OT New Graduate Vignettes
Recent graduates of occupational therapy programs can apply their skills in a variety of work settings with different kinds of clients. Find out more about the work in each type of setting.
Lindsay Ross, MOT, OTR
Graduate of the University of Texas Health Science Center, San Antonio, Texas Transitional Learning Center (TLC), a Post-Acute Brain Injury Rehabilitation Center
I treat clients ages 18 and older who have experienced a brain injury, both traumatic and non-traumatic. My caseload includes, but is not limited to, clients with injuries due to stroke, motor vehicle accidents, and assault, including those involving a gunshot wound to the head.
TLC is a community re-entry program. The occupational therapy department addresses dysfunction at both the impairment and activity/participation levels. TLC is a comprehensive inpatient facility, so the clients receive therapy all day. An average day at TLC includes both individual and group therapy sessions. The day begins at 6:00 a.m. with getting up and performing dressing and grooming tasks with the assistance of an occupational therapy assistant, if necessary.
When clients are scheduled for occupational therapy, they may be working to improve impairments associated with perceptual and cognitive tasks, or they may be scheduled to work towards achieving independence in activities such as meal planning and preparation, mobility, and household or money management. These activities are performed in either a simulated or community-based environment. The days at TLC vary a great deal during the week and flexibility is important. Working with clients with brain injury can be both challenging and rewarding. Back to top
Stacey Lehrer, OTR/L
Graduate of University of New Hampshire, Durham, New Hampshire Bay Cliff Health Camp, a 7-Week Residential Summer Therapy Camp in Big Bay, Michigan
Bay Cliff serves children between the ages of 3-17, and all campers receive some combination of intensive occupational therapy, physical therapy, and speech and language pathology. This summer, there were six occupational therapists and two Level II fieldwork occupational therapy students. There is a wide range of diagnoses among campers, ranging from mild speech impairment to severe physical disability.
My caseload of 14 kids had disabilities including traumatic brain injury, spina bifida, learning disability, ADHD, spinal cord injury, and cerebral palsy. The great thing about the camp setting is that you have the opportunity to interact with your children each day at meals, within their cabins, and at various activities, in addition to their scheduled therapy times.
On weekdays, therapy is from 9:00 a.m.-11:45 a.m. and 2:30 p.m.-5:00 p.m. There are various therapy groups, from money management to weight lifting to cooking and dance, as well as aquatic therapy. The salary for a new graduate is $2,500 for 7 weeks, which includes lodging and meals. Camp may not make you rich, but it's a wonderful opportunity to try out different therapy ideas and to really get to know some great kids.
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Christine Catanzariti, MS, OTR/L
Graduate of the Sage Colleges, Troy, New York
Long-Term Care/Sub-Acute Inpatient Children's Hospital With Community Services
Medically Fragile EI/Preschoolers - New York Metropolitan Area
I work at an urban children's hospital that provides inpatient and community services to children from birth to 18 years of age. The hospital specializes in infant (post-neonatal intensive care) and toddler care to teenagers with a variety of diagnoses—pre-maturity (premature birth), cerebral palsy, HIV/AIDS, mental retardation, genetic disorders, gastrointestinal/feeding disorders, coma recovery/traumatic brain injury, weight management, musculoskeletal disorders, orthopedic problems, burns, and so forth.
We also provide home care services and community early intervention, and pre-school as well as after-school care for medically fragile children. I see children from birth to 5 years of age on an outpatient basis, focusing on traditional occupational therapy services such as sensory integration, gross/fine—motor skills, cognitive/perceptual skills, and activities of daily living. With school-age children (ages 6-18), the focus is on providing either traditional occupational therapy services, as a supplement to services they receive in school, or pre-vocational skills when appropriate.
I also participate in "Kids Kicking Illness" karate (weekly) and aquatic therapy (monthly) with inpatient children. I help with inpatient evaluations and treatment when necessary. I also perform community evaluations at our facility and in the community for children ages 3-5, to determine eligibility for pre-school services. In addition, I participate in delivering and consulting on constraint-induced movement therapy, a primary focus of clinical research at our facility. The average salary for a new graduate is $45,000.
