Enjoy the day-to-day adventures of an Occupational Therapist in training!

Posts tagged ‘intern’

Perpetual Student Status

Today and yesterday (6/9 and 6/10) were filled with observation and learning! A friend of mine sent me a text yesterday asking how my summer break was going. I giggled to myself and responded, Summer Break? I feel like I’m back in school, but rather than sitting at a desk taking notes and doing homework, I am right in the middle of all the OT action!

Today I found out that I will be working all day, everyday in order to maximize my learning opportunities over the next 6 weeks. I will be assisting with kids at least 3 days a week, taking pictures and videos, and being an extra set of hands. Lara (my boss) wants me to be exposed to as much as possible during my time with her… bring it on! So not only will I be helping out, but I will also be observing others, as well! She is also encouraging me to take notes, ask questions, and make connections as I work each day. I am absolutely overwhelmed by how much support and encouragement she has already given me… and it’s day 2! Since this internship is much different than what I experienced with Dream Riders, I am looking forward to expanding my knowledge base and building my technique arsenal. At Dream Riders, I was primarily working with children who had cognitive/learning/ or emotional disorders rather than motor disorders which is what I am working with at the Jackson Center.

I learned how to assist the kids when they are walking, which was a pretty humbling experience. How crazy is it that I get to be a part of something that, for most of these kids, was unheard of. In other words, I am helping these kids do what some doctors said that they (the children) would probably never accomplish! I can’t wait to practice this technique tomorrow… how cool is that.. I mean seriously?!? I am going to gain knowledge and skills that most people don’t learn until they are well into graduate school!

On a more technical note, I learned, with in 30 minutes of my arrival this morning, the difference between “Low tone and High tone” when talking about muscle. Low tone looks (and feels) floppy, or very flexible… easy to move. High tone refers to stiffness. If a child has high tone he or she is very stiff and difficult to move around. Tone is not,however, the same as strength. Both high and low tone need to be adjusted by physical and occupational therapy in order to give the individual the greatest range of motion possible.  I was able to feel the difference between high and low muscle tone in the kids which helped the definitions of these terms stick in my head. Also, at the Jackson Center, there is so much shop talk being used that it helps me to remember and use new terms appropriately.

Overall, the first 2 days were amazing, tiring, rewarding, and a little stressful.. but I am hoping that the longer I am at the Jackson Center, the more I will feel like a member of the team and begin to take ownership of the information that I am being “fed.”

Zero to Sixty

There are certain perks to being a “planner”. You think you know where you’re going and what you’re going to be doing, you feel organized and accomplished, and people are always jealous of your commitment and drive when it comes to getting things done! However, this planner (me) is impatient… that’s why I’m a planner- waiting to see what happens sounds like a death sentence. I have been planning a new internship since early January of this year. ALLLLLLLLLLL of this time I have been waiting: waiting to find out if I was accepted, waiting to figure out where I was living, waiting to find out when I would be working, waiting, waiting, waiting, and more waiting. Finally, June 6th arrived and it was time for me to leave Myrtle Beach and head to Indiana. Holy cow… all of the sudden, my life went from waiting and counting down the days to driving up here, unpacking, catching up with old friends, and then starting my new internship tomorrow. I swear, my whole life seems to go from zero to sixty; waiting to full motion in a matter of hours.Never-the-less, here I am..back home again in Indiana for the next 6 weeks.

I’m not entirely sure what exactly I will be doing at this internship, but I know that I will have the opportunity to observe, interact with patients, and assist with projects that the Jackson Center has going on! The format of this internship is a summer camp type of deal with outings to different places around Indy every Wednesday. That’s all I know for now- but after my Dream Rider internship, I’m fairly confident that I can handle anything that the Jackson Center Crew can (and will) throw my way! I was amazed at how fun it was to blog about my experience last semester, so I’m going to give it a whirl again and blog about this internship! More details to come, but at the moment, I am exhausted from traveling and adjusting to my new surroundings. I love catching up with people and all but I’ve been passed around like the common cold for the past 24 hours.. what can I say, everybody wants to see me! 

