Hello, friends! As you may already know, I am currently a pre-OT student who will FINALLY begin pursuing my journey of obtaining my doctorate in Occupational Therapy later this year! (Well, I don’t know if I am still technically “pre-OT” because I’ve already been accepted to and committed to a program, but you get the point)
SO. How did I stumble upon this career?
As a young child, I always envisioned that being a pediatrician was the path for me because:
1) my Congolese immigrant parents highly hinted at the fact that some of the most desirable jobs to have included becoming a doctor, a lawyer, or an engineer (it is where the money is at after all, right? Anyone else can relate to this narrative?)
2) I killed it in school, thriving in all subjects including the sciences
3) I looked forward to going to my doctor’s appointments
4) Children were super cute to me, fun to play with, and always keep things interesting
5) Untold Stories of the E.R. and related shows on TLC were always strangely addicting to watch. I truly felt that if I could handle watching these shows, I would be an INVINCIBLE doctor!
However, I had NO idea what the path of going to medical school ACTUALLY consisted of. In high school, it seemed like I was already ‘late’ to start my path of getting into medical school. Compared to the aspiring high school pre-med students at my school, I was not actively seeking hospital internships, connecting and networking with local doctors, or taking a surplus of community college courses to make myself stand out for college admissions. Additionally, I personally did not see myself being content with trading in many years of higher education to pursue a career that I slowly realized I was not actually passionate about, especially considering that I really needed to be ready to invest my time and money.
Now now, no shade to current medical doctors or anyone who is on the pre-med track because all power and respect to them (after all, technically I am gonna be a doctor too, but I digress). However, what I DID know was that that I thoroughly enjoyed learning about all-things human development, education, and psychology. My parents both gravitated toward the social sciences for their college degrees, so I figured that I was bound to become a teacher or a counselor. Yet, these professions also did not seem to quite fit what truly aligned with my passions and my vision for healthcare.
As I meticulously picked out my college major (fun fact: I was a psychology major for the first two weeks of college because the thought of becoming a psychologist crossed my mind for a short period of time), I simultaneously frantically researched other health-related careers on the wonderful world of Google. There, I stumbled across a career that I had never heard of before – occupational therapy! I clicked on American Occupational Therapy Association (AOTA)’s website for the definition of occupational therapy, and the first thing that stood out to me was: Occupational therapy practitioners ask, “What matters to you?” not, “What’s the matter with you?” What the heck did that mean?? I was intrigued, so I began to do my research.
Fast-forwarding to my college years, I finally got my first opportunity to shadow an occupational therapist at a healthcare-related internship. At the first clinic I shadowed, my shadow OTs discussed extensively with me and their patients diagnoses and anatomical terms I had no knowledge of such as carpal tunnel syndrome, osteoarthritis, palmaris longus, and flexor carpi radialis. I was astounded by the wealth of knowledge that these OTs harbored and how confidently they did their job. I thought to myself, “How would I even BEGIN to commit all of this knowledge to memory?” Anatomy sounded like a whole other language to me. Though the explanations of the patients’ diagnoses were quite difficult to follow (at the time I did not take anatomy and physiology, so I was really lost), patients continued to rave about the tremendous impact that occupational therapy had made on their lives. The answer to the question What matters to you? now became much more transparent in how I viewed occupational therapy.
Occupations and activities that mattered to the patients I observed included writing, playing the guitar, holding a microphone to sing, and dressing. To me, these activities appeared to be seemingly simple to accomplish. Yet, I learned that being unable to do these ‘simple tasks’ can truly affect a person’s overall wellbeing and quality of life, especially if these activities influence their identities and their esteem. I initially did not understand why one patient I encountered continued to express such gratitude toward what appeared to be an OT merely helping him ‘stretch his hand muscles.’ However, him being able to use his hands to hold a guitar properly meant that he could resume his occupation as a guitar player and compose music, a passion that brought him personal life fulfillment.
So, why OT? Occupational therapy is an incomparable field that empowers people to be renewed physically, emotionally, mentally, and spiritually by always centering the question What matters to you? in patient care. Occupational therapy interlocks a multitude of disciplines that all excite me – biology, psychology, and sociology, to name a few. Occupational therapy truly gives people hope, purpose, fulfillment, faith, and productivity. With that being said, I personally have a lot of plans within the field of occupational therapy that I anticipate exploring, just you wait!
Peace and love,