Last week the tickets went on sale for AOTA 2019. It will be held in New Orleans, Louisiana and it is exciting! I have had the pleasure to attend two AOTA conferences in the past (Baltimore 2014, Chicago 2016), and can honestly recommend the experience. Not only is it a great way to complete the majority of your continuing education units (CEUs) but, it is a great environment to meet new people, get inspired, and hear the latest on occupational therapy.
The conference is quite big with approx. 1,600 occupational therapists expected to attend. It can easily become overwhelming, especially if it is your first time attending- but please don't stress! If you are planning on attending this year you have come to the right place. Below I share several tips that will help you make the most out of your time at the conference.
Plan ahead: Picking your educational sessions ahead of time is crucial if you want to make sure you attend the courses you are interested in. At the conference your days will go a lot smoother if you read through the catalog of educational sessions and pre-plan what session you would like to attend ahead of time. Each hour of the day has multiple sessions running simultaneously and it is easy to miss a topic you are interested in. Once you register for the conference you will receive a course catalog in the mail with the full schedule.
Download the app: In previous years AOTA had an app available that was easily downloadable to your phone. In the app you can customize your schedule and keep track of what sessions you have attended. It is also a useful tool to get notifications such as cancellations and changes in rooms.
Dress for comfort: Business casual is always a good choice in case you are unsure of what to wear, just make sure your feet are protected. At AOTA the days are long, there is a lot of walking, and often times the seating is not the most comfortable. Wearing clothes that you feel comfortable in is crucial to ensure you make it through the day.
Bring a resume or personal information card: During the conference you will come across many individuals, schools, and companies that hire occupational therapists. It is the perfect place to network and explore options available in the world of occupational therapy. Having your resume or personal information card handy is a great way to leave others with your information for future inquiry. Also, I find it helpful to carry a small notebook to write down the contact information of individuals/companies I am interested in following up with. Of course, the notes app on your phone will do as well.
Pack lightly: This is something I learned the hard way. The Expo at AOTA is full of vendors passing out goodies and resources you will want to take home with you. It is a smart idea to double check that you leave some extra room in your luggage to fit such items in order to avoid paying an extra fee with your airline due to extra weight.
Hope these tips help you organize your conference experience, and if you have further questions please don't hesitate to reach out. Here are some personal photos from AOTA14 and AOTA16.
To register for AOTA 2019 visit: AOTA Annual Conference & Expo
"It is our responsibility to honor and be receptive to our patient's needs and wants."
What led you to pursue a fieldwork assignment abroad?
I always knew I wanted to do an internship abroad. My biggest motivation was the desire to experience something different and memorable. Perhaps it was my curiosity, or my adventurous soul that lead me to this path. All I know, is that it was an incredible experience that I will forever remember.
In what type of setting did you complete your fieldwork?
I was assigned to work in a public mental health institution named Dr. Ramon Fernandez Marina. This facility is one of the most famous public hospitals that treats patients with mental health disorders in the acute and sub-acute stage. It was within the walls of this hospital that for the first time I understood mental health disorders beyond the DSM 5.
Where did you live? Was the trip an expensive venture?
I lived with two other friends from school who also completed their fieldworks in Puerto Rico. We lived in a hotel in Centro Medico, which is actually a hospital with a mini hotel within its own facility. It was great because we all shared the cost, and we were able to budget accordingly. My advice would be to look for an airbnb in the area, and find a roommate if possible. Your travel cost will vary according to the country you are visiting, your length of stay, as well as your travel expectations and activities. Also, have a budget in mind and stick to it. Despite the fact that an internship abroad could be very expensive, it should not be an excuse not to fulfill your dream.
Describe what your day to day looked like at the hospital.
An occupational therapist in this setting is responsible for waking up the patients early in the morning for hygiene and grooming sessions, conducting a group therapy activity, assess a patient’s abilities and independence in ADL tasks, and most importantly instilling hope.
What was your biggest challenge while working at Dr. Ramon Fernandez Marina?
My biggest challenge working in this setting was not being able to erase a patient’s past from their memories. It is imperative to remember that as an occupational therapist you might be the only support system the patient might perceive to have inside the walls of the hospital. It is our responsibility to honor and be receptive to our patient's needs and wants. By doing so we can provide them with the necessary tools to create a bright future beyond a world filled with hallucinations and delusions.
What lessons did you learn from your experience?
My experience taught me not to define someone with a quick label (schizophrenic, bipolar, depressed) rather by his/her occupational identity (mother, sister, daughter, wife)- I quickly recognized that my patients were more than just a group of twenty-one women in the acute phase of their psychiatric disorder. These were women who had lost a great portion of their identities, who were often stigmatized by society, and sometimes even by their own family members.
