1. Ask, don’t assume.
There have certainly been times throughout these first months where I have felt like the question I needed to ask was a dumb one (or one that I should’ve known the answer to). But assuming, especially in healthcare, can lead to problems down the road that could have easily been avoided if the question had simply been asked. And when you’re the new kid in town, people often expect that you will have to ask some of those seemingly dumb questions anyways. So don’t be afraid to ask those questions.
*Side note: One thing that has really helped me with this is how supported I feel by my boss and my fellow therapists. So my advice when interviewing: keep in mind that these are people you are going to have to ‘answer to’ and work with on the reg. So if you find them to be scary dragon-like people, maybe keep interviewing until you find a team that seems to click.
2. Know the lay of the land.
Within the first week or two, I took some time to look through the supply closets, the gym, the medical charts, and the facility as a whole to learn where things are and who does what. It certainly helped to have my boss and co-workers introduce me to people and take me on a little tour. But that first week had more free time than my weeks do now, and I’m so glad that I took the time then to explore the facility.
3. Make friends with your nursing staff.
This one took me a little while. Honestly, I felt a little awkward interacting with the nurses and LNAs because I felt like they knew so much more than me. But I have learned that the nurses and LNAs that I get to work with are some of my greatest assets. They often have the information I need, they are available to help me help patients, and I love being able to collaborate with them to make strong, confident decisions for our residents.
4. Keep studying.
In school I used to joke with my friends that OT school would be so much easier if I could just put my textbook under my pillow and let the information travel to my brain through some sort of magical osmosis. And since graduating, that wish has not gone away. As much as we hope that studying stops once we get that diploma, the truth is there is still so much to learn. The good news is, the things I study now have so much more relevance to me than they did before. It’s one thing to study about patients you might have someday, but it’s another to study about something that your patient is currently dealing with.
5. Pace yourself.
If you were to ask my co-workers, they would probably tell you that I’m not very good at this one. I have certainly spent my share of long nights in the rehab office finishing up paperwork and I haven’t taken very many days off. But if there’s one thing my co-workers have stressed to me, it’s “don’t get burnt out”. As an OT, you would think it would be common sense to balance work with other areas of occupations. But this one can be tough, and I’m learning to listen to myself and take the rest when I need it.
6. Pray, pray, pray.
The journey to becoming a full-time therapist has certainly challenged and stretched my faith in ways I never expected. But it has also strengthened it and taught me that nothing – NOTHING – I do in my own strength will fulfill me. I need God. And this new career has taught me how to pray deeply to be the person and the therapist that I long to be.