Thursday, September 29, 2011

Nola Homes

I forgot to mention in my post about home evals why doing a home eval in New Orleans was particularly interesting! Our homes in New Orleans are in general, very, very old! Apartment buildings in the actual city of New Orleans are next to non-existent, so most people who rent (and many who do not) live in a double, or more particularly, a shot-gun double… which happens to be the style house I evaled. Even though many houses were completely remodeled after (Hurricane) Katrina, their same structural design is usually intact and not very accessible. In addition to our old homes, we also have beautiful oak trees whose roots completely destroy our sidewalks and driveways. So while these aspects of New Orleans culture are aesthetically pleasing, they can be a huge barrier to mobility and independent living!

I believe one of our instructors was actively involved in trying to raise awareness about remodeling homes to be more universally designed since tons of homes were being remodeled after the storm anyway. It is too bad more people did not think of this! What an awesome idea that probably would have saved tons of money for people in the future! We also had another OT as a guest lecturer who talked to us in the spring that was interested in building new homes that are universally designed so that people can age in place in their homes without having it remodeled… again what a concept! It sounds so simple (to someone with an OT mind), but it is apparently very complex to convince people that this is necessary!

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

First Fieldwork Coming Up!

I have noticed my recent blog posts (before and during my blog spree tonight) have been overwhelmingly positive, and while I would like to say this is how I feel 100% of the time, as of late it is not! I LOVE OT school, but this past week has been a breaking point for me. I am at the point where I am super tired and a little burned out since I don’t think I ever fully recovered from anatomy this summer. We have lots of group work, presentations, and neuro tests to study for and I am more than ready for a break from the classroom….which I will get in T-Minus 10 days! (Back to the positive attitude with the “!!!”) Our very first level 1 fieldwork is the second week in October and I cannot wait! Don’t think I am allowed/ should post my location, but I will try to write about the experience the best I can when the time comes!

Stroke and Jan Davis

We had a lecture on stroke and lots of reading assignments from a stroke rehab book lately which I have enjoyed! Ever since I read “My Stroke of Insight” a few weeks(?) ago, I have been really interested in learning about stroke. And since I knew absolutely nothing about it, I am like a sponge trying to soak it all up! We watched a long video in class the other day by Jan Davis that I believe was actually meant to be a continuing ed video and it was really great! I loved actually seeing an OT treat a client instead of just reading about it or seeing pictures. I like learning this way… it is the next best thing to learning in person. We have two more lecture left on stroke so will post more if anything else happens that is interesting!

I looked up Jan Davis on my own and found a website with information about her, therapy tips, videos and more!

Home Eval Assignment

We did a home evaluation for my measurement and eval class a few weeks ago which was really a lot of fun! We got to do it in a group and we had to complete 3 assessments and write a paper describing the environmental supports, barriers, suggested modifications, and resources. We came up with a fictional client before and evaluated the house based on her needs. I thought it was so neat and definitely had fantasies being an OT home mod crasher on DIY like the bath crasher and yard crasher shows!! : ) I love being a dork!

New Blogging Style!!

I have noticed that I put off writing blogs because it takes me forever to compile everything that has been going on and then I write a really really long post that probably gets annoying to read. So… I am going to try a new approach and write short little post here and there and maybe some long ones when necessary. As I have been accumulating things I want to write about I am about to go on a blogging spree and post several things of interest that have been going on in OT school!

Sunday, September 18, 2011

SCI Lectures and Lab

Over the past two weeks we have had a lecture/lab series on spinal cord injury (SCI). It was great! We are very blessed at my school to have a diverse set of instructors with varying interests/specialties/ areas of expertise. One of our part time instructors is very interested and has a lot of experience working with the SCI population so she taught this series and she was fabulous! Our first lecture was an overview of the basics: SCI classification, what still works at which level/ what functional outcomes to expect at each level, and potential medical problems. One of the things I like about this instructor is that she really tries to integrate students in the learning process so instead of just presenting all the medical complications she assigned groups to each condition and had us make our own presentation and then she filled in the gaps. The second lecture was about evaluation, intervention, and expected outcomes. I particularly liked the intervention part because it is so neat to learn about what OT’s actually do with clients! We get so much background information, which is great and absolutely necessary, but when we learn about interventions I get really excited because that is the fun part after all right? We also watched a video on rolling which was admittedly a bit dated, but still very important and informative. It was so interesting to learn that it can take 6 months or even longer to learn a basic skill like rolling. I could not even begin to imagine the frustration of trying to learn to roll for 6 months straight! It is so important because it is the precursor for dressing and transfers which basically unlocks a whole new level of independence for people with SCI, but I literally could not even imagine what it would be like to actually do this.

