What was your journey in becoming an occupational therapist?

While in college working on my bachelor’s degree in psychology, I completed an internship at a place working with adolescents who had developmental disabilities. They were learning life skills like money management, making a daily schedule, and reading a bus schedule. An occupational therapist was working with these clients. I was not familiar with occupational therapy and decided to look into the profession more. I earned my Master of Occupational Therapy degree in 2007 from Cleveland State University. People interested in a career in occupational therapy need to have an interest in science and the medical field, a love to learn, an interest in learning more about how the body works, and a desire to help people. There are also opportunities to do research and to teach.

I currently work in the acute care setting on the main campus of the Cleveland Clinic. I find it gratifying to be one of the first medical professionals to walk into a patient’s hospital room after an injury or illness. I can show them the strengths they still have, give them hope regarding their recovery, and work with other team members like physicians, nurses, and physical therapists to determine the patient’s next level of care when they are ready to be discharged from the hospital.

I chose to work at Cleveland Clinic so I could be in an educational environment with lots of other OTs around to mentor me. The Cleveland Clinic has a great reputation, and we see a wide variety of patients that you would not see elsewhere.

I chose to pursue a degree in occupational therapy instead of occupational therapist assistant because I wanted to be able to evaluate the patients and help them set goals and a plan of care for their therapy. Occupational therapist Assistants (OTAs) work closely with and under the direction of occupational therapists. People who think they would enjoy working with patients and carrying out the treatment plan set by the therapist may want to consider becoming an OTA, which is at an associate's degree level.

I remember working with a patient who was in her mid-20s. She had a young baby and had a stroke, leaving her right arm and leg unable to move. I worked with her in the hospital and then she was discharged to an inpatient rehabilitation setting to receive continued therapy. She came back to visit me three months later and she had gained all of her motion and strength back in her arm and leg. It was so good to see her and how well she had done.

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