Posted by: janeclayton332 | April 1, 2010

Rhette Nyman

It’s funny how things come up in the right time and the right place. Has that ever happened to you? Well, a few nights ago, my roommates and I were having dinner. Lindsay, one of my roommates, asked me how everything was going. I told her that I was working on this blog about occupational therapy. She got really excited and started to tell me about her nephew, Rhette Nyman.

Rhette was born with VATER syndrome or VACTERL association. He did not develop the radial bone in his right arm and had no thumb. On his left hand Rhette had a nonfunctioning thumb. Rhette’s parents took him to a pediatric hand surgeon to discuss what they could do for him with a ulnar club hand along with his other problems. This tough little kid is now nine years old and has had eighteen surgeries that have included breaking and stretching his ulna, putting a rod into replace his missing radius, and screws in his arm. One of the most interesting surgeries that his mother, Amy Nyman, told me about was that they took both of Rhette’s index fingers and surgically made them into his thumbs. Rhette has worked extensively with occupational therapists to help him learn how to work with his arms and hands. Amy felt that, along with the work they did with Rhette, the custom braces they made for Rhette have helped him along this journey. They have mostly been in a clinical setting, giving the Nyman’s things to work on at home. Amy said the purpose was “to help Rhette use it more in every day life and to figure out how to do as much as possible. A lot of what the occupational therapists did was making the custom casts, evaluating, and then giving me ideas to try at home.” Because Rhette’s work with the occupational therapists he is able to do many things that other little boys his age are able to do. Of course, he has his challenges, but his life has been changed and enhanced on a new level. Rhette has the world of possibilities open to him because he has the use of his arms and hands.

Amy Nyman is a mother of four boys and because of her experiences with Rhette working with occupational therapists, she wants to go back to school so she can become an OT herself. “It is a field of so many of interesting and diverse things. My degree is in Special Education and so I saw occupational therapists working with my students, I know they work with older patients with strokes, or people returning from injuries. There is such a wide variety of things to do, that you can almost specialize in an area of occupational therapy, which I think is pretty cool. You deal with young people in a different way than you deal with a stoke patient, or someone who is eighty, or somebody who has lost part of a hand or arm. It gives you a really interesting diversity of people that you can work with and a lot of cool, different places that you can work. You have a real variety of possible settings, clinical, school, living homes, or you can go into people’s homes and work with that way with one on one with people. I just think that it is amazing what a diverse field it is.”

Posted by: janeclayton332 | April 1, 2010

OT Job Outlook

One of the best resources that I have found for the outlook of occupational therapy is with the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

According to the Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2010-11 Edition about employment change: Employment of occupational therapists is expected to increase by 26 percent between 2008 and 2018, much faster than the average for all occupations.

Job prospects: Job opportunities should be good for licensed occupational therapists in all settings, particularly in acute hospital, rehabilitation, and orthopedic settings because the elderly receive most of their treatment in these settings. Occupational therapists with specialized knowledge in a treatment area also will have increased job prospects. Driver rehabilitation, training for the elderly, and ergonomic consulting are emerging practice areas for occupational therapy.

Earnings: Median annual wages of occupational therapists were $66,780 in May 2008. The middle 50 percent earned between $55,090 and $81,290. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $42,820, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $98,310. Median annual wages in the industries employing the largest numbers of occupational therapists in May 2008 were:

Home health care services: $74,510
Nursing care facilities: $72,790
Offices of other health care practitioners: $69,360
General medical and surgical hospitals: $68,100
Elementary and secondary schools: $60,020

For a more in-depth look, link to Occupational Employment and Wages in May 2008 Other great articles about the job outlook of occupational therapists can be found at Health Guide USA, Rehab World, About dot com, and Explore Health Careers

I have heard and read all of these fantastic things about this field, but in these scary economic times I wanted a take from someone who was in the thick of the occupational therapy world. I was talking to my friend, Emily Davis, who is about to graduate with her Masters of Occupational Therapy from Touro University about this very issue. She told me about board that is always full of job listings. Several friends of hers have recently been hired in the job of their choice. She said, “Honestly, Jane, I could find a job where ever I wanted to.” Needless to say, the outlook is positive! I can’t wait to be in the thick of the occupational therapy world myself…

Posted by: janeclayton332 | April 1, 2010

Emily Davis, a student

I was fortunate enough to go on an amazing study abroad in Jerusalem, at the BYU Center on Mount Scopus. Again, that experience means so much to me, and some of the best things that I took away from that experience was the relationships I had built with amazing people. One of these people is Emily Davis.

