up North. I hope to be able to reply to each of you in the next few days. In the meantime though, since many of the questions are the same, I'll make a few comments here.
First, the MMIs are not so bad... so take a deep breath and be yourself. Next, the MMI scenarios I posted were not the questions I was asked. I found those examples on a discussion board for students applying to med-schools that use MMIs. However, they do give you a feel for the MMI style of interview. My third point is about preparation...invest some serious time in self-reflection about why you want to be an OT, why you'll be a good OT and what makes you so sure about that, and why you think Mac is the best place for you to learn. I posted a couple of entries last year about my own preparation process and the kinds of info/self-reflection I did and all I can say is that I felt prepared going in to the interview and ultimately I got in! So, I think it's a sound strategy :)
All the best to the 2012 candidates!!

Sent wirelessly from my BlackBerry device on the Bell network.
Envoyé sans fil par mon terminal mobile BlackBerry sur le réseau de Bell.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Term Two Round Up - And on to placement...

Wow! Time flies. I can't believe that term two is done already. It was a big change from term one, in the sense that the workload was more distributed and constant. It was a challenge! But at the same time, you kind of get used to the pace when it is that consistent... and seriously, time flies!! I can't believe it's done.
In the end things worked out really well (that I know about so far). My evidence based appraisal assignment on motivational interviewing did not go so well, I must confess. I feel that the expectations were unclear; the instructors feel that we're graduate students and that we learn better from making mistakes and figuring it out on our own. *sigh* I apparently didn't figure it out. But my scholarly paper on the affect of transitioning from independent living to a supported living environment was very successful (thank goodness!). And the work assessment I did, which included a physical demands analysis of the job and an executive summary with proposed assessment and treatment plan also went well. We had a group seminar presentation to do this term and my group presented on social role theory... and both the presentation and associated reflection paper were well received. A modified essay question exam, that really tested our on the spot clinical reasoning, is still outstanding... as is a take home exam type assignment that we did that was called a problem write-up, where we selected one of three client scenarios and then wrote an in depth analysis following the McMaster Lens.
And that reminds me... I need to complete an online survey giving feedback on the courses and faculty. We won't get our outstanding assignment grades until 80% of the class has completed the survey.
So, now we're all out into our term two placements!
I am working with a preceptor at an in-patient schizophrenia services program and I am loving it! Psychosocial rehab is definitely up my alley. The team that we work with includes psychiatrists, nurses, a CCAC case worker, social workers, a recreation therapist and a vocational rehabilitation therapist. There may be others too... I'm just in my first week, and it can be a bit overwhelming to take in, so I'm sure there are details that I've missed. But all the different professionals seem to work together very collaboratively, which is great. With my OT so far this week we conducted a few initial assessments, an in home assessment, run some activity groups (that included art and playing cards), and went on a community integration outing were we took some clients out to a cafe for coffee. We also went to the weekly grand rounds in psychiatry, where the speaker (Dr. M. Woodbury-Smith) discussed his research on people with a diagnosis of Asperger's syndrome who are in conflict with the law. It was very interesting... though we had to duck out early because we had an appointment with a client.
Anyway... I know that this post has a lot of broad brush-strokes and not a lot of detail, but I wanted to post an update no matter what! It's been too long.
On another note, it should be less than a month until new applicants find out about interview invitations! Very exciting :) I won't be a part of the interviews this year because I'll be in Thunder Bay, but I'll be thinking about you guys on that day... and I'll be thinking about my classmates who have volunteered to help out! It's exciting for everyone. I look forward to hearing about how it goes.
Well, must get going before my free Internet time at Starbucks runs out!