 

The Danica Patrick of Farm Vehicles

Let me just say that it felt amazing to be back at the barn after a week off! Country air has never been more needed than it was Monday night! It’s hell week at Columbia College and I’m a little frazzled trying to finish my assignments on time… and then find time to study for my exams. As I’ve said before, DR offers me peace from my hectic school life, and for that I am truly grateful! For those of you who were wondering how my presentation went- it went well (But I’m super glad that it’s over!) I love what I do at DR, so that made it easier to talk about my experience. I can mark that off my bucket list- here’s to numerous more presentations during my academic career!

I actually did something new Monday afternoon. I’ve been wanting to drive the Kabota ( a farm vehicle, like a Gator) since my first day at DR but I never really did anything that was worthy of driving the Kabota. Monday, I got my chance to drive it! I had to pick up some branches that had fallen along the trail riding path and pick up some weeds and tarps that had been pulled out of the ground. Finally, a job big enough for the Kabota. Now, for those of you who don’t know me very well, I’m not the world’s best driver… especially when it comes to driving in reverse. Well, I expertly maneuvered that bad boy backwards and forwards (once I got the hang of driving it, that it!) Just call me the Danica Patrick of Kabota driving!! Finally, after all this time, I got to get behind the wheel- I’d love to say that it was super exciting… but it wasn’t really… I think I’ll stick to my Honda Fit, thanks!  I finished the task unscathed, and the Kabota was scratch free, so that’s always good! I also found out that Lou and AJ might be staying at the DR farm which made me happy! The vet came last week and suggested “Stall rest” to help speed up Lou’s tendon recovery and she gave AJ stomach ulcer medicine in hopes that he would be more calm/comfortable when he has riders on his back. I really hope that they are both able to stay, at least until the fall, so I can give them a proper goodbye!

I worked with Zach again Monday night and he was so happy to be back in the saddle! It makes me happy to see the riders happy; when they have good days that makes my day, too! He was doing a lot more talking than usual which is always welcomed! He makes certain noises when he gets excited/happy and he was making those sounds like crazy! I have really grown to love working with people who have Autism. It is such a fascinating disorder, but I can only imagine how frustrating it ca=n be for both the individual and the caregivers. I was unbelievably proud of Zach Monday night- I love that I have been able to work with him all semester so that I am able to track his progress and have the ability to differentiate between his moods/good days and bad days.  I love when he has good talking days because it makes the rest of the lesson flow much better! I think that Monday was the best day he (and our team of 3 volunteers) have had since the beginning of the year.

I also worked with another rider who has Down Syndrome, named Emma. Emma is an independent rider but she wanted someone to side walk with her since it was her first time riding Molly. Emma handled herself (and Miss Molly) very well. She is a great rider who has a great personality! She was telling me about her birthday coming up and her plans for her birthday party. Apparently, she has not 1 but 20 boyfriends who will all be attending her bowling birthday party… that sounds like a reality TV show in the works to me! The diversity among the riders has really helped me develop my language and actions in ways I didn’t think were possible. Since I work with riders who are nonverbal, semi-verbal, and highly verbal, I get to practice different strategies all in one evening! I know that I am comfortable switching between riders who are very different both in their diagnosis and in their level of abilities.  It is great practice for me-you never want to get too comfortable by working with the same disorder all the time. These experiences are invaluable to me… I finally have some concrete knowledge as to how I might function as an OT!

How Do You Like Them (Horse) Apples?

Yesterday at DR I found myself saying things that I never thought I would say at an internship site…. even though I have a nontraditional internship 🙂 Yesterday I was saying things like:

  • Scooter (the dog) please don’t eat the horse poop!
  • Poke your belly out!
  • Try not to steer your horse into a tree next time.
  • If you bite me, you’ll regret it (said to a horse, not a rider!)
  • Of course you can have different candy.
  • wow… that’s a lot of poop.

