For this two-year degree, we are required to do a total of 5 placements, which is then separated into 3 different levels.
::Level 1 Placement:: It was very nerve-wracking since it began only after 5 weeks into our program. I’m pretty sure all of us going into our placements barely had a clue what our role as occupational therapists could do in that setting, let alone actually -do- the job. This first one was really supposed to be observation, which lasted for 4 weeks. I must say, trying to figure out where to place us was somewhat of a gong-show. Some people didn’t get their top 10 picks and had to randomly get chosen for something else. I was lucky and got one in my hometown, so it was relieving because at that time I was still homesick. I got placed in an outpatient setting for upper extremities and hands. The majority of the clients that we saw though were people who had sustained serious hand injuries (mostly from things like table saw, construction injuries, etc.) and people who had the common hand problems ranging from carpal tunnel syndrome to trigger finger. Although my background was in biological science, I had no prior exposure to human anatomy (oddly enough). So since it dealt with hands and nerves, I had absolutely no clue what the different muscles were nor the nerves. Even though the first week was mere observation, I came home both physically -and- mentally drained. I remember I would get home by 6:00 PM (because transit took forever), eat dinner, research on things from placement, and then head off to bed by 10:00 PM in order to wake up by 5:30 the next morning.
They gave me ample opportunities though to set me up with the plastic surgeon to see different kinds of surgeries. For instance, I got to see a carpal tunnel release and then a nerve release at the elbow. My preceptors were very nice in giving me opportunities to do a lot of hands on stuff like finishing splints and actually trying to get to make a splint for a client and doing hands on therapy treatment with them. I had two preceptors, and one of them (the main one) would always give me pop quizzes in front of the clients, which made me very anxious since I wasn’t always sure about the answers. But you know, it was so relieving to hear encouraging words from clients and I will forever remember them.
:: 1st Level 2 Placement:: My 2nd placement was a level 2 placement so expectations were slightly higher than the first. It involved more than just observation (although I did get some hands on experience from the first one). For this one, I got placed back in my hometown again at a nearby hospital close to my house. The hours were the same as the previous placement, but spring makes it so much easier to wake up to because the sun is rising with you. I was still very nervous for this one because I got placed in General Medicine and Medical Assessment Unit, which is completely different than the previous placement. I only had one preceptor this time, but we worked really closely with a physiotherapist who was really easy going and not to mention, very funny and easy to get along with. This placement made me realize that perhaps I do know more than I think. All of our clients/patients were elderly people, and actually, I think this is the right population for me. They’re so cute and it makes me sad sometimes to see them in the state that they are in. I think I can already tell that one problem for me would be to not get my emotions get in the way of treating patients/clients.
Anyways, my preceptor and PT buddy were really welcoming in terms of making me feel like a part of the team, and they continually complimented me on my work. I really miss the relationship I had with those two; I was actually able to crack jokes with them, which I doubt I’ll ever be able to do in the next 3 upcoming placements.
Placement is so different than school and it’s so practical. I’ve been really blessed to have had two great placements so far, and let’s hope that it continues down that path. However, I still have tons left to learn before entering the work force!
::2nd Level 2 Placement:: I must say that this placement has been the most challenging so far. Perhaps not so much in terms of % of caseload, although it partially was because of this. But the primary reason as to why I thought it was more challenging than the others was because it was so ‘function’ focused and so treatment based focused. Of course, as OTs, function should be the first thing that we think of, but the undergrad science part of me always questions about the diagnoses or the reasons behind the diagnosis. Another part of why it was so challenging was having to put activity analysis and grading activities into practice. And let’s just say, we’ve talked about it in school, but we’ve never had actual practice with it. I’m still facing problems with activity analysis and grading, but I think I’m more comfortable at being uncomfortable at doing it (if that makes any sense at all).
This placement was at Community Accessible Rehabilitation (CAR), which is the same program that I was at in the first placement except this time I was in Neuro/FED department, and of course at a different location. I worked with people who have suffered a stroke/traumatic (or non traumatic) brain injuries, but the caseload was primarily physically driven this time. It’s definitely interesting to see those neurology basic concepts get put into context, like “use it or lose it” and “use it and improve it” and mass practice. I also learned a lot from my project which was metacognitive group strategies with people experiencing executive dysfunction. The people/colleagues were friendly and very open to helping. The clients I worked with were all very friendly, and I never really had any hard times with any of them. Overall, I had a great experience, and I definitely learned a lot through this placement.
The one thing I like about placement is the fact that people actually take you seriously, colleagues and clients. It’s scary but exhilarating at the same time. One step closer!