Over 45 courses in my undergraduate and graduate school career have prepared me for my first day of fieldwork. Hundreds of tests, quizzes, and assignments were completed, all with the ultimate goal of becoming an occupational therapist (OT). Fieldwork is finally my time to put all this knowledge into practice and master the art of working with real clients. The combination of excitement and fear is almost overwhelming, but after spending four and a half years in Mizzou’s classrooms, I was more then ready to be out in the real world practicing OT.
My first day, I arrived at 6:20a.m. and was ready to go. In my 22 years of life I do not think I have ever been so awake that early in the morning. Hopefully my newfound ‘early riser’ attitude will not dissipate too quickly. I met my fieldwork educator and felt confident in getting right to work. We sat down at her desk and she gave me a 15-minute crash course on how the facility is run, what our typical day looks like, and how she operates as an instructor. I hung on every word and restrained the urge to take notes. After a quick tour around the building, we were off to see our first patient of the day.
She introduced me to our patient and spoke eloquently and calmly, explaining what she would like to accomplish and asking for the patient’s input. To be perfectly honest, this patient was a mess. He had been through traumatic health issues for quite a while now, and his health was continually deteriorating. I read about several of his health concerns in his chart, but seeing him in person was a different story. He was unpleasant, angry, unmotivated, and irrational. This was not quite what I had in mind for my first patient of the rotation, but I figured out very quickly that this was the real reason for fieldwork- this was a lesson that did not fit in the classroom. My fieldwork educator handled the situation with poise- she kept her cool, despite this patient’s ranting, yelling, and cursing. She was able to focus on why she was in the room- to work with him on self-care skills and increase his strength for functional activities. What an incredible OT. I will never forget her patience, kindness, and authentically expressed empathy in this situation.
When we concluded the session and exited the patient’s room, I was relieved and shell-shocked. Is this what my entire 12-week rotation will be like?? What have I gotten myself into! I don’t know if I will ever be as confident, poised, and composed as this incredible therapist. Luckily, this was the only difficult patient we saw all week. Whew. Every once in a while I can expect to encounter a patient who is dealing with especially difficult health problems, and I will always think of how my fieldwork educator handled that situation. I am incredibly lucky to have this fieldwork opportunity, continually challenging me to reach back into what I know and apply it to real cases. I would not trade in my difficult sessions for the more pleasant ones because I know that day-by-day I am becoming a better therapist.
For all students working towards a future medical profession- this is so worth it!! I know how difficult it can be. The hard work pays off, and one week into my first rotation I can say with confidence that this profession is 100% right for me. Do what it takes to give yourself a successful and rewarding career and you will not regret it. Despite the “difficult sessions” in your life, whether it is failing a class, an emotional breakup, or a rejection letter, do not give up. These challenges only contribute to making you stronger as a future clinician or healthcare provider.
Luckily, the School of Health Professions is dedicated to the success of students. Meet with a career advisor to make sure you are on the right path to a successful career!
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