I chose to interview an occupational therapist since I found that field of study to be very interesting. Tami, whom I chose is a very knowledgeable woman with a very strong backbone and isn't afraid to speak what's on her mind. I wanted to learn anything and everything about her career and how she came about getting into it.
Career Development - Course Closed
Terry Rafter Carles
Attribution-NoDerivs Creative Commons
Person interviewed: Tami Folks, Occupational Therapist
Company: Orange County Public Schools
Would you describe what you like most about your job and about this employer? What do you like least or dislike?
I am an occupational therapist (OT) on the assistive technology team, with Orange County Public Schools, and I have one of the best jobs that exist (most days).
The best part about being an OT is the flexibility in job options. OT’s in general work in a wide range of work environments, from babies in the neo natal units, to senior citizens who are recovering from strokes, helping people with hand injuries, or supporting kids to learn and everything in between. We work in hospitals, nursing homes, home health, jails, rehab centers, in VA hospitals, mental health and more. The goal of OT is functional life skills, what skills does a person need to return to the life roles they had. But the best is the public schools because there are so many kids who would not otherwise get the support they need to succeed in life if they did not have a team of teachers and therapists (OT, PT, SLP) behind them.
I like that I get to meet and work with all types of kids, with a wide range of ages, abilities and needs.
When I was doing more “traditional” therapy, I loved to figure out how to help kids gain the skills they needed through purposeful activities (cooking, crafts, exercise) and working on activities of daily living like dressing and eating. In my current role I like the problem solving on how to help kids talk, write, read and use the computer. Being an OT is like being an teacher, rehab engineer, social worker , artist all rolled into one.
The think I dislike the most about my job, is there is never enough time to follow through and make sure the people supporting the child has all the info they need for the child to be successful. There seems to be more awareness and needs and not enough people to go around.
I also dislike that now I have been doing this for so long and have seen kids grow up, it is frustrating when people don’t see the long range goals of where the kids are going, or that what ever they are doing has been tried and it did not work with that child, and they don’t have the magical power to make it work this time. They usually don’t “get it” just because either they have spent most of their time working with a very narrow age range or new to working with that type of kid. I have to remember, I was there once, they need time to see things differently. Most people I work with really do have the best interest of the child at heart.
When I think about what else I would like to do, since as an OT there are many places and types of people I can work with, I keep coming back to the kids and the job I have. They are the best. Nothing is better then seeing a child do something for the very first time that nobody thought they could do and knowing that my little bit of brain power with a lot of others help it happen.
What does a typical day look like for you?
In my current job, there is no typical day. That is another thing I like about my job. Is it has a lot of flexibility, some days are spent mostly with students, others training and others the dreaded paperwork. Most days are a combination of these tasks. The more traditional OT, tend to have a set schedule, where they see “clients” every 30 to 45 minutes, a more predictable day.
What do you see as possible career paths leading to this job?
People usually enter OT either directly out of high school or sometimes after they have another degree like in psychology, nursing, or teaching. After they finish OT school, they will find their specialty, for some it is more “rehab”, independent living, mental health or in the schools. I like the assistive technology both for daily living and computer/device access and seating and positioning because it requires a different level of problem solving and creativity compared to the OT’s who do hand or stroke rehab.
Are there particular values or personality characteristics that you think individuals in this job environment share?
Yes, you have to be creative, and like to work with people. People who need things to always follow a certain pattern or predictability don’t make good OT’s.
What skills do you think one needs to do well in this job?
Have good perceptual skills, be well rounded, good at problem solving, and be able to relate to people and figure out what makes them tick, for one client it might be more structure exercise program for another it might be embedding the skills in other tasks.
What is the salary range for someone entering the field?
I don’t know, depending on specialty. It is a very wide range.
What are typical working conditions of this job? (Workload, expectations, dress code, degree of independence etc.)
Most OT’s have a good deal of independence, some work environments have mandates on how many contact hours (billing time) you have to have, but in the school system, it is different. Being part of the AT Team, we have a lot more independence and say on what we do and when; then therapists who carry a more traditional caseload in the schools.
Most OT’s dress fairly causal, cotton pants or comfortable skirts and flat shoes. There can be a lot of lifting and moving of clients. When I first became an OT the traditional dress was lab jacket, navy blue pants and white shirt, never scrubs but not many OT’s wear that any more.
If you were going to hire a new entry level employee, what would a highly qualified candidate be like?
Someone that has
explored a wide range of OT working environments, most OT schools require students to do extensive volunteer work, I would like to see the individual has completed these learning experiences in variety of settings and not just in the school setting or with children
demonstrates self learning and responsibility for expanding their skills
someone who values activities and play as a means to develop function not straight exercise
someone who wants to work with kids and don’t mind getting messy
someone who can do a great task analysis (sadly this skill is not being taught as much in OT schools but was one of the skills that made OT a valuable therapy to clients)
someone who knows how to find answers to things they don’t know
someone who can think outside the box
someone who is excited about working for me
someone who presents confidence but not coming off as a “know it all”
Is there something you would recommend that I do to test whether this type of work is a good fit for me?
Volunteer/Observe!!!! Call around to different places OT’s work and ask if you can come and observe a few hours. Also observe other types of therapists to understand the differences. That is how I did it. I did not know what OT was, I accidently met one, fell in love with the concept of what OT’s did and when talking to them I realized that is how I think. Then I started meeting more and just knew it was the right fit. At first I did not realize all the science behind it, I thought I would be taking a lot of psychology type of classes, but then realized it was a nice balance of psychology type classes, and science (anatomy, neurology, physiology, biology and movement) but not as much as physical therapy school.
Written on November 20, 2011 at 7:38pm
My reflections after doing the interview with Tami
November 20, 2011 at 12:52pm
I'm a bit nervous..
November 20, 2011 at 12:38pm
My interview questions!
November 20, 2011 at 12:34pm
My Cold Call with Tami!
November 20, 2011 at 12:26pm
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