Yesterday, like any other day, was filled with chores that needed to be done before the riders got to the farm. I had to rake up hay that had blown out of the hay building (cue allergens) sweep walk ways, much stalls, and get all of the horses ready for the evening’s lessons. Nothing too difficult, just super messy! I was a hot mess by the time the riders got there! I like that the chores I do aren’t long term tasks that take forever. They are easy to accomplish, in my mind, because there is a clear end and I can actually see how much I still have left to do before I cross that task off of my to-do list. Tasks like that make me feel accomplished when I complete them because I get some serious satisfaction when I cross things off of a list! Also,I can see that what I am doing makes a difference at DR.. there is too much stuff to be done around the farm for them to give me meaningless tasks. It’s kinda funny to think about measuring my time at DR with little things like how fast I can get a horse ready for the lessons. It used to take me forever, and I mean forever, to completely get a horse ready for the night’s lessons (curry combed twice, mane and tail brushed, body brushed with soft brush, feet picked, fly sprayed and gear on); now I have it down to 10 minutes flat! Yup, I’m pretty proud of that 🙂

Last night we had an Easter Egg Hunt on horseback! It was a pretty great lesson and all of the riders seemed to enjoy themselves. They decorated paper bags (makeshift Easter baskets) and hunted for candy-filled eggs along the outside of the ring. I was working with a rider named Mary whose family doesn’t celebrate Easter, so we rode around looking for necklaces rather than Easter eggs-just as fun, right?! In all seriousness, her family believes in Jesus, just not the Easter Bunny. I wonder what her mother would have said had she known that instead of Easter Eggs, her daughter was hunting for Mardi Gras beads… just a thought! Anyway, Mary and I still had a good time searching for necklaces. Mary has been diagnosed with ADHD, anxiety disorder, and a mild cognitive disability. She kept saying that she was going to fall off of Molly. However, she was no where near about to fall of f of the horse, so rather than argue with her or try to convince her otherwise, I just reminded her that if she sat tall and strong that she wouldn’t fall off. I’ve never really worked with kids who have ADHD, so last night’s lesson was a new experience for me! I had to make sure that I was thinking ahead so I could keep her on track in order to search for the desired color of necklace and to make sure that she didn’t steer Molly into a tree.  It was challenging to have to keep her focused on so many things- I can only imagine how difficult it was for her to keep track of what all we had to do while steering Molly! We survived the experience though, and she told me that she was vacationing in Myrtle Beach over spring break which is where I live when I’m not at school, so it was fun to talk about what all she was going to do at the beach!

The last rider that I worked with was Majestic Diamond who was also riding Molly. We certainly got to know each other better after this ride! She disclosed all kinds of information to me (i.e. her unfortunately located itch, what PMS is like for her, and other medical facts!) She is 17 and doesn’t have an older sister to talk to about those kinds of things, so I understood why it would make sense to talk about them with me; after all, she puts a lot trust in me as her side-walker. We got to hunt for Easter Eggs (which was way more fun than hunting for necklaces.. but you didn’t hear that from me)! Majestic Diamond has something called a “shunt” which is a port that helps regulate the pressure inside of her skull by draining excess cerebro-spinal fluid. If she bends below the waist, the flow of cerebro-spinal fluid will reverse and literally flood the inside of her skull. I had to keep that in mind while helping her hunt for eggs- I had to retrieve the one’s that were below waist level for her! Also, Majestic Diamond is legally blind and cannot see anything that is further than 2 feet in front of her.. so that aspect made for an interesting Egg Hunt! I had an excuse to participate, which of course made me even more excited!  I found out that she will be getting her GED this summer which is super awesome! I am so proud that she is deciding to finish high school (early!)