My experience also taught me that mental health disorders do not discriminate against social class, political affiliations, educational or professional experience; they can affect anybody, including me.
What did you do during your free time when you where not working?
During my free time in Puerto Rico I had the opportunity to experience many outdoor activities, including Zip lining, hiking national parks, going to the beach, getting lost in Old San Juan, and learning Puerto Rican salsa. People in Puerto Rico are willing to go the extra mile to show you around, so you can learn more about their culture and traditions. My recommendation is to at least spend a week before, or after your internship living with the locals. Also, don't be afraid to visit new places, and getting lost in a new city.
In hindsight, is there anything you would do differently or change from your experience?
To be honest, no. I believe that we learn from all the experiences that we encounter in life. This internship was not the exception. I learned from every mistake, and I am thankful for my journey.
What advice would you give a student who would like to complete their fieldwork abroad?
First of all, if you are thinking about doing an internship abroad is because you are an adventurous person, and you want to make a difference in the world. I always ask people who ask me this one very important question... What is holding you back? Is it fear, is it money? What is it?
The truth is, that you might have to sacrifice many things to accomplish your career goals, but in the end everything will workout. You might have to convince your parents, your partner, have to work extra shifts at work, or reduce your budget to be able to afford your trip. You will also have to consider your travel destination, and how much you know, or not know about that specific country you have in mind.
My best advice, is to just do it! You will live an experience of a lifetime that will forever be in your memories. This experience will not only make you stronger, it will push you away from your comfort zone. Your internship abroad will teach you new skills that will in turn help your career development, and understanding of our profession. My recommendation... go buy that ticket, go plan that trip. What are you waiting for?
How did you first hear about occupational therapy, and when did you know it was meant for you?
I first heard of OT when I was a junior in college at Indiana University. I had originally wanted to get my MSW (Master of Social Work), but I discovered OT in a google search. I decided to shadow a local occupational therapist who was working in pediatrics and I fell in LOVE! I knew immediately it was for me and have never looked back!
What type of settings have you worked in?
I have worked in the hospital, home health and skilled nursing facility settings. My first job was in a large hospital in NYC working on a Traumatic Brain Injury unit. I currently live in Washington, DC and work in the home health and skilled nursing facility settings.
I also recently received my Low Vision Rehabilitation Graduate Certificate from UAB (Mary Warren's program) which is such an AWESOME program. I use what I have learned from that program in EVERY setting!
What is Clinitote and what led you to design it?
Clinitote is my business that I recently launched in June of this year. I design high-end medical bags with multiple compartments to fit our most important clinical tools. We use a very high quality nylon that is extremely durable and washable, and each bag comes with two over-the-door hooks. If you are treating in a client's room, these hooks allow you to hang the bag over the door, some chairs and drawers.
When I came up with the idea for Clinitote, I was working at a large skilled nursing facility in Washington, DC. It was 5 floors, and I was constantly forgetting things in the gym which was located on the first floor. I knew I needed a bag to keep myself organized and productive throughout the day. The only problem is that there wasn't a bag on the market that was functional AND fashionable. So, I decided to make one myself. I sent out about 200 surveys to colleagues, school mates, and other healthcare friends and designed the bag based on their responses to those surveys. These bags are truly made FOR clinicians!
Did you face many challenges through the design/creative process?
YES! I am not a designer by training and did not consider myself a particularly creative person, so creating the first sketches proved challenging. Luckily, a friend of mine introduced me to a handbag designer who has helped me every step of the way. She helped me to put my design into a tech pack (the blueprint of how to make the bag for the manufacturer), introduced me to my manufacturer, and so much more! It took me three years to get my product to market, and I could not have done it without the help of my family and friends!
Describe what a typical day on the job looks like for you now that you have Clinitote.
It is very busy! I am still working full time as an OT, and I work on Clinitote when I get home in the evening and throughout the day commuting between home health.
What advice would you give someone who is interested in creating their own product or starting their own company?
My best advice is to do your research! Make sure you learn as much as you can about the industry you're entering into, target market, product development, etc.
Also, if money is your biggest reason for not pursuing your idea, please don't let that stop you! There are more avenues for financing these days, such as Kickstarter, GoFundMe, equity crowdfunding, etc. However, borrowing from family and friends if possible is better than borrowing from the bank.
Where do you see yourself in 10 years?
