Tuesday, August 16, 2011

3rd semester of OT school starts tomorrow!

I can’t believe I am already starting my third semester of OT school… time flies! We are taking Neuroanatomy, Applications I: Across the Lifespan, Principals of Practice: Adult I, Measurement and Evaluation, and our first level 1 field work and seminar class. I’m excited! Since we have now made it through the overview classes and learned more than we ever thought possible about human anatomy, I think this semester we will get to focus more on the actual OT classes. I’m excited! And… we get to go on our first 1 week fieldwork… have I mentioned I’m excited? I am really going to try and update with posts more often this semester. I always have so many things I want to write about and then get busy and forget or put it off until I can no longer remember the details clearly. So here is to trying!

I finally looked at this website called Pinterest over break that my friend, OT student B, told me about months ago and I cannot believe I have not looked at it sooner! I spent so much time on this website over break. Was looking at crafts, food, etc that I want to do for myself, but it could definitely be a resource for OT craft ideas in the future. I made button bobby pins today. I have never so much as looked at a needle and thread before so I was pretty freakin’ proud of myself…. even if it took my four times longer than it should have :/

Friday, August 12, 2011

Updated Info on GRE

I got a great comment on my last post from a GRE teacher wanting to update my info on the GRE. Things change rather quickly in the testing world and the GRE now has a new format and new rules. Thanks Elisa for the updated info! It was very helpful and I love that they have a FREE vocab app!

Hi Meredith!

I'm a Kaplan GRE teacher, and your message came up in a blog search. I liked what you wrote about the GRE, and I'd like to update it a bit for your readers.

The GRE just underwent a huge change starting this month. One part of the change is that the scoring system is no longer on a 200-800 scale, but now it's on a 130-170 scale. The testmaker hasn't released the "concordance" (basically a translation from old scores to new ones) yet, but we're pretty sure 150 will be the median score, roughly equivalent to a 550 on the old math section and a 450 on the old verbal section. The essays will be scored on the same scale as before.

Another change is that people will have to wait 60 days between test dates, so no one will be able to repeat your experience of taking it twice in three weeks.

Congratulations on making it to OT school!

Oh one more thing: the Kaplan vocab flash cards you mentioned are still available for sale, but there is also now a Kaplan GRE Vocab app for smartphones and it's available for free. It's out for iPhone, Blackberry and Android.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Applying to OT School?

I’ve had two questions recently about the application process, and while I have very limited experience with this as I have only applied to one school, I decided to do a short post on my experience with it. I believe many schools are going to computerized applications, but mine was done on good ole fashioned paper. I also never had to go through the interview process because my school did not do them. But nevertheless I did have to take pre-reqs and the terrible GRE, complete observation hours, and write an admissions essay so maybe my experience can be of some help.

Pre-reqs –

Different schools require different pre-reqs. Most are going to require anatomy, physiology, some combination of chemistry, biology, physics, as well as some form of psychology and/or sociology. Plan ahead! If you are considering applying to several schools make sure you know what their pre-reqs are before scheduling your last few semesters/classes. I had a friend apply to my program the year before me graduate without taking a pre-req because she did not read the list carefully and then she had to take it independently over the summer.
From what I have gathered many schools may view pre-req GPA’s as a little more important than overall GPA’s. I’m sure different schools weight things differently, but it is something I have heard said many times.


I hated this thing. You have to do it, but you don’t have to like it. Most schools require around a minimum of 450 on both the math and verbal for a total of 900. I think the writing is usually a 3-3.5 minimum. Don’t put it off (like me)! I waited until my last semester to take it thinking my last semester was going to be easier. Well it was not and I ended up scoring great in two sections and not so great in one and I had to take it again… taking the GRE twice in three weeks is not how you want to spend your time… trust me! So take my advice and plan early. Again, I may not be the best role model for this particular thing, but I read the Princeton Review Book and it seemed to help me (with at least two sections). The verbal is the part I did not do well on, so I learned 300 vocabulary words in 3 weeks with Kaplan vocabulary box and it improved my score I think around 70 points so I would also suggest this, although maybe not to learn in 3 weeks : ) Also some schools (like mine) will take your best score from each section to make one awesome score. I did love this part!

