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October is Occupational Therapy Month

In Canada, October is OT month. I appreciate the alliteration. I also deeply appreciate this profession and the meaning that it has brought to my life. I have been connected with so many interesting, passionate, thoughtful and exceptional individuals throughout my career. I’ve valued getting to know the people I’ve worked with, and for the vulnerability, humour and kindness they’ve brought to our work together. I’ve seen people do hard things, experience numerous setbacks and develop resilience. Being connected to people through their darkness and light is a privilege that’s difficult to describe.

My own personal journey towards occupational therapy was not a straight path. In my mid-20s I was working in administration, and although aspects of the work were interesting it wasn’t something I imagined doing long-term. I reflected on the subjects I enjoyed in high school and my personal interests, and decided that going back to school to become a Physiotherapist would be a good fit (I had no idea that OT existed at the time). I entered the kinesiology program at UBC and was steadily making my way through my degree when I became aware of occupational therapy. Initially, I wasn’t that interested after an OT described it as being a ‘jack of all trades and master of none’. To my ears this sounded vague, and lacked the specificity of knowledge I was seeking. Also at that time, most of my peers were gearing towards a masters in physiotherapy, which seemed like a natural progression from kinesiology. However, in my fourth year I had a couple of professors that I really admired recommend that I apply for the occupational therapy program at UBC. I decided to take the leap and applied for the program. I was offered an interview and spent a lot of time preparing by reading websites, articles and talking to OTs. The interview went well and I was offered a spot in the competitive program of 54 people. At the time I felt excited, but still had no idea what was in store for me. I began the program at age 30, and was happy to find that there were many other students around my age, with a handful of people seeking a second career in their 40s and 50s. I learned so much in those two years about how to view access to healthcare from a sociopolitical perspective, the importance of having an Occupational Therapist involved in someone’s care or rehabilitation, how to be a human being. I experienced some heart-breaking moments during my practicums, gracious lessons from my preceptors, and a whole lot of growth. I began to understand why my professors had recommended this profession for me. The profession tasks us with making a human connection in order to move forward with treatment, expects high degrees of professional integrity, regular problem solving and never-ending opportunities for learning. It was a perfect fit.

Since graduating, I’ve continued my passion for learning and growth. OTs are taught to foster a reflective practice, one in which we consider how each client or patient interaction went and if there is something we could improve upon. With years of practice this now comes naturally, and I hope this has fostered the connections I have with clients. Even so, I’ve had moments where I question my abilities, and at one point even considered leaving the profession. I’m glad I chose to stay, and to find an area where I can connect with my passion in order to support others find theirs. This is a profession that teaches, humbles, connects and inspires in so many ways.

Ultimately, I’m grateful for the experiences I’ve been afforded and the people I’ve met. All that is left to say is thank you, thank you, thank you.

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