After we returned home, Emily graduated from Brigham Young University with a double major in Therapy Recreation and Spanish. I asked Emily why she choose occupational therapy. She knew that she wanted to go to grad school and therapy was at the top of her list. Emily felt that occupational therapy fit her a lot better as opposed to physical therapy. She was excited to help people gain the skills that they needed to do things that they had never done before or to regain a skill that they had lost. As I have researched more and more about occupational therapy, I have come to realize that, just as much as knowledge, personal qualities and interpersonal skills are critical for being a successful occupational therapist. Emily will be a great occupational therapist because of the education she is gaining and qualities that she possesses.

After a lot of planning and comparing, Emily decided that she wanted to attend Touro University in Nevada. Emily is entering into her second year and has gone through this whole experience with 31 other students. This is her group bowling after class. Emily said that occupational therapy programs are not a walk through the park. The first four semesters of bookwork and then two semesters of clinical. Emily said that she is really enjoying her time in this program. Her advice to people who are thinking about going to OT school is to get started right away on internships and volunteering. Emily said that she would advise people not to take a year off of school for work or something, but to jump right in and go for it!

Posted by: janeclayton332 | April 1, 2010

Occupational Therapy Schools

Sometimes the thought of trying to navigate the wide world of Grad School options can be really intimidating. There are so many different options to consider and directions to go. Fortunately, there is also a lot of help out there for people searching for the OT school that will fit them best.

Gwynita Leggington offers some basic instructions about how to choose an occupational therapy school:
Step 1: Identify your career goals. In order to choose the proper occupational therapy school, it is important to know the specific type of work you want to do with your occupational therapy degree. For example, you should think about what kind of environment you want to work in, such as a mental health facility, hospital, nursing home, outpatient center, clinic, school, workplace, community center or private practice. You should also consider what age group you want to work with and the type of patients you want to help (those who are either physically, developmentally, emotionally or mentally disabled).
Step 2: Speak with a career counselor or academic adviser at your school. While you are pursuing your Bachelor’s degree, you can begin looking into occupational therapy schools. Your career counselor or academic adviser can provide you with helpful information about the various occupational therapy graduate programs in the United States.
Step 3: Research the different occupational therapy schools on the Web. There is an abundance of information on the Internet about the different types of occupational therapy schools. You can visit websites like All Allied Health Schools, UnivSource and Grad Schools to learn about the occupational therapy schools that you can choose from.
Step 4: Make a list of the schools that interest you. Make sure that you include important information for each school on your list, like the location of the school, cost of tuition, the number of required courses needed for the occupational therapy program and the types of financial assistance the school offers to students.
Step 5: Determine if you meet all of the admission requirements for each school. Be sure to verify the admission requirements for both the school and occupational therapy program. And don’t forget to check for things such as GPA and pre-requisite course requirements too.
Step 6: Decide which school best suits your needs and career goals. After you’ve spent time researching and evaluating the different occupational therapy schools, you should choose the school where you would like to pursue your master’s degree in occupational therapy.

The Bureau Labor of Statistics says this, “Occupational therapists are regulated in all 50 States. Individuals pursuing a career as an occupational therapist usually need to earn a post-baccalaureate degree from an accredited college or university or education deemed equivalent.

Education and training. A master’s degree or higher in occupational therapy is the typical minimum requirement for entry into the field. In addition, occupational therapists must attend an academic program accredited by the Accreditation Council for Occupational Therapy Education (ACOTE) in order to sit for the national certifying exam. In 2009, 150 master’s degree programs or combined bachelor’s and master’s degree programs were accredited, and 4 doctoral degree programs were accredited. Most schools have full-time programs, although a growing number are offering weekend or part-time programs as well. Coursework in occupational therapy programs include the physical, biological, and behavioral sciences as well as the application of occupational therapy theory and skills. All accredited programs require at least 24 weeks of supervised fieldwork as part of the academic curriculum.”

Erica Jacques gives some advice about becoming an occupational therapist.
1. It is never too early to start your observation hours. Do as many of these as you can, in as many different types of settings as possible. A great way to get some of these hours is to take a job as a rehabilitation technician so that you can get paid at the same time.
2. Don’t take just the basic requirements. OT programs look for applicants who go beyond the bare minimum. Take some classes that sound interesting and relate them to therapy. If in doubt, throw in a few extra psychology classes. You can never know too much psychology in this field.
3. Relax. Of course you want to finish your degree as soon as possible, but if you don’t get in the OT program on your first try, find out what you were missing and try again. If you really want it, you have to work for it. It will be worth it in the end.”

