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Celebrating Occupational Therapy Month: 3 OTs Share Their Outlooks on the Profession

Learn about how these Occupational Therapists found their way into the field and what they hope for the profession’s future.

Mike Willee
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5 min read
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April 14, 2022
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An important part of healthcare is enabling people to do the things they want to and need to do in their everyday lives, and few are more important to that goal than occupational therapists. Of course, we at WebPT have always strived to recognize the value of OTs in the healthcare landscape, but it never hurts to reiterate that point for the folks who might not have heard it yet.  

In honor of Occupational Therapy Month, we reached out to three OTs—Amber Eck, OTR/L, Jordan Harbour, OTR/L, and Jillian Hedlund, OTR/L—to ask them to share their unique experiences and perspectives on their profession, as well as what they’d like to see change as it moves forward. 

How long have you been an occupational therapist?

Amber Eck, OTR/L

I’ve been an occupational therapist for two years now.

Jordan Harbour, OTR/L

Five years. 

Jillian Hedlund MS, OTR/L 

I have been an occupational therapist since July 2017, so coming up on five years.

What setting do you currently practice in?

Eck 

I currently practice in a pediatric outpatient and acute care setting.

Harbour 

I’m in home health.

Hedlund

I’m currently practicing in home health.

When was the moment you decided you wanted to be an occupational therapist?

Eck 

I always knew I wanted to do something in the medical field because I have a passion for helping others. When completing my bachelor’s degree, I did some shadowing hours at a couple of pediatric and adult clinics in El Paso, TX, and realized that OT is endless—there is so much you can do in this field! That’s when I knew I wanted to be an occupational therapist.

Harbour 

When I was shadowing a PT in undergrad (thinking I wanted to go into PT), I got an up close preview of what the OT job was about—primarily, how hands-on it was. I knew then that I wanted to be an OT.

Hedlund

I was a sophomore in college at Kansas State. I was in the athletic training program, but wasn’t feeling like athletic training was the route I wanted to pursue. One of my aunts was just beginning OT school, and I began to ask her questions about what OT is as I had never heard of the profession before! She said OTs view their clients as a whole person, and consider all aspects: physical, emotional, mental, spiritual, and environmental. I loved that, and knew right away this was the career I wanted to pursue! 

What’s one thing you do as an OT that may surprise others?

Eck

I build huge obstacle courses in our gym to address children’s sensory needs, and have so much fun doing it!

Harbour 

In every setting, a good part of my work involves some kind of mental health or cognition training. 

Hedlund

As an OT, I assist with daily routines. This means treatment sessions can look like helping a patient go to the bathroom or take a shower or even cook a meal. 

What’s one piece of advice would you give to someone looking to become an OT?

Eck

Have an open mind! This profession is constantly growing and I’ve learned to become a sponge and soak up all the new information given to me.

Harbour

Creativity, abstractness, and flexibility are great traits for an OT! 

Hedlund

Shadow OTs in a variety of settings. OT looks different from setting to setting and you may like one more than another! 

Who was someone early in your career who helped you become a better OT?

Eck 

It’s so hard to pick just one person who helped me get to where I am today because I’ve had so many great mentors along the way. I would have to say Brianna Vietri, DPT. Brianna is a physical therapist I worked with at my first hospital job and although we were in two different professions, she taught me how to be efficient and answered all my silly questions about how to better care for patients! To that I say, “Thank you so much!”

Harbour

As a travel OT, I learn from many experienced OTs throughout my jobs. The most memorable was a therapist from Canada who was certified as a PT and OT. She taught me the importance of observation, building rapport, and the valuable lesson that progress is sometimes slow, especially with pediatrics. 

Hedlund

It’s hard to choose just one person! I’d have to say the other OT I worked with at my first job at an inpatient rehab facility. She really pushed me to be more creative and fearless with the treatments that I chose in order to keep progressing my patients forward towards their goals. 

What’s the most rewarding part of being an OT?

Eck 

Seeing my patients meet their milestones and goals is definitely one of the most rewarding parts of my job. 

Harbour 

Being able to witness growth and progress towards independence. I also love the flexibility of working in different settings as an OT—experiencing different populations and the ability to travel from state to state for travel OT. 

Hedlund

Being able to help people on a daily basis do the things they want/need to do for themselves. I love helping people improve their quality of life or achieve something they didn’t think possible.

Where do you see occupational therapy going in the future? Is there a particular industry trend you’re excited about?

Eck 

I’m excited to see where this profession goes related to sensory processing and interoception. Interoception is a lesser-known sense that helps you understand and feel what’s going on inside your body. Sensory processing is not even in the DSM-5 right now; however, we constantly see kids in the clinics and schools who have problems related to this disorder.

Harbour 

I see occupational therapy becoming more advocated for and well known by not only the medical community but by the public. I think spreading awareness about the value of OT and why we are so important will go a long way. 

Hedlund

I’m excited that OT is growing in women's health! I feel OT has a big role to play to help women who are pregnant or newly postpartum transition into motherhood and thrive while caring for their children. 

What’s one thing you wish you could change about the profession?

Eck 

Insurance. I can’t stress this enough that I would love to see more access to services for kids.

Harbour 

As a travel OT, I wish OT offered compact licensing throughout different states similar to nursing. 

Hedlund

I wish more people knew about the profession and how awesome we are! 

What would you say if someone asked why occupational therapy is important?

Eck 

We don’t always think about how easy it is to get dressed, take showers, go to the bathroom, focus in busy environments, write our names on our paper in school, tolerate loud noises, or even multi-task. For some individuals, the above tasks are very hard and frustrating and affect their ability to be independent in their daily life activities (ADLs). Occupational therapists take a holistic approach to help them and are trained to create goals and activities to meet each individual person's wants and needs. I think it’s pretty important to be able to live each day independently, don’t you?

Harbour 

If your happiness and independence is important to you, occupational therapy will be valuable to you. 

Hedlund

OT is important because we help people live fuller lives through improving function for participating in daily routines. We look at situations holistically identifying barriers to independence other professions may have missed. 

A big thank you to these OTs, and all the OTs out there doing the hard work on a daily basis to help individuals live full and happy lives. It’s perhaps the plight of the healthcare worker to not always get the appreciation they deserve for the role they play in society, which is why it’s important to take these opportunities to celebrate OTs (and PTs and SLPs, in their turn) for their contributions and continued dedication. 

Awards

KLAS award logo for 2024 Best-in-KLAS Outpatient Therapy/Rehab
Best in KLAS  2024
G2 rating official logo
Momentum Leader Winter 2024
Capterra logo
Most Loved Workplace 2023
TrustRadius logo
Top Rated 2023
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