The New Grad Reference Binder: How I Created Mine and How You can Create Your’s Too

Since starting my career in September, I’ve acquired a lot of handouts and paperwork that are designed to help me learn and grow as a clinician. But for a while there they weren’t much help because they just sat in a pile on my ‘desk’. So I created a binder to better organize my life since I don’t have a full desk or file cabinet at work. Below I’ve broken down the general categories that I have found to be the most helpful in organizing all of my notes and information.

Documentation: My employer provides me with quite a few handouts regarding how to appropriately document within our setting and state guidelines, as well as quick reference sheets for specific ICD-10 codes. (And honestly, understanding insurance reimbursement is one of my weakest areas). So I make sure to keep these handouts. I broke them down into subcategories in the binder for easier access.

Assessments: Our rehab office has a file cabinet designated for assessments. But every now and then we get handouts that further explain how to administer some of these assessments. Since it is important that continuity and standardization are achieved when performing formal assessments, I want this information readily available.

Treatment Ideas: Being a new grad, I’m constantly learning new treatments and interventions from my co-workers. And since I have some of the best co-workers around, I have packets of information from them that help me understand the core elements of certain treatments. I also like to create my own ‘treatment boxes’ {more on this coming soon}. One of my professors in school designed simple chart-style handouts that summarized specific diagnoses and how to treat them. So I took a little inspiration from him and modified his format to create single-page handouts that highlight key elements of diagnoses I’ve seen and how to best treat them. This has been super helpful for when I need a quick refresher.

Patient Education Handouts: Something I’ve learned the hard way is the importance of keeping a hard copy of the handouts I provide to patients. There have been multiple instances where I’ve made a handout for someone, and the handout felt a little too specific to that particular patient to warrant keeping a hard copy. Then a month later, a new skilled patient comes in with super similar needs, and I find myself wishing a I had kept a copy. So now I keep a growing collection in both this binder and on the desktop computer at work in case I need to quickly make edits before printing off a copy.

Evidence-Based Practice: In OT school, we quickly learned the importance of EBP in relation to our treatments. And at first it felt like all those research courses and projects were just a way to make our lives harder. But you’d be surprised at how quickly a patient’s mindset towards an intervention can change when I say “there is actually research that shows that this method of treatment has been successful with many people in your situation”. So when I find articles that back my interventions (or vice versa), I print off a copy and tuck it away in case I need to support my actions to my patients, coworkers, or caregivers.


I hope that this gave some insight and inspiration into how to organize piles of paperwork, regardless of what setting you might be working in. As a new grad, I’m learning how important it is to be intentional with personal research. So whether you make a binder like mine or not, I highly encourage you to take an hour or two each week at home to learn something new or add something to your tool bag. There is always more to learn, especially as a new grad.

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