Instead of having a test or quiz on this info, our instructor had us do our lab as a quiz which I loved! It is such a practical, hands on way to learn, and I feel like this is the best type. One thing that I love about OT classes (at least at my school) is that the main focus is often not on tests that require you to regurgitate information. Yes, we still have tests and quizzes; however, they are usually not the main focus and instead there are usually just as many assignments that count for grades too. There is much less stress on trying to achieve a specific grade and more on learning the information for your own benefit. I love this!!! So while I did read the books, pay attention to the lectures, and look over them after the class, I do not have to worry about spouting off all of the characteristics of a C5 SCI. Instead, I learned the generals and have a wealth of more specific resources I can use when I have to treat a client with that condition for the first time. This is one thing I truly love about OT school that I think is probably different from other disciplines. I definitely get more out of learning for myself vs learning to make a good grade on the test.

Anyway… back to the lab. We had different stations that each had a specific question we had to answer. Two of the stations were designated to trying to figure out the level of injury of our guest clients. One of the clients had quadriplegia and one had paraplegia. It was so interesting trying to figure out their levels! It really provided a hands on experience as to what you would do to assess your client. Like I said, we have gotten so much background info… we have (some of) the knowledge but we have not had a chance to put it to the test and use it! I think any experience like this is invaluable and I am very grateful for it!!!! Keep in mind (for those of you who have not read my blog a lot) I am only in my 3rd semester of school so I have not even gone on a level 1 fieldwork yet (which is next month by the way) so it is perfectly ok and normal that I have not gotten any client interaction. My school does a very good job of having labs and practicals for things like manual muscle testing, transfers, etc., but it is just not the same as working with a real client so to have people come in with the actual condition we were learning about was amazing! Our two guest also explained a little bit about themselves, their injury, their rehabilitation and recovery, and let us ask questions. The client with quadriplegia had a wheelchair I’ve never seen before. It had a mechanism where it could be turned into a standing frame. I absolutely loved this!!! As mentioned in previous blog posts, I was a personal care attendant to a young guy with an SCI last fall. He had regular standing frame and it was great but clunky and hard to transfer to and set up and then once he got in I could only push him a few inches to get him set up in front of the computer so he could work. Having a standing frame built into his wheelchair would have been, in a word, awesome! He could have stood anywhere and much more often!! Both of our guest were incredibly interesting and so nice to volunteer their time to come help us learn! Learning from the source is definitely the way to go! I really need to do a post on the difference between learning about SCI from a person with an SCI and learning about SCI from a textbook, but I feel like this is something I will have to do when I have more free time… maybe on break. I feel like I need a lot of attention and thought to write a post like that efficiently and gracefully and it will take some time. I also should write a post on my experience working as a PCA… why have I not done this? Back to the lab… again… We also had stations set up with various adaptive equipment such as writing and feeding utensils. There was also a station for transfers with a sliding board and even one where we got to paint using our mouths. We also had stations where we had to look up local resources for people with SCI and watch videos and reflect on individual stories. It was a really great lab and I am so thankful for an experience like this.

I have some pictures from the lab posted below. Our teachers were taking pictures as we went so I wanted to share a few. I made sure to run it by the instructors, students, and one of our clients before posting anything so rest assured I have permission : )

I also have a few resources related to SCI for those that are interested in it

I wrote a blog post about this one a while back. It’s a site and blog run by a young woman with an SCI. She has great blog posts and cool podcasts with things like how to put on make-up without hand function. She was my hero for about 2 weeks last fall. I spent hours and hours and hours looking at her site and read almost all her blog posts (this was when I had MUCH more free time.) She is witty and sassy and writes about all things related to life in a wheelchair from serious medical problems to dating and fashion tips. I hope you enjoy!

Another site I do not think I have mentioned before is a site for a facility that is based on SCI recovery and not rehabilitation. Philip (the guy I worked for as a PCA) knows the girl who started it which is why I know about it. Truly amazing stuff in my opinion! I believe many clients get stem cell surgery and all of the clients engage in daily rigorous physical activity and exercise aimed at making drastic functional gains. I have not looked at the site in detail in quite a while (again much less free time) and when I did look it up it seems to have changed quite a bit but still I think it is very, very interesting. There are clients on there that were diagnosed with really high, complete SCIs and are doing crazy things like walking and riding stationary bikes, boxing, weight lifting, yoga, and more. Check it out and I hope you enjoy!

Our guest client "C" answering questions for one group of students

"C's" service dog was so cute : )

Me, awkwardly posing with an adapted spoon while OT student "J#2" admires me

OT students "J#1" and "K#1" discussing a transfer with a sliding board

OT student "D" painting with her mouth

OT students "K#2" and "A" usnig an adaptive writing utensil

OT Student "J#3" also painting with her mouth

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

I love being an OT Student!

I make it a habit of asking my boyfriend how his day was and what he did each day when I see him in the evenings. He usually asks me in return and I get to say things like “It was great. I colored a picture of my occupational profile. I drew you and your curly hair and beard and I drew Ellie and her spots and I drew a picture of the dog park since that is my second home… oh and I studied neuroscience too.” Only in OT school would you go from learning the intricate details of the spinal cord to coloring/ drawing stick figures all in one day. I love it!!

The last few weeks have been… you guessed it… busy!