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Mackenzi Sneddon, MS, OTR/L
Graduate of the Sage Colleges, Troy, New York
Acute Care Oncology at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, Manhattan, New York
I treat patients of all ages throughout the hospital. All patients must have a diagnosis of cancer to be admitted to the hospital. I evaluate and treat patients with various diagnoses such as brain cancer, orthopedic problems, deconditioning, and post bone marrow transplant. I also see children with emotional, environmental, and developmental delays.
Patient care often involves screening and treating patients with deficits in cognitive processing (memory, problem solving, money management, vision, and perception). Other types of treatment focus on improving arm and hand function and as well as helping patients to return to activities of daily living. My salary range is $50,000 to $55,000.
An average day includes evaluating and treating about eight patients at bedside, educating family members, playing with children, and attending lectures, all of which promote learning in this teaching hospital.
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Rebecca J. Root, MOT, OTR
Graduate of the University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio, Texas
Inpatient Acute Care - Brackenridge Hospital, Austin, Texas
The acute care setting is extremely fast-paced and constantly changing. Patients with a wide variety of ages and diagnoses are encountered on a daily basis. I have treated patients as young as 15 years of age to individuals in their late 90s. The diagnoses involve neurological, trauma, orthopedic, and general medical conditions. In this type of setting, you truly have to expect the unexpected.
Patient stays range from one day to 2 or 3 months, depending on the condition and insurance funding. Treatment must be tailored to each person's unique situation.
One aspect about this setting that I truly enjoy is the teamwork. Co-treating with physical therapists and speech and language pathologists is a common occurrence. I have found that the patient benefits from this interaction and I am able to gain a better understanding of the specific roles of the other disciplines.
A typical day at Brackenridge begins with checking for new orders to evaluate patients, and assigning patients to staff. I average about 2-3 evaluations of new patients a day, and treat a total of 8-15 patients, depending on the census. Treatment times range from 15 minutes to more than an hour if necessary.
As a new grad, you can expect to earn around $45,000 a year, but salaries vary by facility and location. As a first job after graduating from occupational therapy school, I love the variety and exposure that this type of facility offers.
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Karlyn M. Goodman, OTR/L
Graduate of Sargent College of Health and Rehabilitation Sciences at Boston University, Massachusetts
Acute Care Setting, Boston, Massachusetts
Patients are typically 18 years or older with acute medical needs. Currently I am on a general medicine rotation where I evaluate and treat patients with a variety of diagnoses including congestive heart failure, stroke, coronary artery disease, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, and failure to thrive/malnourishment.
Primarily, I evaluate patients and determine appropriate discharge recommendations, typically between home, acute, and skilled nursing facility-level rehabilitation. Treatment focuses on family and patient education, activities of daily living (e.g. self-care, cooking, cleaning, money/medication management), and improving functional mobility. Often I work in conjunction with physical therapists and speech and language pathologists, as well as nurses, respiratory therapists, medical students, residents, fellows, and attending physicians.
In addition to my general medicine position, I am the occupational therapist assigned to the Onocolgy/Bone Marrow Transplant Unit. On this unit, I assist families, patients, and staff to improve patients' quality of life by educating them about meaningful activity and providing examples of these activities in their daily lives. Occupational therapists at this facility are also responsible for splinting injuries of the upper and lower extremities.
Although I mostly provide services to patients within my assigned rotation, I also assist occupational therapists in other areas of the hospital including the trauma, surgical, orthopedics, neurology, pediatrics, vascular/plastics, and cardiology units. This environment is fast-paced and requires knowledge of medicine and medical procedures—knowledge that an occupational therapist incorporates into the evaluation and treatment of each patient. The entry-level salary at my facility for occupational therapists is $42,640.
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Lisa Griggs-Stapleton, MA, MOT, OTR/L
Graduate of the University of New Mexico at Albuquerque, New Mexico
Private Clinic Setting
I am an occupational therapist contracting in a private clinic, where I am fortunate to be practicing a little bit of everything. We primarily treat pediatric clients but also see adults with disabilities. In addition, we provide home health services to the elderly, usually following discharge from the hospital. We are also part of a team that offers in-home early intervention services for children from birth to age three years.