There are many different options when it comes to OT schools. Each school has it’s own requirements and it’s own system, but don’t let that intimidate you! Start right now by searching for OT schools by location and ranking. You can do it!

Posted by: janeclayton332 | April 1, 2010

Lisa Brinton…

Once a week I volunteer for a few hours at the Provo Temple. I really love it there for a number of reasons, one being that I get to meet so many wonderful people. One of those people is Lisa Brinton.
She graduated from Brigham Young University in statistics with a business minor in 2007. She wasn’t really sure what she wanted to do, but she started working for a company. During that year, the company was bought out and Lisa lost her job. While that was going on, one of Lisa’s friends, who happens to be an occupational therapist, told her about the field. While Lisa took another job in her old field, she started shadowing this friend in a nursing rehab center. Some of the things that drew Lisa’s attention was that it not only encompassed mental and physical aspects, but that the occupational therapists got to be creative and bond with their patients.

As Lisa was contemplating pursuing this career, she started doing her research. She went to the listing in the US News and World Report searching for schools that she might want to attend. Lisa decided that occupational therapy was something that she wanted to do, but a major hold up was all of the prerequisites for acceptance into the programs. After she got all of the requirements completed, Lisa was accepted during early admittance to Colorado State’s Occupational Therapy program.

I asked Lisa if she had any advice for people who were thinking about pursuing an education in this field. She said, “Look into the schools that you are thinking of or hoping to go to, to figure out their requirements. Some schools require things that other schools don’t… For me, when I was trying to do the applications, I created a spreadsheet of what I needed to do for each school so it is more organized and easier. Get started on volunteer work, even if it is just a little bit. It really helps you to know if this is something you are interested in doing and something that you can feel successful in.”

Posted by: janeclayton332 | April 1, 2010

A day in the life…

Because there is such a variety of conditions that an occupational therapist can work with, every day can be completely different from the one before, not to mention that days of OTs in different fields can vary greatly. The Princeton Review gives a great article about some of the different aspects of the daily life, such as helping patients compensate for the loss of function, improve motor skills, reasoning, and perceptual abilities. They develop and teach patients how to operate adaptive equipment such as wheelchairs, splints, and other devices that allow individuals with limitations to exercise a measure of control over their environment. Although most occupational therapists work an average 40-hour week, it is often emotionally draining and backbreaking work. All occupational therapists are challenged to inspire trust, motivate progress, and demonstrate concern and compassion.

Minority Nurse dot com shadowed a practicing occupational therapist, Kashala Erby. Kashala is employed at Sun Dance Rehabilitation working with a group of older patients.

8:30 a.m. to 9:15 a.m. This is when Kashala works on management activities. She does case load organization, reviews paperwork and notes, communicates with colleagues, makes copies, does faxing and checks her email. Kashala also determines what patients are to be seen and the length of their sessions based on a weekly census. Typically she treats about five to eight patients per day. Short- and long-term goals are established for each patient after an evaluation, and a treatment plan is also developed.

9:15 a.m. to 3:34 p.m. Kashala said, “For the bulk of my day, I provide direct patient care. During each session I teach the patient a self-care task like dressing, grooming or personal hygiene. I also work with the patient on a therapeutic activity like balance, coordination or a reaching task, or help them with a therapeutic exercise like upper extremity exercise with or without resistance, which is aimed at improving flexibility, strength and movement. The sessions are guided by short-term goals, which are determined by their long-term goals. The main goal for most patients is to restore their ability to engage in daily activities based on what is desired by each person. I want to be able to get my patients to maximize their performance in their daily activities while utilizing specific treatment techniques.”

3:45 p.m. to 4:30 p.m. At the end of a typical day, Kashala handles the necessary paperwork from todays sessions and prepares for the next day. She said, “In order to assess each patient’s care, I converse with a multidisciplinary team, and I look at chart documentation and dialogue from weekly team meetings on each patient’s care. Through conversations with team members, we discuss patient’s tolerance for treatment, progress, change of status, and any other issues regarding their care. I compile their diagnosis, rehab potential, clinical expertise, and input from the patient’s family and decide on the best possible therapy for each patient.”

Kashala Erby offers this piece of wisdom: “[Occupational therapy] is a profession where you truly must be a person who can deal with a variety of personalities and temperaments. It’s important to know that although you are working one-on-one with patients, you must be someone who can collaborate with others because there are multiple professionals who are involved with the patients care and well being.”

