One OT’s call to action
I attained my masters degree in occupational therapy in the Bay Area in 2016. From there, I moved to San Diego, where I completed my final Level 2 Fieldwork assignment at a major trauma hospital. After graduation, I moved to Austin, Texas where I took a job working as a full-time OT in acute care. It only took about 2 years for me to hit a wall of redundancy and monotony. I was known as the “ADL lady,” the “bathroom attendant,” the “glorified walker.” I couldn’t believe that I had just spent 3 years in graduate school and upwards of 6 figures for this. I knew that my expertise were far beyond this.
Before I go any further, I would like to emphasize that I do not believe that sock aides and bedside commodes define our role as OT’s in acute care. I also do not believe that this is the case for every facility. I know this, for fact, because I had such an amazing learning experience during my time at UCSD Medical Center. OT’s were well-respected, and more importantly, there was continuous transdisciplinary education regarding our role in the acute setting. This facility made me fall in love with OT in acute care. That being said, I think there is room for education and advocacy for our scope of practice in the acute setting, and probably every healthcare setting…thus this article.
Working in acute care, most therapist’s float floors. My favorite floor to work on was the ICU and this wasn’t because I enjoyed untangling 500 lines while breaking a sweat, hoping I wouldn’t unplug anything “too important.” No. I loved ICU because this was where I was most likely to work with an acute neuro patient.
Yep. Neuro. And so the love affair unfolded. It only took me working with my first stroke patient to decide that neuro was where I wanted to be. I’d like to preface that I do not believe that the world of neuro is superior to any other field that an OT can find homage. It just so happens to be the field that lights a fire in my soul and makes me excited to go to work each day.
It didn’t take long after that for me to take a full-time OT position at a post acute brain injury rehab. There, I had the honor of training under some of the most amazing, knowledgable, and passionate therapists I have met thus far. I am forever grateful for them. More importantly, it was there that my “interest” in neuro quickly turned into a lifelong passion. Working with these strong, resilient, motivated patients every day made me want to be better, to learn more, to advocate harder. They inspired me to start a non-profit foundation that puts on monthly social networking events for adults with brain injury.
While I am forever thankful to have had the opportunity to work at this facility, it did not take long for me to learn that there is an unspoken paradox in healthcare–business comes first, patient care comes second. This statement is going to irk many people, I’m sure. And again, I am not saying that our healthcare system is evil, by any means. I am saying, however, that I think somewhere along the lines we have forgotten why we do what we do.
This prompted me to go off on my own and start an LLC. I now operate as a private clinician working in home-care with neuro patients. This is not just a business for me. I take very few patients because I really want to spend the quality time getting to know them and developing and implementing a truly individualized, well-thought out and evidenced-based treatment plan. Does this bring in the big bucks? Not a chance. I do supplement with PRN work on the side. In addition to patient care, I am also very passionate about mentorship, advocacy, and education in our field. Occupational therapy is an incredible profession and, while I may be biased, occupational therapists are some of the most passionate, empathetic, strong individuals I have ever met. I’d like to make a call to action: Let’s shine light on our field and find ways to grow together.