Spend a day in the life of an OT student

Michelle Kidwell gets into bed every night thinking, “why do I do this?” Her question is answered every morning when she gets up at 7 a.m. to start her day.
“I am reminded in class everyday why I am doing this,” she said, despite how much work she has to do for her thirteen classes and how tired she is at the end of the day. “I am going to make someone’s life better, I am going to make my patients happier people.”
Kidwell, 20, is an occupational therapy major in her junior year, which is known to be the most difficult year.
She first became interested in occupational therapy when she came to Quinnipiac for an admissions interview and mentioned that she was interested in either physical therapy or psychology. Her interviewer suggested that she look into OT, so Kidwell went home to Vermont after her interview and took it upon herself to contact and shadow an occupational therapist. During her thirty hours of shadowing, Kidwell not only learned first hand what occupational therapy is, but also saw that it is a rewarding profession, and she knew that this was what she wanted to do.
“It was awesome and I saw all the wonderful things it did for people,” she said.
In the Encarta Online Encyclopedia occupational therapy is defined as a “rehabilitative therapy that uses the activities of everyday living to help people with physical or mental disabilities achieve maximum functioning and independence at home and in the workplace.” Kidwell described it as, “the opportunity to help people live the best life they can.”
“We don’t just treat muscles, we treat the whole person,” she explained.
Kidwell starts classes at 8 a.m. every morning, and some days she has classes straight through till four, with only an hour break to grab something to eat.
After going to classes such as anatomy, human development, pathology and frames of references, she doesn’t have much time to herself before she meets the rest of her suitemates (who are also OT majors), in the library for a study session.
Kidwell said that junior year is probably the hardest because they have early mornings with classes all day and late nights of work and studying. She said they are assigned a lot of case studies, which are complex and time consuming and they are doing a core learning of mental health this semester.
Out of all the classes OT students are required to take, Kidwell said that her favorite this semester is probably human development.
In human development right now students are learning about children, how they develop and how to test reflexes in babies to look for disorders such as cerebral palsy.
Towards the end of the semester the students get to put what they have learned to work on “baby day.” Several babies of different ages come to visit the class and the future occupational therapists have a chance to examine the children and apply the skills and terms they have learned in the classes to a real “patient.”
Many occupational therapy students agree that the most interesting class they take is the cadaver lab, which students go to Yale University for. It is where they get to see first hand what they are learning.
One of Kidwell’s suitemates Stephanie Mendes, described the lab as, “the best learning opportunity Quinnipiac University has to offer.”
“There is no better way to learn about muscles than to actually see them,” she said.
Another of Kidwell’s suitemates, Annie Accomando, said that she “was really grossed out at first,” and that it was overwhelming, but once the lab started it wasn’t bad at all and that she learned so much in that one hour and fifteen minutes.
“I never once regretted doing this,” said Accomando. “I never doubted it. I love it.”
Kidwell said that her teachers are all very experienced occupational therapists and that they have so many stories to tell that relate to what they are doing in the classroom which makes the profession sound rewarding.
The summer after junior year Kidwell and her suit-mates will find out for themselves what the job is like when they are required to do a full time occupational therapy internship.