Posted by: janeclayton332 | April 1, 2010

OT for Jake

When Tricia and Travis had the triplets they were living in Irvine, California. When they brought their children home occupational therapists began to work with Jake 2 – 3 time in the Anderson home. In the picture above, Jake is using the “tripod” method of sitting up, balancing with his hands. On the side of his head, you can see his little shunt. Orange County had a lot of great services that met the needs of Jake and his family, including helping them get a specialized wheelchair. A few years later, Trish and Trav moved their family back to Utah, where they are originally from, to be closer to family. When they moved back to Utah, Jake was put on a waiting list for services at a state level, but through the Jordan School District, he was able to start attending preschool at Alta View Elementary where he met with occupational therapists every day. As far as Jake’s development goes, not very much progress was made with either gross or fine motor skills, but his body was maintained. Tricia said, “I really did feel at some level that he knew that he was being cared for. Obviously he couldn’t say it or display it, because he didn’t have the ability to do that, but I really sensed, as his mom, that he kind of got it, maybe at a spiritual level at the most, but even something in side he was aware that he was having that spiritual experience… I was always grateful to have the therapy, it gave me that sense of him being cared for in a way that we couldn’t care for him.”

On April 25, 2005 Jacob Travis Anderson passed away due to pulmonary aspiration. Jake was six and a half years old when he passed away.
As Tricia and I were finishing up our conversation about Jake and occupational therapy’s role in their lives, I asked her if she had anything else to say. She expressed her gratitude for all those who had worked with Jake, “As Travis and I grew to understand his condition more and accept it. He always brought joy to us but after we kind of went through that initial stage of mourning the typical boy, you know, that you are sort of expecting when you are pregnant, the there really came about this great change upon us that we were so grateful for him in so many ways. And it was neat because the therapists had the same view and that is how they treated him, too…. It was a great experience to bond with some of these professionals that literally took such an interest in our child… They went above and beyond what they needed to do. I became really good friends with some of these therapists and that was a joy as I was entering this world of disabilities and therapy. It was a pleasure to have people around me who were did so well at what they did…. It was a special journey.”

I am so grateful for the dedicated men and women who devoted so much time and energy to their work of bettering the lives of those they serve. Their work deeply impacted this family and represented the best of occupational therapy.

Posted by: janeclayton332 | April 1, 2010

Who needs OT?

After people learn more about occupational therapy, the next question is usually, “who needs OT?” Occupational therapy is a broad field with so many different areas. Those who are treated by occupational therapist are as diverse in age as they are in conditions.


Kids health dot org provides a good list, although not comprehensive, of reasons why children might need occupational therapy:
-birth injuries or birth defects
-sensory processing/integrative disorders
-traumatic injuries (brain or spinal cord)
-learning problems
-pervasive developmental disorders
-juvenile rheumatoid arthritis
-mental health or behavioral problems
-broken bones or other orthopedic injuries
-developmental delays
-post-surgical conditions
-spina bifida
-traumatic amputations
-severe hand injuries
-multiple sclerosis, cerebral palsy, and other chronic illnesses

An occupational therapist can also:
-help children with severe developmental delays learn some basic tasks, such as bathing, getting dressed, brushing their teeth, and feeding themselves
-help kids with behavioral disorders learn anger-management techniques (i.e., instead of hitting others or acting out, the children would learn positive ways to deal with anger, such as writing about feelings or participating in a physical activity)
-teach kids with physical disabilities the coordination skills required to feed themselves, use a computer, or increase the speed and legibility of their handwriting
-evaluate each child’s needs for specialized equipment, such as wheelchairs, splints, bathing equipment, dressing devices, or communication aids
-work with kids who have sensory and attentional issues to improve focus and social skills

According to the AOTA about one-third of occupational therapy practitioners work in school systems, pediatric hospitals, and health care facilities helping millions of children.


Just as the range of conditions varied greatly in children, the range of conditions in adults that work with occupational therapists is just as varied. One of the first things that comes to people’s minds are of older adults that have had stokes and need to re-learn some of their activities of daily living. Even though stoke patients and people who have had similar problems make up a significant portion of those who attend occupational therapy, the range is just as diverse, such as this list given by SPOT Rehabilitiation:
-Developmental deficits
-The aging process
-Physical injury or disease
-Psychological or social disability.

Posted by: janeclayton332 | March 31, 2010

It all began with Jake…

When I was little, someone asked me, “Where did you get your red hair?” I quickly answered, “From my twin! It is just that she is a little bit older than me and is in a different family than me, but she is my twin and that is where I got my red hair!” Well, needless to say, my family still teases me for that comment. I hadn’t quite grasped some of the more basic biology back then… This “twin” of mine is my close cousin Tricia Anderson.