Monday, January 25, 2010

T2 W3.5

We're into week 4 already! Time flies. However all the stuff I'm posting about was done in week 3 and received/presented today, so I'm designating the post as a 3.5 lol.
My second try at a scholarly paper proposal has been accepted!! Woot! The topic had to focus on an aspect of the environment that influences occupation and occupational therapy practice, and deciding on a topic was SO hard. Coming up with an idea is the first challenge, but then you also need to go to the literature and see what kind of evidence there is to support your brain child! It took me fully researching three different ideas in order to find one that fit the assignment's criteria and that was a topic I would be interested in writing about. Rejected ideas included: looking at suicide risk factors (environmental) and the legal practice context of patient rights/therapist obligations; rehabilitation with women in conflict with the law and the corrections practice context as an occupationally impoverished environment. Both I think would be interesting to explore, but the suicide one was rejected (maybe I just didn't present it well) and the other seemed kind of big and challenging, so I decided to go another way. I'm happy to report that my approved topic is about the meaning of place and the affect of later life transitions from independent to supported living on psychoemotional wellbeing. I still have some refining to do, but at least it's a start! This paper is worth 40% of my course grade. :s Eek!
In other news, my group presented today on Social Role Theory and I think it went very well. Our group worked well together, and thankfully so because our process in getting the finished product together was not linear lol. That said, I think we did a bang up job of taking a very conceptual model and showing how it could be applied to practice. Go team! I'm also really grateful to our classmates who generated and participated in discussion. It's the worst when you get blank silent stares, so I'm glad we didn't have to face that! :)
And on that note, it's nap time for me. And yes... Napping IS an occupation! ;)

Saturday, January 16, 2010

T2 W2

Evidenced based appraisal of Motivational Interviewing - Done!
Term One Portfolio - Done!
Presentation and Handout for MI - Done!
ASIST course - cancelled :(
Scholarly Paper proposal - done, but not thrilled with it. **UPDATE: My topic was rejected! Phew... now I get to pick something else**
Seminar Group Presentation on Social Role Theory - research underway.
Learning Contract for Term 2 Placement - BANE OF MY EXISTENCE! (begrudgingly in progress).

So far this term is off to a roaring start! I'm loving my new PBT group and tutor... We seem to have good ju-ju together. Now... If I can just stay one step ahead of the school-work flood, everything should be okay *thumbs-up*

Thursday, January 7, 2010

T2 Week 1

Off to a quick start! This week I'm doing my evidence based appraisal assignment on motivational interviewing (due Monday), finishing my portfolio (due a week today), doing research on arthogryposis for my Friday problem based tutorial session, and writing a research paper proposal (due Tues) on, possibly, suicide (social-environmental risk factors and legal rights/responsibilities) with a side of euthanasia. Phew! Busy busy busy...
And for all those people finishing up your applications... Good Luck!!!

Friday, January 1, 2010

Term One Round-Up

I've been spending some time over the holidays finishing up my Term One review for my portfolio. It's something that we have to hand in to our academic advisers to review at the beginning of each term and it is an overview of all the work we've done in the term that just passed. Because McMaster uses a self-directed and problem-based approach to learning, the knowledge and skills I've acquired in the first term may be very different from the things one of my classmates has. The portfolios help us to keep track of what we've learned so far and they help us to identify our learning gaps so that we know what we need to focus on in future terms. There's also a reflective piece about what you've learned... I haven't written mine yet, but I think it will be a "you've come a long way, baby" kind of thing. And it wraps up with a reflective piece about your future practice... what brought you to OT in the first place, where do you see yourself ending up in your practice after graduation, and how has that idea evolved because of your experiences in each term. While at times it feels like a chore to do this portfolio, I think it will be a really great resource and is good experience for reflective professional practice and development long term.
So, in term one the main emphasis was on "occupation." It's the defining feature of our profession, our domain of interest and expertise... and so we students need to get very familiar with all the nuances of what that term means to occupational therapists.
We only have two courses each term: Inquiry and Integration (that looks at theory and applying theory in practice) and Professional Roles and Experiential Practicum (that teaches more applied skills, such as interview techniques, and also includes our clinical placement). We also have an unofficial course that does not have any grade component, but that will probably be rolled out as a registered course next year. It's called Foundational Knowledge and includes basic stuff like introduction to anatomy and physiology, basics of development, psychology and sociology, and some rudimentary statistics. The reason for the course is that, because the students in the program come from all different backgrounds and there are no prerequisites, not everyone is starting with the same knowledge base. And that's great sometimes... you each get to be an expert and you can help fill in the blanks for one another. It's good for group learning. However, there is some basic knowledge that everyone needs to have... so this course is designed to give everyone an opportunity to get on the same page.
I won't go through and itemize all the specifics of what we learned this term... one, because I think it would be a boring read, lol... and two, because while it was all really important it was also kind of foundation OT stuff with a lot of acronyms that don't make sense unless I elaborate on each of them... which I don't feel like doing. But if you have questions, let me know!
One of my New Year's resolutions is to try and be a bit more consistent about posting to the blog about what we're doing in our course. The posts might be shorter, but I think it will be better!
I hope everyone had a wonderful holiday... and I wish much health and happiness for all!
Happy 2010!!

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 :)