One of my favorite things we have done lately is a lecture and lab on transfers. We had a wonderful PT give those lectures and they were a lot of fun and really informative. I learned what I was personally doing wrong on transfers that I have performed before and learned the basics for transferring other patients/ populations that I have never had experience with. Unfortunately we only had 2 class times (6 hours) set aside for this and I really felt like we could benefit from a lot more information. I am sure we will cover this subject in more detail in later classes, but I wanted to use this as an example of one way to really exceed/ get the most out of OT school. There is literally so much information to be covered in such a short amount of time during OT school that I feel on some subjects we will barely scratch the surface. And really OT school in general barely scratches the surface of the education you need for a lifelong career in the medical field. You really have to take your education in your own hands to get the most out of it and become a lifelong learner. I am passionate about this because I think that everyone in the medical field has a responsibility to their patients/clients to provide optimal care and lifelong learning is the only way to do this. So in short, while I could just bumble through the lectures, quizzes, etc and try to pass, I am really trying to put forth an effort to do outside learning on my own by reading all of the assigned readings, looking over my notes after lectures, and looking up things on my own that I am interested in. While saying this I also realize that it is nearly impossible to do this for each subject/topic and while I may not read every single little detail about standardized assessments, I do try and at least skim over the readings so that I can have a reference when I need it.

Stepping of my soap box now… and on to the next interesting thing

For one of my classes (not sure which one) we are going to be reading “My Stroke of Insight” by Jill Bolte Taylor Ph. D. I wanted to get ahead of the game and I thought it sounded interesting, so I read it over the holiday weekend. IT WAS AMAZING!!!! You should read this right now.. go buy it order it on your kindle whatever your means of reading you need to read it and read it now!! It is about a woman who is a neuroscientist and has a stoke that impairs the left side of her brain. She describes in detail what it was like the morning of her stroke and the acute phase and then gives an overview of her full recovery which took 8 years. I was really drawn to this book because Jill, the stroke survivor and author, is a natural yogi. I’m not sure if she practices or not, but all of her philosophy about finding inner peace and being one with the universe etc etc is deeply rooted in yogic philosophy that I have heard over and over in my yoga classes. One particular part I loved that I will share was when she talked about being in the hospital in the acute phases when she still could not speak or interpret language. She described every person as having an energy. Some people were energy suckers and some people gave her energy. The medical professionals that came in extremely stressed, anxious, loud and demanding zapped her energy and so she would no longer respond to them. The ones that came in and were quiet, addressed her personally, and maybe even touched affectionately by putting their hand on her arm gave her energy so she learned to respond to them. I have always believed we are very energetic beings and I think it is ever so important for people in the medical field to be aware of how they are approach/ respond to people in delicate states. I was also drawn to it because her mother and rehabilitator was a natural OT if there ever was one. It says in this book, that this woman, who had to relearn almost everything, did not qualify for OT. She couldn’t stack dishes for a year, she couldn’t read, she had no concept of money etc etc and she did not qualify for OT. I was shocked. Luckily her mother, G.G., was a very naturally gifted OT and worked with her every waking moment for months. I loved this book because it is so informative and inspiring. I do not know much about stroke yet, but after reading this I am very, very eager to learn.

We also watched an awesome movie called King Gimp about a young guy with CP. He was videoed for around 13 years of his life and he helped make this film. It was also amazing!! He was able to graduate from college and become an artist. He painted by squatting on the floor and using a head device to hold the paint brush. Afterward, we had to answer questions and one of the questions was what roles might he never be able to fulfill. Immediately after watching this guy who struggled against all odds and graduated from college with an art degree that could paint better than probably 90% of the population with fully functional digits, I felt I was in no position to limit what roles he could and could not fulfill. Obviously, I am way to optimistic, I lack clinical experience, and ok… I way overthink questions/situations all the time!!! Sure, if I had thought about it I could probably have said well he may never meet a girl, fall in love, and have babies… but then again that may not happen for someone without CP. He won’t be a star athlete or a piano player and he may not be able to drive a car. But for every situation I thought of I could not help but think this determined guy would/could find a way to fulfill roles if he really wanted to. He might not find a girl, but like I said that is not a guarantee for anyone. He might not be able to drive, but he could fulfill the role of being mobile in the community another way. He might not be in the NBA, but aren’t there special leagues for wheelchair basketball? Again, I know this was not the point of the question, but I really do not like to set limits on people. I mean what would have happened to him if someone had said well obviously you can’t be a painter? I mean that probably would have been on my practical list had I not seen him do it. While I understand realistic goals are important, and you cannot give false hope to patients/clients who have wild expectations that are unrealistic to their condition, I really like to focus on what roles people can still fulfill even if they are in a different, non-tradition way.

Well, that is enough random bumbling topics for one blog post. Tomorrow we are getting lectures on SCI. I read the chapters tonight and I felt like I really retained a good bit of the information since I have been lucky enough to already have hands on experience working with an individual who has a SCI. I am excited because I am very interested in this topic so I’m sure I will find the time to write a post on it!

PS - I am using this blog for my leadership project this semester and hopefully the entire time I am in school. This should give me motivation to post more often which I am really trying/wanting to do!