Observation Hours –

I observed in an inpatient acute care and outpatient. I’m sure it depends on which school you apply to how important the number of hours are, but I think for my school they were more concerned in the number of areas you have observed vs the number of hours you spent there. Which really makes sense because, sure, you could spend 100 hours in acute care, but that is such a small part of OT because OT is so broad with so many practice areas. My advice would be to get the number of hours you need, but instead of trying to get an extremely high number of hours, complete observations in more settings. This is one thing I wish I had done before applying to school because there are so many neat things I have not seen! But be aware of the minimum number of hours you need in each setting. For example, my school required 40 hours with at least two different places, but you had to spend at least 10 hours in each place.
Don’t be afraid to ask questions when you are observing even if you really don’t know what is going on. The therapists you observe usually have to fill out a report about your performance/ interest in the profession, so don’t hold back on questions you have, but don’t badger incessantly (like that GRE vocab word?) either! The therapists I shadowed would always take a few minutes to explain what he/she did after seeing the patient and asked if I had any questions… which I usually did.

Admissions Essay –

I believe most schools have at least some format for what they want you to write about. My school did not have an interview, so I really tried to display my personality and interest in OT through the essay. I tried to convey my love for this creative and innovative profession and why I think I would be perfect for it. Sure writing about helping people is great, because it is at the core of what OT’s do, but add a little spice. Write about how this particular profession differs and why you want to be a part of it. On the first day of class every person had to go around and say why they wanted to be an OT. Many of my classmate’s explanations were similar. We all felt driven to this profession because it is so unique. Let your passion run through you and onto the page!

Sunday, August 7, 2011

OT Student Survival Guide to Gross Anatomy

Ok.. I have been a very very very bad blogger. I only managed to do 3 weak posts this summer about anatomy and my only excuse is that it was one rough class. My schools anatomy class was very involved. I was in class or studying most every day this summer and the little time I was not I really wanted to get away from talking about it/ thinking about it to give myself a mental break. I have periodically logged on and seen that lots of people have been viewing my old posts and I have several e-mails I have yet to answer (sorry) so I know people are still interested in spite of my absence. I have decided to put together a post from my experience with gross anatomy tips/ surviving gross anatomy/ learning the most you can while still trying to stay sane during gross anatomy so I hope this at least can be of some use to people.

My schools program was a 9 week intense summer semester gross anatomy course that included lecture and a cadaver lab. I did well in the course and felt like I learned all of the material. There were some things I did that I liked and some things I wish I had done differently.

Before the class…



This is a class where you can really order cheap books if you want to. I made the mistake of ordering a new edition atlas thinking it would go along with our new edition dissector and it did not go any better than any other atlas! An atlas is and atlas is an atlas. They all have good and bad qualities. My lab partner ordered an old edition and only paid like $5 for it. These things are going to get some degree of messy being in the lab so my advice would be to order and cheaper one. In addition to the regular atlas I was told of an atlas that contains actual pictures of cadavers and I found this book extremely useful. It was not recommended for our class because our instructor said it really helps to learn by studying the 2D pictures in the atlas and finding them on the 3D cadaver which I completely agree with especially when learning where arteries and veins and nerves are coming from or going to… but I still think this book really helped me in the beginning to get a better idea of what some of these structures should look like on a cadaver vs the blue, red, and yellow pictures in the atlas. So… with a word of caution and suggestion to not use this as an atlas substitute but instead supplement, a book I would recommend is Color Atlas of Anatomy: A Photographic Study of the Human Body by Rohen, L├╝tjen-Drecoll, and Yokochi.
My first idea was to make copies of the atlas pictures that were applicable to the lab so I would not get my book completely covered, but this was wasteful, time consuming, and not beneficial enough. I quickly decided to bring both my atlases and dissector to lab each day and either wipe off my gloves when looking through them or just get a new pair… this worked so much better. I was glad to have the full book in lab so I could look at several different pictures and I am glad that they are not filthy so I can use them as references in the future.