All in all, it was another great night! The family who owns and operates DR is going to the national PATH conference this weekend, and the program’s spring break is next week, so if I’m at the farm, it’ll be to organize the DR building, work on administrative stuff and or bathe the horses!

Hours at barn:

1:30-7:00

Meltdowns and Manicures

If horses had rear-view mirrors, then after Monday night  at Dream Riders I’d be looking at my comfort zone through it. It amazes me that every time I try to form a comfort zone, it quickly gets demolished, which I guess is a good thing and a great way to beef up my coping skills! It’s so hard to have a comfort zone when everything changes and I have to work with new horses and riders.  I found out that we were short on volunteers Monday night so everyone was pulling double duty just to keep everything running semi- smoothly. I also found out that I would be working with not 1 but 2 historically “challenging” riders…. and on top of that, I would be working alongside my boss… no stress!

My first rider of the evening is a little guy named Mark. Mark has severe Autism and is easily over stimulated. He HATES wearing his riding helmet, and if the horse stops for too long, he starts to cry and wiggle around. Last week, he had a complete meltdown and his side walkers had to end his lesson early. Knowing all of this, I was a little apprehensive to work with him- I mean  the only meltdown that I’ve ever handled was my own, and that is different! The fact that I would be working with both of my bosses (at different points during the lesson) offered little comfort; it might have made me more nervous. It’s difficult to remember the little rules/protocols when you’re the lead dog because you don’t usually have to worry about them all the time like the rest of us do. That’s fine, and I totally understand that when you’re in charge you can do things that usually aren’t done-like talking to the leader while side-walking. I felt pretty much by myself during part of the lesson because the conversation didn’t involve me, and there was little discussion about what was going on.  Please don’t hear this as me speaking negatively about my superiors- I just found the dynamic of the “Leader” in the volunteer position very interesting (among other things.) I became hesitant and began to second guess myself while working with Miss Jennifer and Miss Corky because they have so much more experience than me. I’m not usually like that because I love what I do and I usually take more of an interest in the rider than I did the other night. Thankfully, there were no meltdowns with Mark Monday night! We had a fairly smooth ride and he seemed to enjoy being back in the saddle (literally.) It was difficult to work with him at times because he has a toy horse  that he carries with him all the time and he kept playing with that rather than participate in the activities. He also has almost no verbal skills, which also presents its own challenges. Although I understand that these quirks are all qualities of Autism, it still doesn’t change the fact that I’, not 100% sure of how to best work with a person who has a more severe form of Autism than what I am used to. I really can’t wait to learn strategies for working effectively with patients who have  Autism. I think, in part, it comes with practice!

Since we were so short staffed, I had to work the last lesson, which is a rare occurrence for me! I was working with a teenage rider named Raven who has an anxiety disorder and some sensory “issues” which makes it difficult for her to execute proper riding techniques at times. She loves to talk, and sometimes she fixates on certain topics of conversation. For instance, Monday night, I was told at least 15 times that she had her nails done last week and that she would be getting them done again soon. We could have been talking about worse subjects- but it was very interesting to hear the different ways she made the same story connect to whatever we were talking about at the time. Obviously it was very exciting for her to have been pampered- who can blame her for that?! After all, disability aside, she is still a 17 year old girl. It took me an embarrassingly long time to come to this conclusion- maybe by the fourth time she told me about it. Maybe that simple act made her feel “normal”… don’t most 17 year old girls enjoy having their nails sparkle? I know I did, and still do! She was fixating on it because it meant something to her, not because she couldn’t think of anything else to say!  I guess that means that I am at least a little guilty of thinking about a rider in terms of his or her condition… not per-say in what they cannot do, but as a means of explaining why they do the things that they do.  I forget that people who have disabilities can do things or react to things simply because they are human: that’s all the explanation needed.  I hope that confessing this doesn’t make me a bad person- I would never “dis” a rider’s abilities, but I use the disability as a means to explain the situation around me. I am really thankful to Raven for repeating her story until I came to this realization!

