What It Means To Be an OT!

Posted on April 26th, 2013 by Denise | No Comments

What It Means To Be an OT!

 (In honor of OT Month)


Denise Koonce OTR

I was recently cleaning out the closets in my home when I came across a shoe box that had been shoved to the back of a high shelf.  Forgetting what it contained, I opened it up to a wonderful surprise.  The shoe box contained tidbits of memories from over 20 years as an occupational therapist.  There were newspaper clippings, photos, thank you cards, notes, letters, and handmade trinkets, all with precious memories attached.  The power of all those memories flooding back was a little overwhelming and caused me to laugh and cry all at the same time.  I sat and wondered where these individuals were, where life’s road had taken them and how they were doing.  Growing up, I had not intended on becoming an occupational therapist (OT) nor did I even know what an OT was.  It was my dream to become an equestrian veterinarian.  The idea of becoming a veterinarian determined many of my decisions in high school as well as which university I would attend.  But something wasn’t quite right, the dream I had envisioned for so many years was changing, the little voice deep inside me was restless.  That is when I was introduced to occupational therapy.  It wasn’t long after observing an OT that my degree plan changed and I started down a new path. 

 Since that time, I have had the honor and privilege of working with Colonels, Generals and men who marched on Normandy.  I have treated young football players injured on the field who could no longer walk and premature infants so small they could almost fit in the palm of one hand.  I have listened to the stories of a centenarian great grandmother while she described her life in the late 1800’s.  I have watched numerous children do something for the very first time and as a result my body would breakout in full chill bumps. I have observed their triumphs, losses, graduations and at times attended their unexpected funerals.   I have been blessed time and time again in my life because of the profession I choose and due to the little voice inside that said “What about OT?”

April is National OT Month and there is sufficient information floating over the internet and elsewhere, as to the role of an occupational therapist, what we provide, who we treat and what we do.  So in honor of OT month, I wanted to provide a slightly different perspective and speak to what we receive.  I believe my job as an occupational therapist has been immensely rewarding and that I have received so much more over the years from the individuals I have treated than I provided.  I have been inspired by those whom I was there to help.  In the role as therapist, it is my job to help the patient achieve a greater independence and in order to do so; it must be accompanied by a good dose of inspiration.  However, many times I am the one who leaves the therapy session receiving the bulk of inspiration because of the spirit I have observed in those I am there to serve. 

When I first began working for Reach Therapy Center (The Care Group) we had only 3 OT’s, now almost 20 years later we have over 40 OTs.  I have asked some of them to share their thoughts about what it means to be an OT:

“It means I have the privilege of making a difference in the world by helping a child live a more functional and meaningful life every day I go to work.” —Evelyn

“OT: it means to be an advocate, an encourager, a supporter, a teacher, a facilitator, a listening ear, a mentor, a giver, a teammate, a helper. It’s an opportunity to change and to provide our kids and families the chance to live life to the fullest.” —Marcie

“At the end of the days I will not have to sit in my rocking chair and wonder if I made a difference.” —Ruth

“For me OT means making people smile, playing with kids, and feeling pride in what I do.  Because I was blessed to be able to be an Occupational Therapist I have had the chance to help so many families and become part of people’s lives that would have never been possible.  I don’t know many other jobs where you would get excited to go to work.  A few weeks ago I got to meet a family with a new baby with Down Syndrome who needed some help.  I was literally smiling and excited driving to the house; at times it doesn’t feel like a job at all.”—Tara

“To me, being an OT means that I get to help a child just be a normal kid.  Imagine if you grew up unable to play with your friends, or imagine if you couldn’t get dressed every day!  How would you be able to do anything else in the day without getting dressed first?  How frustrating would that be?!  We take a lot of easy things for granted and it is those important parts of every day that I feel being an OT is all about.  Everyone wants to be independent and as an OT I get to help kids achieve that powerful feeling of being able to do things themselves just like everyone else.”—Lauren

“It means helping people live their lives easier like I get to live mine every day.”—Lacy

“It means I get to play at work!  I get to help kids play, which is their occupation, so that they are participating in their lives.”(Rachel said this as she hid a toy under a towel for a little guy to find.) —Rachel

Being an OT means loving what you do…OTs make a difference.  OTs are passionate, compassionate, patient, deliberate, flexible, creative, confidence builders, dream creators, joy finders.  OTs ROCK! —Beth

Becoming an occupational therapist has enriched my life in ways I had never expected or thought possible but I am eternally grateful that I choose the path I did.  To all of the occupational therapists, “Thank you for your commitment in life to become an OT and for the positive indelible differences you help produce in the lives of those we treat!”   Please join us in saying thank you and recognizing National OT Month!

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