23rd MAY 2012 was indeed a special day for my fellow classmates and I. We were conferred the Diploma in Occupational Therapy.
This 3-year course has been a roller coaster ride… but one that I daresay presented me with some of the best times of my life. Back in 2009, I was a wide-eyed teenager just fresh out of the GCE A’Levels. Now 4 years later I have become, what I hope to be, a competent healthcare professional.
Anatomy and Physiology were never my forte, so I remembered struggling in my foundation year. But of course, the teaching staff made the learning process more tolerable and applicable. The behavioural sciences on the other hand were a joy: Psychology, Sociology and Counselling. Best of both worlds.
Nonetheless it was the integration of these foundational modules into the Occupational Therapy theory and process that was most crucial. And I found myself appreciating bits of those basic elements when in clinical reasoning discussions or during internships. Occupational Therapy classes have always been experiential – from lab sessions of hand splinting and transfer techniques, to lifestyle redesign classes of cooking healthy meals, to aqua therapy in the pool, and gardening or yoga as leisure activities. Always on the go, always learning something value-added. Then there were the critical parts – lab analysis reports, literature reviews, vivas, program planning, final year research paper. And the philosophical part during lessons on OT models of practice. I loved every moment of it all. It was not just the content, but also the method of delivery. We had lecturers in the course who made the most awesome of mentors! And surrounding it all, I met a supportive and fun-loving bunch of people called friends.
As an Occupational Therapy student, I had undergone many opportunities in problem-based learning (PBL) in school, as well as 6 rounds of internships. Bottomline is that in every of these experiences, I have come across new people and new working styles. Be it with my fellow classmates, future colleagues or senior professionals. As such, the course not only taught me skills like critical thinking, scientific reasoning and creativity. But also just as importantly, interpersonal skills and professionalism. I always believe that the most competent OT is one who is not only good with his clinical skills, but also in how he relates to his colleagues and patients.
Which is why I feel I had so much to gain from the course.
Once I was a teenager who would get easily irritated, impatient and quick to judge others. Yet as the years pass, I find myself mellowing down. ‘Me’ was no longer important. What was crucial was as my lecturer aptly puts it: “To become a useful member of society”. In other words, what I can do to contribute to society and community at large. And as I grew older, emotions were more easily managed. How so? By becoming more aware that my thinking can control my emotions. The theory of metacognition, or simply “thinking about thinking”.
These 2 pointers were major takeaways from my years of study as I went through a journey of growing, developing and self-reflection. The first: By having a purpose in wanting to be someone useful in society, I strive to want to be a competent OT. Competence, in my opinion, means having the expertise to bring about good to others. Bringing about value to my patients either by improvements in their rehabilitation or simply satisfaction via my personal interactions with them. The work with my patients may not seem significant by and by at large, but it is about those good work bit by bit each day that makes a difference cumulatively. Secondly: Not letting my emotions get in the way of my performance. Many a time I have succumb to feelings of nervousness, annoyance or lethargy during internships. So pre-occupied with how I felt that I forgot to focus on the real-time situation. Being aware of my inner processes allow me to control my emotions and hence approach adversity with objectivity instead. This hence provides a greater window of learning opportunities, facilitating me in developing other skill sets like active listening.
As such, I believe the journey has made me become a better person by applying the same lessons to life – becoming a better daughter, a better friend, a better sister and a better girlfriend as compared to when I first started out as a student.
Reminded me of a promotional video I was once interviewed in. Hmm…
All in all, it’s great to know the sentiments of pursuing a profession as an Occupational Therapist ring the same with my classmates as well. However while sentiments may be similar, the path we each take on post-graduation may differ. Which leaves me to think: What kind of Occupational Therapist would I become? In the words of a clinical educator I once crossed paths with…
Yes, I will be the best Occupational Therapist I want to be.