On the first day of my first job as an OT, I remember being told about an OT with 20 years of experience in the field. I was in awe of her expertise, knowledge, and skill. But the thing that impressed me the most about this highly experienced OT was the compassion she showed for her clients and their families—and her passion for occupational therapy.
Looking back on that day, it seems like someone must have hit the fast-forward button, because in what feels like the blink of an eye, I am now that OT practitioner with decades of experience. I have learned so much in that time: I would estimate that I've had the privilege of working with roughly 2,000 clients since I graduated from OT school in 1991, and each one has impacted me in some way. There have been hard days and many challenges along the way, but never has there been a day that I wasn't proud and happy to be an OT.
Around the time that I entered the field as an OT practitioner, the band Orleans released a song called “Still the One.” In a way, this song relates to how I feel about the OT profession. On that note, here are the top 10 things that make me feel that way, even after more than 25 years in the field:
- Daily opportunities to develop meaningful relationships and share joy with clients, caregivers, and others.
- The chance to make a positive difference in people's lives in a variety of ways—from helping them make small changes all the way up to having the opportunity to support them in achieving major milestones and accomplishments.
- The benefit of never having the same day twice.
- The holistic nature of the work, which translates to a philosophy—and the way this allows me to truly believe in, and witness the value of, my work.
- The call for creativity.
- The ability to be a lifelong learner (a career in OT is a never-ending learning experience).
- Those lightbulb moments and the inspiration that follows.
- The privilege of witnessing clients and caregivers push through challenges and adversity—and seeing their diligence and resiliency on a regular basis.
- The perspective gained—and the way it helps me develop as a person and in every role I’ve taken on.
- The passion of my peers in the OT profession.
Like every other occupational therapy practitioner that I know, I love OT! I don't know of many other career paths that have so much potential for longevity and so much passion at every stage, from OT students and new grads to therapists who have been in the field for 10, 20, or 30 years—or more! We OTs love what we do, and I think the majority of us feel lucky that we get to work in this profession every day. And with that, I’d like to join WebPT in wishing all my fellow OT professionals a very happy OT Month 2018! Thanks for all you do, and here’s to another great year of making a positive impact in our patients’ lives.
With a BS in occupational therapy from Washington University in St. Louis and a master's degree in Leadership and Policy Studies from the University of Memphis, Stephanie Lancaster has served as an OT specializing in assistive technology, pediatrics, sensory processing and attention disorders, and other conditions for more than 25 years. An assistant professor in the Department of Occupational Therapy at the University of Tennessee Health Science Center, she holds a specialty certification as an Assistive Technology Provider through the Rehabilitation Engineering and Assistive Technology Society of North America and as a Certified Aging in Place Specialist through the National Association of Home Builders. Stephanie is currently pursuing a doctorate in education in Instruction and Curriculum Leadership with a concentration in Instructional Design and Technology through the University of Memphis. Connect with Stephanie on her website or via Twitter or Pinterest.