Dissector -

The dissector is absolutely necessary so my advice would be to order whichever one your course instructor suggests as this contains the instructions for the actual dissections.

Lecture Textbook -

I feel like this could vary so much. So I will just say my experience which is very different from some of my classmates. I started out reading every little detail and I found it was confusing me more than it was helping me. Our instructors provided almost every detail that we needed to know in lecture… I have two 2 inch binders full of notes. I used the book to supplement what I did not understand, to read the clinical correlations, and occasionally to study the pictures.

Other Supplies -

You will probably need scrubs, old shoes, lab coat or plastic apron, gloves, and a dissection kit. If you do not own scrubs and a lab coat a great place to look is thrift stores. You are probably going to be throwing these things away at the end of the semester so why pay $40 for a pair of scrubs when you can pay $6? I choose the lab coat over the plastic apron because the lab is very very cold to keep the bodies preserved. You will need a ton of gloves… I used over 300. You can buy the really cheap ones, but your hands will smell disgusting. I am allergic to latex to I got the vinyl ones… I would go with the better quality gloves for this particular lab. Dissections kits do not include scalpel blades and I used around 20 blades during the semester… they dull very fast especially when skinning.

During the Class…


My instructor told us on the first day the most useful piece of information she gave us all semester: “Study every day.” Nine weeks is a very short time in the big scheme of things so my advice would be to completely commit yourself to this if you want to get the most out of it. Sure you have to go to big life events like your best friend’s Sunday night, out of state wedding the weekend before the first test, but you don’t have to do everything. You can wait to take that beach vacation weekend, you don’t have to go out every single weekend, etc, etc. Our class was Monday-Thursday from 8-12 with a one our lecture and 3 hour lab. We also had a second class on Tuesdays and Thursday from 1-4. I studied 2-4 hours pretty much every weekday. My daily goal was to review the previous lecture and really study the lecture from that day each afternoon. On the weekends I would study all of the lectures from that week again (very time consuming) and usually one day I would go into the lab to review the cadaver structures. I tried to read the dissector as best I could before each lab, but sometimes they were too complicated and it was best to read them during lab. I also started out finding each structure in the atlases before lab, but again found this working better during lab. I know people that studied way more than me and practically lived in the lab, and I know people who never went to the lab extra times and studied the week before the tests. Everyone learns differently and at a different pace. I found the way that worked best for me so that I could truly retain the material.

Notecards, Lists, Etc. -


What helped me the most when learning muscles was to make notecards that contained

A: Action
O: Origin – also called proximal attachment
I: Insertion – also called distal attachment
N: Innervation

I just had to keep my O’s and I’s straight because our test questions were not formatted as “what is this muscles origin?” but instead they were formatted as “what is this muscles proximal attachment?”

It may have been easier to do P and D or PA and DA, but I always said O and I so it was just easier for me.

The notecards were a great way to easily test myself on all of the properties of a muscle without looking it a book. It helped me learn them by writing them out and they were easy to flip through if I felt like I needed a little extra studying without reading through the notes again.

I also sometimes made a list or word document of specific points of attachment. This was very useful especially for the block on the lower limb as there are so many ways to ask questions “like all of the following muscles attach on the greater trochanter except _____?” or “what is the only muscle that attaches to the lesser trochanter?” And I would use this list while studying the bones in lab so that as I viewed boney features I could study what attached to them.