As an OTR/L, I am responsible for initial and follow-up evaluations, as well as regular treatment for the clients on my caseload. I am also responsible for supervising OTAs. I am blessed to be working with wonderful OTAs that have worked in occupational therapy for many years and are willing to share their knowledge.
A typical day for me starts with an in-home session with a woman who had a stroke and returned home from the hospital. We work on exercises to improve her strength and motor control, and then she spends the majority of the session learning how to perform normal activities (e.g., cooking, dressing) with only one hand. My next client is usually another home visit with one of the early intervention clients. The child may have cerebral palsy or any number of other conditions. I work with the child and the family to help them develop their child's skills to his or her maximum potential.
My afternoons usually are spent in the clinic. We try to give all of our school-age kids late afternoon appointments so they do not have to leave school early. This means that during the school year, our last appointment is usually 5 or 6 p.m. The most common diagnosis we treat in the clinic is autism, so we use a great deal of sensory integration techniques in our treatment sessions.
My evenings as a new graduate are spent reading up on new diagnoses and figuring out what paperwork insurance companies need to have so we can get reimbursed for the treatment. I also am working to complete manuscripts for the research I completed as part of my thesis. I really love my job and cannot imagine a more rewarding career.Back to top
Jessica L. Happick, OTR/L
Graduate of James Madison University in Harrisonburg, Virginia
Franklin Woods Center, a Sub-Acute Rehabilitation Facility in Baltimore, Maryland
We treat adult patients ranging from 65 to 99 years old. Typically, my patients present with various types of medical conditions such as orthopedic procedures (e.g. hip fractures/replacements and total knee replacements), stroke, myocardial infarction, heart surgery, congestive heart failure, and respiratory failure.
My day consists of evaluations, patient treatments, documentation, and collaboration with other health professionals such as occupational therapy assistants, physical therapists, physical therapist assistants, doctors, nurses, social workers, and administrators.
Most patients receive treatment in the areas of dressing and bathing, strengthening, safe mobility, home management tasks such as laundry and kitchen activities, using adaptive equipment, and improving activity tolerance.
New graduates in this setting can expect to earn a salary range from $40,000-$50,000.
I love my new job because each day I help people become stronger, more functional, and more independent, so they may get back to their daily lives. These are people who have worked many years to enjoy their golden years.
It's rewarding to have wonderful relationships with individuals who have had so many unique experiences with knowledge gleaned over a lifetime. The patients and their families are often so grateful to have occupational therapy because it restores their independence, health, and enjoyment. One might never realize the "power" of being able to take oneself to the bathroom—until one is dependent on someone else for even this most basic of needs! Back to top
Dory Sabata, OTD, OTR/L
Graduate of Washington University School of Medicine, Program in Occupational Therapy, St. Louis, Missouri
Program Specialist at the University of Southern California, Andrus Gerontology Center, National Resource Center on Supportive Housing and Home Modifications, Los Angeles, California
My area of practice is in promoting aging-in-place. My clients are organizations—rather than individuals—who typically provide services to older adults or their caregivers.
I use needs assessments in evaluating client organizations and assist them in developing home modification strategies for individuals.
The organizations include a variety of disciplines including occupational therapy practitioners, building contractors, and aging network service providers. Some of the organizations have relatively new home modification programs, while others have well-established programs and systems in place. Or they may be primarily entrepreneurial organizations.
Organizational policies and funding sources are major factors in each organization's "environment." I look at the mission and functions of the organizations as their "occupations." My interventions involve education, training, problem solving, developing networks, and coalition building. I work to provide practitioners, service providers, and contractors with the latest information on evidence-based practice and trends, which in turn improve each organization's home modification services.
Establishing networks helps organizations to learn from each other. I provide these interventions through distance education such as the Home Modifications Executive Certificate program and other online courses.
In my work at the National Resource Center, I also provide technical assistance, teleconferencing, and presentations. Occasionally, I provide occupational therapy services at an individual level, conducting in-home assessments and providing recommendations for home modifications on a per diem or pro bono basis. New graduates can seek postdoctoral fellowships or research associate positions similar to my position. Salaries range from $35,000-$55,000.Back to top