It breaks my heart to think that in 3 weeks I will be leaving DR for the summer! I’ve grown used to the routine, even though it forces me to adapt to new things, I still love every minute of what I do… and I think that is the general idea about one’s vocation; even in the midst of challenges and or struggles, at the end of the day you love what you do.. and you willingly sign up to do it again!

Hours at barn:

1:30-7pm

Hoof prints on the heart

“Horses change lives. They give young people confidence and self esteem. They provide peace and tranquility to troubled souls; they give us hope”

-Toni Robinson

It amazes me how quickly I have become attached to the horses, the riders, the staff/volunteers, and the general atmosphere of the farm. Tomorrow marks my 3 month anniversary with DR, and I think I love it more everyday. I really can’t believe the impact that it has had on my life already…I know that internships are supposed to help you gain experience and reaffirm your commitment to your chosen career path, but I never imagined that I would feel so strongly about an internship as I do with this one!

It was sort of weird today- Miss Jennifer and Miss Corky wanted to know if I was coming back to volunteer in the fall when school started up again, of course I said I would come back if they’d have me. I honestly think that I have to continue to volunteer here so that I maintain my sanity. As I’ve said before, I find the barn to be extremely soothing. They both said that they were so glad that I was interning with them-and they thanked me for my willingness to help out. It was nice for them to thank me, sometimes I feel like they are helping me way more than I am helping them.

We have 2 new horses at the farm!! Mindy, a rescue, and Charlie, a halflinger! They enthusiastically greeted me as I drove up the driveway, so naturally I stopped and chatted with them. Both horses will be used in the DR program;however, they both need some training in order to become full fledged therapy horses. I’m looking forward to seeing their progress, just like I saw Mollie progress within the program. Not to be pessimistic (or philosophical, you choose), but in keeping with the balance of nature, no good news is without bad news. I found out today that Mindy and Charlie are Lou and AJ’s replacement. I also found out that Lou’s leg injury isn’t healing, in fact, he’s not improving very much at all. This news, especially about Lou, broke my heart. I’ve really gotten attached to him over the past few months. After all, I spend the most time with him, and I’ve been trying to nurse him back to health.  *Aside* Please don’t think that Dream Riders just throws horses away when they are no longer of use to the program… that’s not it at all!! Lou will most likely go to a retirement home for horses, yes they have those, where he will live out his natural days without stress. AJ will be going to Miss Jennifer’s cousin’s farm to chill and be ridden by riders who have riding knowledge, so hopefully he’ll be happy! I want what is best for both Lou and AJ, but I am really going to miss Lou’s company and his ornery nature. I guess this is good practice for when I have to say goodbye to patients with whom I’ve developed friendships with. I’m going to squeeze in all the Lou time that I can during his remain days at Dream Riders (however long that might be!)

Today I was reunited with the old team-Me ,Zach, Mollie, and Amanda (Zach’s other side walker.)  Zach apparently missed me because he was super vocal today and laughing.. which he hadn’t done since I switched riders. He also was saying “walk” clearly on the first try, which has been a struggle since my first day-apparently he hasn’t been saying it much since I’ve been “away”. I had really missed working with him. He is such a calm rider, and he never ceases to amaze me each week with something new that he shows me he can do or say. Autism is a funny disorder- it really doesn’t make sense sometimes in the way that it manifests in different people and different forms within the same person. Example: Zach knows all of his colors,numbers, farm animals, and shapes, but he has trouble saying the word “walk” clearly. He can say other things just fine, but walk gives him trouble. It’s really bizarre.  He’s inspired me to write my abnormal psychology research paper on Autism so that I can learn more about it, and hopefully be able to interact with him in a more effective way!

Monday’s always leave me exhausted, so I’m going to sign off! I’ll post again soon, not Thursday though because I won’t be at the farm. Thanks for reading!

