Graduating from OT School

Hi readers! Let me reintroduce myself… I am officially Dr. Allison Klowan, OTD. It feels so good to type that!

On Friday, May 7, 2021, I graduated from OT school. It still feels surreal, partly because we haven’t had an official commencement ceremony. (The struggle of graduating from school during a pandemic…) But, I completed all of the coursework, I disseminated my doctoral research project, and I am officially a graduate! Before I share what’s next for me, let’s take a little stroll down memory lane.

First, I want to say that I am SO proud of this accomplishment. Not to toot my own horn, but OT school was no joke! It was a hard but incredibly rewarding journey, and it’s just getting started. I also want to give a shoutout to my family and friends who have supported me along the way. There were countless late nights, early mornings, cups of coffee, days recruiting my mom or boyfriend to read flashcards to me (Ryan likes to say that he is an OT now too), and even some overwhelmed, exhausted tears. But every second of it was so worth it.

I had the privilege of attending the MGH Institute of Health Professions in Boston, MA. This program is truly incredible. I had the best professors, lab instructors, fieldwork educators, mentors, and faculty that I could have hoped for. I felt seen, heard, and cared for every step of the way. They all were some of our biggest cheerleaders. I am honored to now call them my colleagues!

The campus is located on the picturesque Boston Navy Yard in Charlestown. There are stunning views of the Boston Harbor and skyline, and it is a short ferry ride away from downtown Boston. Every day, I felt lucky to walk onto the MGH IHP campus. It truly felt like home for my 3 years there. Luckily, one of my favorite restaurants (Pier 6) is only 5 minutes from the IHP, so I will be back very often this summer for lobster rolls and frosé.

Here are some of the highlights from my experience in OT school:

  • Attending AOTA Conference in New Orleans in 2019 as a student. This experience was pivotal in my OT career. I felt so inspired and learned so much, and I hope to present at an AOTA Conference one day!
  • Advocating for OT to my legislators in Washington, D.C. during AOTA Hill Day. This was another career-changing experience for me. I felt so empowered during this experience that I connected myself with a mentor to work on advocacy during my Advanced Doctoral Experience (ADE). I hope to continue my advocacy work within AOTA and MAOT in my career as an OT.
  • Level II Fieldwork. I can’t even put into words how amazing these experiences were. I learned so much, not only about OT but about who I am and want to be as an OT practitioner. Thank you to my incredible fieldwork educators who pushed me to grow as an OT, try new things, and spread my wings.
  • Advanced Doctoral Experience. During my ADE, I conducted a qualitative research project that has impacted the way that I will practice as an OT in the future. I also go to work on advocacy and clinical practice.
  • Being SOTA President. I felt so honored to have the opportunity to serve my OT class as SOTA president for one year. I learned so much about leadership during this experience, and it allowed me to get more involved in campus life.
  • Mental Health Groups. These were so much fun! Each student had the opportunity to run a mental health group one semester. Not only were they fun, but participating in the groups run by other students were truly beneficial during a busy semester.
  • Simulations & Practicals. These can be intimidating, but they are great learning opportunities. These experiences allowed me to practice skills in a safe space on actor “patients.” They made me feel more prepared for fieldwork!
  • Splinting Lab. I was really surprised by how much I enjoyed the Splinting, Orthotics, and Prosthetics lab. It was challenging, but also really fun and allowed me to be creative. It was a hands-on experience where we got to make custom orthoses for our peers under the supervision of Certified Hand Therapists.
  • School-Based OT Elective. I LOVED this class. It was probably my favorite class in all of OT school! We got to work with a child throughout the semester to address their goals and practice our OT skills. It also gave me valuable information prior to my school-based level II fieldwork experience.
  • Interprofessional Practice. This is a core value of the MGH IHP. Throughout the curriculum, I had the opportunity to interact and work with students in other healthcare fields, including SLP, PT, PA, NP, and medical students. This also gave me the opportunity to share what OT is and why we are important!

I could add so much more to this list! Overall, I have loved my OT school experience. I am so glad that I chose the OTD path and the MGH IHP. I can’t believe it’s over. When I think about how far I’ve come from the first day of OT school feeling so nervous, giddy, and ready to learn, to now feeling proud, nostalgic, and ready to take the next steps in my OT career, all I can say is “wow.” I learned who I am as an entry-level OT, which I know will continue to evolve as I enter my career and find my “patch” (as Allie from Patches of OT would say).

The transition from student to graduate has been surreal and exciting. I always looked forward to this day, but it seemed so far away. So much of my identity has been tied to being an OT student, or student in general, for so long. It has been one of the most consuming and transformative roles of my life, and I am now finding who I am when I am no longer a student. It’s weird! I have been in school for 20 years. I’m not sure if I know how NOT to be a student. Luckily, the IHP has instilled in me a desire to continue learning for the rest of my career.

What’s next for me? I’m currently studying for the NBCOT® exam, slowly applying for jobs, and finding ways to continue being involved in advocacy and leadership. I am also finishing edits for my manuscript from my ADE research project and will be submitting it to a journal for publication. All of this change is daunting, but also incredibly exciting. I have been waiting for this moment since I discovered OT 6 years ago, and I am so excited to see where my career takes me.

Thank you all for following along my OT school journey as Allison The OT Student. It’s not over yet! As I enter my career as an occupational therapist, I will continue to share my journey with all of you who want to listen. I’m so happy to finally introduce my new blog and Instagram name: Allison The OT. Don’t worry! None of my previous content has or will be deleted, and I’m still working on changing my blog URL. 🙂

If you made it to the end of this post, thanks for being here. Here are some of my favorite photos from my time in OT school.

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