In my heart of hearts, I hope that Clinitote has become the #1 medical bag company in the US by that time. I hope to create more bags and more products for clinicians. This has been such a fun and crazy experience for me, and I only hope that it gets better.
What is your favorite thing about being an occupational therapist?
I love meeting and talking to people from all walks of life, especially the geriatric population. I love being part of someone's recovery story. Sometimes when I tell people that I work at a SNF (which most people call a "nursing home"), they tell me that it must be so sad and depressing. But I feel the opposite. I feel that I see more hope and happiness than I do sadness. As occupational therapists, we are with our clients during some of their most vulnerable and trying times and to be able to help people through those times is what is most special to me.
Quote to live by?
I know this is more of a poem than a quote, but it is my favorite:
To laugh often and much;
To win the respect of intelligent people
and the affection of children;
To earn the appreciation of honest critics
and endure the betrayal of false friends;
To appreciate beauty, to find the best in others;
To leave the world a bit better, whether by a healthy child,
a garden patch or a redeemed social condition;
To know even one life has breathed easier because you have lived.
This is to have succeeded.
- Ralph Waldo Emerson
In the past few years podcasts have increased in popularity. With topics ranging from fashion to health to gardening, they are a great way to pass the time. I personally have been enjoying listening to podcasts on my daily commute or while completing chores around the house. I love soaking in new information during mundane tasks- it automatically makes me feel more productive. Of course, my favorite topic to listen to is occupational therapy. I have been pleasantly surprised and excited that occupational therapy is making its presence known in the podcast world. Below are some of my favorite OT podcasts. I commend these awesome therapists for putting in the work to create such great resources.
Do you already listen to an OT podcast? Comment below, which podcast you enjoy most.
I met Jayne at AOTA and was immediately drawn to her enthusiasm. Her energy is contagious and amongst the 300+ exhibitors at the conference, her booth demanded my attention. I consider Jayne to be an innovator, she found a problem and made it her mission to solve it. As a result of her perseverance, we have the AquaEve. The first urinal designed specifically for women.
After 28 years of experience in orthopedics and hospital care. Jayne became frustrated with the idea of the bedpan being the only viable option for a bedridden woman. Therefore, she set out to create the AquaEve. A urinal designed to fit the needs of the female anatomy without the mess or hassle caused by a bedpan. The moment Jayne explained her creation to me I thought to myself "duh!" why hasn't this been done before. It is something so simple, yet so functional. Turns out no one had taken the time to consider the challenges faced by women having to use a bedpan. It works yes, but does it lead to the best quality of life possible?
This is a question that OTs ask themselves on a daily basis. When dealing with individuals from all walks of life, one must ask what would be the best fit for them. Occupational therapists should not approach life with a one size fits all approach, rather I invite you to dare to innovate. After all, being an innovator is at the core of the occupational therapy profession. Find an obstacle, analyze the problem, solve it, and make life easier to be lived!
During the weeks following AOTA I have had the opportunity to chat with Jayne, and find out more about her creative process, her background, and what led her to design the AquaEve.
Tell us about your career path. What types of settings have you worked in?
I started out wherever I could get a job in the town I was in- a hospital. When we moved, I found a position at a Hand Therapy clinic. I worked and studied hard and became a CHT. When we moved back to Rochester, I took the OT clinic chief position at Genesee Hospital. When Genny closed, I opened my own Hand therapy clinic. Then the referral sources dried up just about the time I was thinking- I climbed to the height of clinic practice (in my mind at the time- CHT) , and the height of management... Now what could be more? I went to Strong Memorial Hospital and have been there for 9 years. What’s next was not answered until I committed to bringing AquaEve to women in need.
What led you to develop the AquaEve?
Thinking of what my professional life could mean. Kind of a professional mid-life crisis. Is this all there is? I keep saving one star fish at a time? Is this what my life is to be? These thoughts were in my head as I continued to walk into patient rooms. Women distressed over waiting for a bedpan, while a man in the very next room is content with a urinal at his side. The very problem I had which introduced me to therapy, still existed. The connections clicked. This is my problem to solve.
What is the AquaEve?
AquaEve is the result of 3 years of trial and error. Many trials, and many errors. AquaEve is a urinal very specially designed to work with bed bound women.
What was the design process like?