Hours at Barn:

2:00 pm-7pm

 

These boots were made for leading

Yesterday was a special kind of Saturday- I actually got to go to the barn! We had to give 2 make up lessons. You see, the riders families pay for the lesson season in advance, almost how you would pay college tuition. So it is important that the riders are getting as many lessons as their parents paid for. The weather in South Carolina has been super strange so far in 2014, and we can have lessons if the weather is bad! That’s why we’ve had to do more Saturday lessons than normal this “season.”  You won’t hear me complaining- it was a B-E-A-utiful day at Dream Riders!!

I was a little surprised to see my name listed as a leader twice on the all knowing clipboard that holds our assignments. I was even more surprised to learn that I would be leading a horse named AJ, who can be a little cranky when it’s time to got to work.  I’ve lead AJ once before, and that didn’t go as well as I had imagined… but, one of the characteristics of being an intern is doing what you’re told without asking why. So that’s what I did! Let me tell you a little bit about Mr. AJ  so you know what I was dealing with. AJ is a 20 year old Halfilinger gelding.  We’re the same age.. which is kinda neat! AJ has been a therapy horse for a realllly long time and is  ready for retirement (mentally, at least.) That being said, it’s understandable that he gets crabby about working. He doesn’t do anything to endanger the riders when he gets like this, but he’ll occasionally just stop walking- and the leader has to coax/drag him  in order for him to “walk on!” I was nervous to lead again- it can be stressful enough to lead a horse that doesn’t stop all the time, and it’s really nerve wracking to know that the horse that you’re leading has been acting the fool recently!

I actually did a much better jo b at leading yesterday, which made me proud of myself! Coincidentally, we did a barrel pattern yesterday that we  did the last time I lead, so I had an advantage of knowing where I was supposed to be leading AJ. It’s amazing what one can accomplish when one isn’t given a choice! I didn’t want to be intimidated or afraid to lead just because my last experience didn’t go as I planned. I’m glad that I stepped up and just did it! Leading a horse in the therapy setting requires the leader to pay attention to everything: the horse, the rider, the side walkers, the positions of the other horses and riders, and the instructor… all while keeping the horse in check (or in my case-in motion!) It’s like multitasking time 1,274!! The ability to multitask is an important skill to have as an OT because you always have to be aware of the patient and your surroundings. Right now, it stresses me out a little because I’m still new, and I guess I feel like that makes me more prone to mistakes. I have no doubt that I will become more comfortable with leading as I have more and more opportunities to practice it,though.

I was thankful that the DR staff had faith in me to lead AJ not once but twice yesterday. I was much more confident while leading in the last lesson. I think AJ and I established a good leader/horse relationship. I wasn’t in the mood to deal with his shenanigans, and he could tell- so he didn’t stop as often!  Miss Jennifer, the head riding instructor, said that she wanted me to lead yesterday because I am about a foot taller than the woman who usually leads AJ. Therefore, I have a more dominating presence because I am taller. I overheard Miss Jennifer tell someone that AJ was walking so much nicer for me… which was great to hear! I’m glad that I am able to work in any position that is available during lessons. That makes me feel that I can be of greater use to the DR staff.

There’s a quote that I like that says “everything seems impossible until it’s done.” I definitely feel that this quote is applicable to my DR experience so far. I remember sitting in the barn during the training  session almost 2 months ago thinking “what am I getting myself into.” But now, I just show up at the barn and do my thing with little to no help from anyone else. I’m sure that leading will have the same result… as I mentioned in an earlier post, I’m not very patient with myself. I expect perfection on the first try, which doesn’t happen that often! This internship has really helped me become more patient and forgiving with myself since I am virtually new to the whole therapeutic riding process!

Just FYI for you loyal readers, this coming week is the DR Spring Break. I think I’m only going to the barn for 1 day instead of 2. I’ll try to post pics this week since I’ll have some time off on Monday and Thursday nights 🙂