Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Endings and Beginnings

Like other ceremonies, graduations probably make most of us reflect on things completed and things yet to come - endings and beginnings. Our graduation is next weekend, and I find myself thinking about changes that have occurred since I graduated from OT school.

- This graduating class - the Class of 2010 - began in the Summer of 2007. This is also when I became a full-time faculty member. It is hard to believe that three years have passed! So in many ways, I feel as if this class and I have truly learned and grown together. It has been a wonderful thing to observe them grow into becoming OTs and well as to watch them change personally.

- I love the fact that teach at the department where I went to OT school. I really am filled with pride when students realize that I am an alumni of our school. I loved being a student here and I love teaching here even more!

- Watching our new graduates prepare to begin their first jobs as new OTs makes me think about how much things have changed since I graduated. I look at some of the students now and really admire their confidence in themselves. While I don't think I was insecure when I graduated, I certainly was not as bold in my early 20s as they collectively are today. While I know this gives "Gen Y" a negative stereotype at times, I believe they will use their confidence to accomplish good things for the benefit of others.

- I also think about how much the landscape of OT has changed since I was a new grad, particularly in the United States. As a fieldwork student, we were required to do three rotations, including a required one in a psychosocial setting. Some years after I graduated, this requirement was changed as there were no longer enough psychosocial settings in which to place students. While I never worked in this setting, I am sure the skills I gained from that experience supported my ability to interact with a wide array of patients and family members in my clinical career. While it is unfortunate that students no longer have this opportunity, it is a much graver concern to realize the continued decrease in mental health services.

My first job was at a large, a state-of-the art physical rehabilitation hospital. It contained a huge rehabilitation gym where patients with a range of orthopedic and neurological diagnoses were treated, all of the newest equipment, dozens of therapists, and a full census and nearly unlimited lengths of stays if patients were making documented progress. Things have changed! Now rehabilitation and skilled nursing facilities abound, patients are directed to certain facility types based on diagnosis, and patients' length of stays are a fraction of what we would have considered possible 15 years ago!

Were patient outcomes better when I was a new-grad OT? I don't know the answer to that, but I do know that the service delivery systems the new grads will be entering will require them to effective, efficient, and advocates for their clients. Having worked with them these past three years, I do believe they are well-prepared to assume their roles in the OT profession!

- In a few weeks, the class of new students will begin - the Class of 2013! Undoubtedly, they will walk into the same Gross Anatomy lab that I did 20 years ago this summer with the same mix of anticipation, excitement, and anxiety that I had. They will be excited to begin their education for a career that they are passionate about pursuing, and anxious about all of the work and unknown experiences that are ahead.

I look forward to learning and growing with the new class of students too, but I can't help wonder what changes in the OT world they will experience over the course of their careers. Or just maybe, one of them will be a full-time faculty member in the department 20 years from now!

In what ways has OT changed since you entered the profession?

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