I first teamed with biomedical engineers. I thought I needed engineers to figure out the physics and mechanics. I then created my own mock ups, tried them out, re-adjusted and tried again. How long did it take? 3 years and still running. Did you ever feel like giving up? Sure, the time and money is WAY over what I planned. People would say “don’t tell anyone your ideas, they may take it “and I would respond, “fantastic, they can have it and get it to market, that would be a relief!” But really the answer is no. This is my legacy. I will not stop until women, as a routine standard of care have the option of a urinal. I truly believe even if someone took my idea, they would not have designed AquaEve. There are other female urinals on the market. No one else did a functional analysis like the OT in me did. No one else felt a deep knowing that this was meant to be, and just had to find the solution.
What is the first thing an inventor should consider?
It’s not easy. A flash of insight is the spark, yes. A very important start. But to get a roaring fire, there must be resources to burn, fresh oxygen and insights, and an attentive attendant making sure the resources are in their right place, in their right mix and not getting out of control.
What advice do you have for an occupational therapist who is thinking about developing their own product?
Reach out and find help. Your local university will have a technology transfer office that can guide you. Local incubators are a gold mine. Maker clubs are on the rise. Call me! The worst advice I got was to keep my idea a secret. Trust your OT methods. Then decide: Is this a product that has mass appeal? Do you want to invest your resources or license your idea to someone who can do the work and share the profit (which is a long way off)?
The AquaEve can be purchased on Amazon. For bulk orders contact Jayne @ firstname.lastname@example.org.
To learn more about the AquaEve make sure to visit http://www.evensol.biz
As occupational therapy clinicians we know the importance of empathy all too well. In order to help individuals achieve optimal functioning within their lives, we most see the world from their perspective. OTs are often faced with situations where we must provide support, comfort, and/or motivate others. This is why it is crucial for OTs to understand the difference between showing sympathy or being empathetic towards someone. This year's AOTA conference was extremely insightful and filled with valuable information. During one of the lectures I attended, this video was played. It does a good job describing the difference between the two. Enjoy!
Sensory Processing Disorder is a complex topic and can be quite confusing when you are first exposed to it. In my every day practice I often recommend this book to parents. It helps them expand their knowledge and understanding of the terms I use during their child's therapy sessions. This book does a good job explaining the different types of sensory processing issues and gives lots of examples of activities that you can incorporate in the child's life. I highly recommend this book as an easy resource to refer to.
If you have read this book, please comment below. I would love to hear your thoughts.
The NBCOT can be a daunting task. The days leading up to the exam can be scary and overwhelming. For this reason, it is important to organize yourself in order to be successful. I am a known procrastinator, so when it was time for me to take the exam I knew that I definitely needed to commit in order to effectively prepare. I remember the day I picked a date. I felt sick to my stomach. The fear of failure was paralyzing, but I developed a plan and moved forward. Below I have compiled a list of tips and resources that helped me pass the exam on the first try.
1. Pick a date: The first thing you need to do is pick a date. It does not matter if you have started studying or not, just pick a date. Having a set date will make you accountable and force you to get started. However, do make sure you give yourself enough time to cover all of the material. I would say that 2 to 3 months of studying is usually a good time frame.
2. Do not change your date: Many students postpone their exam date in hopes of getting some more studying done. For the most part they do not. Pick a date and stick with it.
3. Test yourself: Before you begin studying the material take a simulated test. This will give you an idea of what areas you are weakest in, and will help you ensure that you pay extra attention to those areas when reviewing the material.
4. Time is everything: Make sure that you time yourself when taking practice exams. The NBCOT is a timed test and most people that have not been successful, it has been due to the fact that they ran out of time. Only practice will make you a faster test taker. You should aim to spend about 1 minute per question.
5. Study every day: You should definitely take a few hours of each day to review a different topic. Keeping your mind engaged and immersed in the subject will help you retain the information.
6. Answer questions: Each study session should end with a practice test. The more questions you answer, the better you will become at reasoning through them. Always, always, always read through the answer choices and the explanation behind them. Even if you got the question right, these rationales provide valuable information. You will be surprised how much knowledge you gain by just doing this.
7. Distract yourself: Do not study the day before the exam. What you know is already committed to memory, and cramming is not going to be of much help at this point. Make sure you engage in activities that you enjoy and serve as a distraction.
In order to prepare for the exam I used Therapyed and the AOTA’s NBCOT Exam Prep. Both resources provide great study guides, and lots of practice questions that helped me learn how to effectively reason through them. However, I will say that the 3 simulated exams in the Therapyed book were much harder than I expected. So please do not feel discouraged if you do poorly, just make sure you read all of the rationales for each question. I found the questions on the actual NBCOT exam to be much easier. I hope this post is of help to those studying for the exam. It is a long process, but totally worth it. If you have any other questions feel free to send me an e-mail or leave it in a comment below. Good luck !!
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