As the semester comes to an end, I wanted to share an experience that my classmates and I have shared a few weeks ago. As you may know, we are first-year students in Gannon’s Occupational Therapy Doctorate (OTD) program. We just survived our final exam for clinical neuroscience (whew!).

Along with the final exam, we also had to turn in  a reflection paper on our experience interviewing actors with multiple health issues such as Parkinson’s, Multiple Sclerosis, and Stroke. One fun thing about the interviews is that we each had the opportunity to rotate to various interviews, sometimes observing and sometimes interviewing the actors.

It was also interesting because in our OT Medical Sciences course, we created the scripts ourselves. I wanted to share some excerpts from my reflection with you all, enjoy!

“Reflection has a natural tendency to occur after defining moments in our lives such as graduation or a life-altering medical diagnosis. Much like the neural processes that create every single movement, memory and feeling that we have- our lived experiences also tend to build upon each other. Some experiences are excitatory, leaving us smiling and craving more, while others are inhibitory and cause us regret or pain. The beauty of experience is that we can learn and grow from it, whether it was good or bad.”

The experience up to this point that we have had in class have all impacted us in different ways, for different reasons. For some, they had a personal connection with the actor who had a diagnosis such as ALS, because they may have had a loved one go through it. For others, they were impacted by the symptoms that the actors were exhibiting, such as slouching, drooling or uncontrollable tremors.

This impacted some classmates because they had not previously interacted with real-life patients who may have had some of the diagnoses. Either way, we were all impacted by the interviews, which all contributed to our personal and professional experiences.

“Although each interview was insightful, the first interview I had with the client who was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis (MS) impacted me the most, as a large portion of the symptoms the client was experiencing are similar to those that I experience on a daily basis. One reason I believe this interaction was so meaningful was because I felt confident and prepared, even though it was my first interview of the day in which I was actively participating in, rather than observing. The communication and listening skills I have acquired to that point allowed me to have an exceptional exchange with the client.”

In neuroscience, my classmates and I came to realize how important it is to understand how the brain functions, so we can better understand when there are dysfunctions such as injuries/trauma, in order to better understand how to help our clients restore function to their lives.

“Something like a nerve cell is so small, yet can have such a large impact on a person when there is damage. To be able to see that person during the interview, going through a daily battle because of one small thing, makes it seem not so small anymore, which is why I am thankful for the challenges that I have faced during some of my coursework.”

Through this experience, we were all able to learn from each other, about our own strengths, weaknesses, doubts, and motivators and I am truly thankful on behalf of my entire class, for all of the effort made by the wonderful GU Ruskin faculty and the actors from the community. We were able to finally apply all that we have learned. We were able to challenge ourselves to act and perform, rather than read a book or watch a youtube video.

“No single experience, course, or topic alone can prepare us for a real-life situation. Although the client interviews only took place just shy of the end of my first semester of OT school, I am proud of the growth I am able to reflect upon. Practice is important and the interview challenged me to utilize the skills I have acquired to that point.  Each assignment is strategically and thoughtfully prepared for us in order to prepare us for those situations we will face once we enter field placements and the real world. I am thankful for the experiences that I have encountered during this program and remain optimistic about the future ahead of me.”

In case there are any other health professional students here or faculty, this interview activity was truly an eye-opening and learning experience that I highly recommend to try out sometime! Also, I hope everyone survived finals week and to those of you who have graduated, congrats, you made it into the real world! Have a wonderful holiday and please spend time with your loved ones!

Talk soon,
Sue Ram