Some nerves that innervate only one muscle are just plain easy to learn. Others innervate tons of muscles and they can be hard to keep track of. I would sometimes make notecards or lists of nerves and write every muscle they innervated on the back. It is also good to learn exceptions like the tibial part of the sciatic nerve innervates all of the hamstring muscles except short head biceps femoris which is innervated by the fibular(peroneal) part. Learn the short head of the biceps and you know all the rest!
Also… learn them in lab… where are they coming from where are they going?

Arteries and Veins –

Again… where are the coming from and where are they are going? Find them in lab and trace them out… you will learn them better that way than you will ever learn them in the book and then it will be easy to see what muscles they supply etc etc.

General Suggestions…

Allow yourself to be overwhelmed sometimes!
This is a really rough class, you are learning tons of material, and you are cutting up dead people every day… it is a lot to handle. If you are feeling overwhelmed and that this is just bigger than you then I say let yourself… for a short period of time that is. In the beginning I would get so frustrated trying to read the book look at the atlases beforehand and sometimes I just felt like it was way too much to take in… well it was too much to take in all at once. So I would often stop and just let myself be overwhelmed for say 30 minutes. I would then pull myself together and set a realistic goal for the day. It can be rough in the beginning, but I promise it gets so much easier as you go along. You can’t learn everything at once and it is really important to set realistic study goals each day.

Don’t quit!

About mid-way it was hard to come home and force myself to study every single day. Especially because it rained every single day here in New Orleans this summer and I had to fight the urge to get under the covers and sleep every single afternoon. Find ways to stay motivated. Find healthy outlets during your break. For me it was ok… if I study today I get to go to my favorite yoga class tonight. Sometimes it was less physically healthy and more mentally healthy… ok.. if I study this afternoon I’m ordering pizza (yes, I reward myself with food and I know this is probably damaging yadda yadda yadda but I don’t care I absolutely LOVE food.) Take breaks and find ways to enjoy yourself in spite of being crazy busy.

Most Importantly!!!!

Get as much as you can out of the class as you can! You will be so thankful you did. While doing well on the tests and making grades that will allow you to stay in OT school are important, learning the material for yourself so much more important. This is information you will be using for the rest of your life to treat your patients. If you are having trouble with the material, concentrate on what you need most. I know everything we learned was important, but sometimes I would try to focus on what I understood and what I thought I needed the most. For example, yes, learning every muscle of face, mouth, larynx etc is very important… but as an OT I would mainly be concerned with muscles of mastication, swallowing etc. so I would try to focus on what I could get out of the material when it was improbable to learn every single detail. If you are interested in being an occupational therapists chances are you are very interested in serving others. When I would get really frustrated I would often think about the future people I could be helping by learning this material. This personally helped me because sometimes I would think well I just don’t care much about UG system, but then I would think well.. my patient that is incontinent and doesn’t know why just might. When I was a swim instructor the coach would always tell me there is no greater purpose than to serve others. This stuck with me and maybe some people think its cheesy or whatever, but for me it often puts things in perspective. I am doing this for myself because I want to be an OT… but I want to be an OT so that I can serve others.


HAVE FUN! No, I did not enjoy myself every single day, but I did try to have fun with when I could. It is just plain cool to see and hold a human brain for the first time. It can be invigorating to saw off a leg. It can be exciting to come up with an alternate death plot for your cadaver when you discover something crazy about their body or occupation.


Be appreciative… while it is fun/funny to saw off legs and speculate about your cadaver it is important to remember they were real people who gave you a great gift. Most of the semester you try to distance yourself from the fact they were human, but it is important to remember that they were people with lives and families etc. I am getting dangerously close to quoting a speech a few students said at our memorial service, but I think it is so important and so true to remember you can have fun and laugh, but still take the time to appreciate this amazing gift someone has given you.

This is all the advice I can currently think of to give future OT students taking gross anatomy… I hope that it is descriptive enough and will be of some use!!! As always if there are any other questions in the near or distant future about anatomy or anything else OT school related please feel free to e-mail me msand299@gmail.com. Even if it takes me awhile, I always respond!