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

Posts tagged ‘internship’

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! 

 

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

 

Pictures!!!!

20140320-214959.jpg

20140320-215012.jpg

20140320-215021.jpg

20140320-215034.jpg

20140320-215052.jpg

20140320-215101.jpg

20140320-215113.jpg

20140320-215146.jpg

20140320-215159.jpg

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 🙂

Great Responsibility?

Confession: I am a thinker. Scratch that… I am an over thinker. I’ve spent the last few days reflecting (cough over thinking cough) about what happened on Monday night at DR. In Monday night’s post, I just relived the experience without much thought to what it meant for me to have had that experience. So sit back and enjoy the product of an overactive mind :). 

This is going to sound silly, but when James fell of the horse (let’s just call it “the incident”), the level of responsibility that I have really hit me. You never really think that those “here’s what you do if…” situations that you learn about in training will ever happen to you.  “The incident” made me realize that I will have to be prepared for anything and everything while on the job as an OT, and even now as a DR volunteer. I know that situations such as “the incident” are rare, but they do happen. I sincerely hope that there are courses in grad school about crisis management-sign me up for all of those please! Both people and horses can be unpredictable. Then you add  disabilities on top of that and you come out with a situation where, in reality, anything can happen. A rider with Autism could go into sensory overload and have a melt down. Conceptually, I realize this. It’s hard to imagine it actually happening to me… and it’s weird to think that it did happen, scary to think that it could happen again. 

I felt guilty after it happened; could I have done more and/or should I have done more? If so, then what could I have done? What else was there for me to do but jump out of the way, stricken with dead-fish syndrome. I guess it’s human nature to assume you’d be a hero in a crisis situation- or at least do something. After all, I was the oldest person in that team..even though the other 2 young ladies have been working with DR for a long time and they’ve had more experience with patients, I still felt like as the oldest, I should have been able to do more. Can you say first born mentality?! Was it my fault? Was I holding onto little James’ ankle as tightly as I normally do? I guess the answer here is that there is no answer. Crap happens. Luckily, the girl whose side he fell on was ready to catch him, and no one was hurt. 

Another scary thought is that James can’t talk… he wasn’t able to communicate that something wasn’t right, or that he was losing his balance. He simply just slid off the horse. I’d venture a guess that a good number of OT patients do not possess the ability to verbalize when something doesn’t feel right, or that they feel a seizure coming (for example). Even if they can, will they tell you in time for you to do something about it. I know the career field that I have chosen isn’t going to be glamorous most days, and I’m sure that there are times when I’l be scared and unsure. I’m glad, but not glad, that this happened to me and not someone else. Of course, I would never want any rider to fall off a horse, that would be cruel! But I am glad that this served as a reminder that some scary stuff is going to happen. 

I’d be a liar if I said that I wasn’t nervous to go back to the  barn tomorrow. I’m hoping that I’ve learned to be more calm during “crisis” situations like this one. I don’t want to forget this experience, but I don’t want it to hinder my work. In other words, I don’t want to shy away from doing my job because I’m fearful that this sort of thing might happen again!