Hey readers! This month I finished my first full-time semester of OT school! I call it my first “full-time” semester because we had a full course load this semester. My program actually started last June, however we only took two classes during the summer in order to prepare us for the rest of OT school. Those two classes were Clinical Anatomy with cadaver lab and Foundations of Occupational Therapy Practice.
This fall, I took 6 classes plus my first Level I fieldwork (review coming soon). These are the classes I took along with a brief description of what they were all about:
Movement, Context, and Occupational Performance with Lab – focus on human movement as it relates to occupational performance, including performance skills and patterns, contexts, and environments. Competencies included upper extremity manual muscle testing and range of motion testing.
Neuroscience – provided a broad understanding of neuroanatomy and physiology and the impact of neurological conditions on occupation. Competencies included vision screening, cognitive screening, and tactile screening.
Human Development and Occupation – covered occupational performance and participation from infancy to old age, including milestones, important roles, and psychological, physical, cognitive, and social aspects of aging.
Health Conditions: Epidemiology and Pathophysiology – discussed common health conditions seen in the practice of OT, covering signs and symptoms, diagnosis, course, prognosis, treatment, and effect on occupation.
Professional Reasoning I: Critical Inquiry and Decision Making – discussion-based course honing skills in critical thinking and decision making using cases and fieldwork de-briefing sessions.
IMPACT 1: Interprofessional Practice – hands-on course in which students worked in small interprofessional teams to provide patient-centered, holistic care. We learned how to communicate with members of other professions and work together to provide the best possible care to the patient using simulations and in-person scenarios.
Overall, this semester was HARD! While I did not have daily homework in each course, I did have reading to do each week and I found that reading before class really helped me understand the material and participate in class discussions. I don’t know about you, but engaging in class discussions is one of the best ways for me to understand a new concept.
Each course tended to get harder around mid-terms and finals, which is expected. Around those times I had multiple papers, presentations, assignments, and exams all due around the same time, which became very stressful at times! If I had to choose one class that was the hardest, I would say Movement, Context, and Occupational Performance. My undergraduate degree (Exercise Science) definitely helped me out a lot throughout this course, but the workload itself made it the most challenging. Specifically, the competencies in this course were challenging. I will do a blog post about competencies later, but for now just know that we would have to know over 30 manual muscle tests/range of motion tests for each competency and then perform one of each on a patient. Can you say stressful?!
Tips for success when transitioning to a full-time course load:
Get an agenda! Having some sort of paper or electronic planner is SO helpful. I write down everything that is due, all of the readings, as well as personal things like work and plans with friends in my agenda. I don’t know what I would do without it! (I’m also the girl in my group who everyone tends to ask about assignments that are due…thanks to my agenda!)
Write it out. Whether you write out your schedule or input all of your classes into your phone calendar (like me), writing out your schedule is so helpful because you can visualize when you need to be in class and when you have free time (or study time!) Also, writing it out allows you to see how much free time you truly have in school. In my program, I usually have 2 full days off each week that are set aside for fieldwork. You likely won’t have fieldwork during all of those times, so use that as your work, study, or free time!
BREATHE. Seriously. Take some time for yourself. I know everyone talks about self-care, but it is so important. I notice a huge difference not only in how I feel physically but also how I feel mentally when I don’t take time for myself. For me, I like to exercise to practice self-care. Some other ideas are yoga, meditation, reading, taking a walk, booking a massage (treat yourself!), getting together with friends or a significant other, or just having a quiet day/night watching Netflix. A glass of wine also doesn’t hurt!
Use your peers. You are not the only one who is stressed, I promise! There is a whole class of people who are going through the same exact thing. Grad school is hard, so don’t try to get through it alone. Form study groups, compare study guides, bounce ideas off each other, etc.
To my fellow OT students: CONGRATS! You made it through another semester! To future OT students: you’ve got this!
Thanks for reading! Feel free to leave a comment with more suggestions of how to get through your first semester of grad school!