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Pros and Cons

A therapist's decision to go back to school

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I graduated from Keuka College in 2004 with a bachelor's degree of science in the Occupational Therapy. I was the final class to go through an occupational therapy degree as a four-year program. I went on to complete my internships, passed my certification test and landed my first job working in a sub-acute rehabilitation center that was connected to a long-term care facility. After working there for two years I decided to pursue another avenue and currently work for a unique non-profit outpatient facility that primarily serves people with developmental disabilities population.

I distinctly remember stating on more than one occasion that I would never go back to school to get my master's as I saw no need for it and that there were plenty of other areas that I could pursue in the field of occupational therapy.  Then last year my cousin came to live with me to obtain her master's from the local university. My brother decided to return to school as well and I began to question my way of thinking.

I had begun to look into other programs such as social work and special education but none of them were suitable for someone currently working a full time job and most of them required you to complete an internship. About half way through that year I received a postcard from Quinnipiac University advertising their online post professional master's program for Occupational Therapy. I began to look into the program and it had everything that I was looking for; the convenience of an online program and the ability to pursue my master's without having to complete another internship.

As anyone about to make a big change in their lives I weighed the pros and con. The pros for returning to school were to obtain a higher degree, further my knowledge in the field and in doing so being able to better market myself. Oddly enough there were only two cons; adding more to student loans and having to write a research paper. Although the cons may seem insignificant they were high on my list, luckily for me the pros won and so I took the leap and enrolled for the spring semester.

Once I began the program it was almost immediately clear to me that this was going to change the way I viewed my profession as an Occupational Therapist. We were asked to become a member of AOTA, which I currently was, but I would soon find out how much I underutilized this membership. I had mainly joined for the discounts you can receive on CEU's but little did I know how much more this website and organization could benefit me as a therapist. The AOTA offers forums where you can connect with other practicing OT's to get answers to clinical questions. It provides you with links to OT Practice, evidence based research, and special interest areas all of which I am finding to be vital links in keeping me at the top of my game when performing interventions or providing consultations.

I learned to further utilize this website during my first class that focused on evidence based practice and research. This class opened my eyes to the need not only for evidence-based research but also for clinicians to take this information and put it into practice in their clinics.  Since taking this class, I have made evidence based practice part of my regimen when consulting with patients on treatments such as Botox and showing them what the research is stating about the promise for returned function. Also taking an in depth look at the interventions being used in my clinic such as the use of Therapeutic listening and the brushing protocol in order to educate the families that I am providing the intervention to so they too can research and determine if it is one that will be beneficial.

Remember how I said one of my cons was to write a research paper, in my second class I had to face my fears. Fortunately, this class brought me around to the idea that research may not be glamorous but it is essential in order to keep our profession abreast of the current trends and to lead us in the direction of evidence based practice. This class made me think, I thought about the current trends and interventions out there and how I myself had not looked into them but only had relied on what my co-workers had told me about them. It made me think about what I was seeing in my clinic such as the use of aquatic therapy with individuals on the Autism spectrum and the lack in research available showing the potential benefits for this type of therapy. In being exposed to this type of thinking; I as an Occupational therapist began to change and grow for I no longer just took my profession for what it was but now I was becoming an active member.

The class I am currently taking is centered on Practice trends. The one distinct piece of knowledge that I am walking away with from this class has been the exposure to the revised Framework for Occupational Therapy and the Centennial vision. The organization has taken the steps in redefining us as a profession. They are making a greater investment in creating a clear compelling public image, encouraging education for a well-prepared work force and a push for further research and the use of evidence based decision-making.  I would be lying if I said I would have read this if it weren't required. But it makes me wonder how many other OT's or new graduates would have had that same thought. This class has provided me with the gusto to go out and make sure that the clinic I am currently in is meeting the needs of the new Framework and the Centennial Vision, as this is where the profession is heading and I want to make sure we get there with everyone else.

Come this summer I will be making another big step in my career as I pursue new adventures as a traveling therapist. It is with the information that I have learned in my classes that I will be able to pay it forward to the other clinics and professionals that I meet in my journey. I will spread my knowledge to them to ensure that together we continue to grow as a profession.

 In the class that I am currently taking we had an assignment to write an article. I was having a difficult time with this because I felt I was lacking in experience but then I realized that I did have a story to tell. That story is one of an Occupational Therapist that did not want to be bothered with more schooling and as many can become in their profession was complacent. This Occupational Therapist was renewed while working in her current setting by a thirst for knowledge and to find out what else was out there.

As the saying goes it is never too late to go back to school and you learn something new every day. Since beginning this journey and only being three classes into the program I could not agree more with these statements. As I dive further in to this program I encourage any of my fellow Occupational Therapist who may have been toying with the idea of returning to school to pursue it. I have only been out in this field for 5 years and already I am finding that so much has changed. Where I once felt I would be more beneficial to my profession by pursuing certifications, I was proven wrong. Through the knowledge that is being provided to me I now find myself in a world of possibilities; which in itself is a motto for Occupational therapy because as a profession we do not look at what you can't do but look at the possibilities of what you can do.

Kasey Kilmartin, OTR/L 
MSOT Student
Quinnipiac University

Submitted July 7, 2009

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