When she was 24, Tricia and her husband, Travis, found out that they were having triplets. They immediately started going to a perinatologist to prepare for the birth of two girls and a boy, who would become Abigail, Jessica, and Jacob. Tricia went on bed rest at week 18. The goal was to carry the babies for 32 weeks. That is a long time on bed rest!

Their doctor had been monitoring the babies closely and at week 28 some serious problems started to ensue. While Abbie and Jessie’s grow rate continued to grow steadily, Jake’s began to decline. Then the day after Christmas of the same week, Trish went into pre-term labor. Travis rushed Tricia to the emergency room. The doctors wanted to stop the labor, but Jake’s heart rate started to slow down. That evening, they put heart rate monitor belts on Trish’s stomach to monitor the babies’ heart rates. During the night, Jake’s monitor slipped down and started recording Jessie’s heart rate. The morning nurse came in and discovered what was wrong. As soon as they found Jake’s real heart rate, Travis barely had time to give Tricia a priesthood blessing before she was rushed off for an emergency C-Section.

These babies were preemies in every sense of the word. Abbie (left) was the first to come and weighed two pounds, nine ounces. Jessie (middle) was next at two pounds, one ounce. Jake (right) came last at one pound, thirteen ounces. His umbilical cord was wrapped around his neck and had severe Intraventricular Hemorrhaging or IVH. At that point, they knew that Jacob had major head trauma, but they were not sure to what extent or how the damage would manifest it’s self. Jake had a shut put in his head to alleviate pressure from a build up of cerebral spinal fluid and to avoid hydrocephalus. That shunt would need to be replaced one more time because of a malfunction.

It was a scary start with Jake right from the beginning, but besides one sticky bout of pneumonia with Jessie, the girls pulled through just fine. A wide array of health professionals started working with our little Jake, including occupational therapists. When this new little family was finally able to go home from the hospital, occupational therapists would come over 2 – 3 times a week to work with Jake on things like sucking and keeping his muscles stretched out. When he was older, they worked on texture and taste. Because of the extent of Jake’s brain damage, he was never really able to eat (without the aid of a feeding tube through his stomach) hear, see, or communicate. Jake was our sweet little angel.

I believe it is because of my interaction with and love for this beautiful little boy that I have a deep desire to become and occupational therapist. I saw the things that they were doing to help Jake, as well as to help and support his family. Amazing things happened and these good occupational therapists had a huge impact on our lives.

Posted by: janeclayton332 | February 17, 2010

So, what exactly is occupational therapy?

Lately, a lot of people have been asking me what I want to do with my life. I tell them that some day I will actually graduate from Brigham Young University, and after that I want to go to Occupational Therapy School. Most people will mutter something like “Oh, good, good. That sounds like a great choice…” and then, inevitably, the follow up question will come: “So, what exactly is occupational therapy?”

The World Federation of Occupational Therapists gives this definition: “Occupational therapy is as a profession concerned with promoting health and well being through occupation. The primary goal of occupational therapy is to enable people to participate in the activities of everyday life. Occupational therapists achieve this outcome by enabling people to do things that will enhance their ability to participate or by modifying the environment to better support participation.” The catch-phrase “activities of daily living” is what is meant by the term “occupation.” No matter your occupation, (a.k.a. the activities that need to happen throughout a patient’s day), no matter the range of activities due to age or condition, those are the things that an occupational therapist is the there to help the patient and family accomplish.

Wikipedia (what would we do without it?) further explains “Occupational therapy, often abbreviated as “OT”, promotes health by enabling people to perform meaningful and purposeful occupations. These include (but are not limited to) work, leisure, self care, domestic and community activities. Occupational therapists work with individuals, families, groups and communities to facilitate health and well-being through engagement or re-engagement in occupation. Occupational therapists are becoming increasingly involved in addressing the impact of social, political and environmental factors that contribute to exclusion and occupational deprivation. Occupational therapists use careful analysis of physical, environmental, psychosocial, mental, spiritual, political and cultural factors to identify barriers to occupation. Occupational therapy draws from the fields of medicine, psychology, sociology, anthropology, ethnography, architecture and many other disciplines in developing its knowledge base.”

The Mayo Clinic has just a slightly different way of looking at occupational therapy. Occupational therapists work with individuals who have conditions that are mentally, physically, developmentally, or emotionally disabling. Occupational therapists assist individuals to develop, recover, or maintain daily living and work skills.

The word “occupation” comes from our belief that we all have “occupational roles” that contribute to who we are (i.e. mother, son, spouse, employee). The goal of an occupational therapist is not only to help clients improve basic motor functions, cognitive and emotional abilities to return to these roles, but also to compensate for loss of function. Their goal is to help clients have independent, productive and satisfying lives.