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April 2019: NOTA Member Spotlight

Susan Skees Hermes, OTD, OTR/L
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1) Why did you become an OT?
OT was one of those professions on my high school career aptitude test, but I tried the other ones out as college majors first. I knew I wanted to help people, use my creativity and ingenuity from my arts background, and I like to help people "do" things.

2) A brief summary of your current/past OT roles?
I usually say that I have worked with people in all settings across all ages and stages of life. My first job was in a 200-bed faith-based psychiatric hospital with a ballroom-size "craft room" that had just taken out the floor looms much to my dismay. The choices of how to help people find what they needed to engage in for recovery, conversation, or reconstruction were many. The first half of my career (after my start in mental health) shifted to adults with physical challenges primarily, and most recently to pediatrics in the school-based setting. My most unique and personally rewarding OT role has been in helping promote opportunities for OT in mainland China.

3) What advice would you like to give to new OTs?
Get involved in your OT associations. Only your voice will make a difference, don't wait for someone else to advocate for your job security, determine your job quality, or assure you can keep the "fire" that brought you into this great profession going. I have been involved in all 6 state associations where I have lived, and have found ways to volunteer with AOTA through simple ad hoc committee, reviewing conference abstract submissions, or showing up for a day to "work" at Hill Day or the annual conference. I love what I get to do for a living, and know many people have put their heart and souls to make it grow.

4) What is your proudest moment or greatest accomplishment as an OT?
Tough to say because I keep collecting them - and it is not what I do, but what I get to be a part of. My proudest moment was when a nonverbal little 3-year-old boy (after he had some tough life circumstances added to some preexisting developmental delays) found his first words were . . . "Su San". The ST was a little disappointed, but he would run to me when I arrived at the door because he loved to play with the therapy ball and other SI equipment when I came to his home. He was learning to use his body and feel good in it, and that released his voice.

Thank you, Susan, for all you do! Thank you to all you school-based OTs too!

Feb. 2019: NOTA Member Spotlight

John Rider, MS, OTR/L, CEAS

1) What is your current/past OT role?

I began my career working in rural Southern Nevada and Arizona. I rotated between a skilled nursing facility, regional hospital, outpatient clinic and home health and hospice on a daily basis. It was very challenging and very rewarding. I was able to experience the entire continuum of care with many of my patients. Not many therapists have the opportunity to evaluate a patient in the ICU, treat them in the SNF, see them in their home environment with home health and then discharge them from outpatient. I was able to see real progress and witness my patients from the onset of injury, throughout the rehabilitation process and back to daily independence. I worked as a DOR for a small skilled nursing facility and found out quickly that I did not enjoy the management side of things and prefer direct patient care. Later I started working with a private school and loved this setting. I see myself returning to the school district later in my career. I also do ergonomic evaluations for a few orthopedic physicians and love this part of my practice. I found a passion for educating and mentoring after becoming a level 1 and 2 fieldwork educator and teaching as an adjunct professor at Touro University Nevada. Currently I am an assistant professor at Touro University Nevada and work in home health and hand therapy part-time. My future goal is to work in primary care and help establish this as a practice area in Southern Nevada.

2) What is your advice for new grads?

My biggest advice for new grads is to keep learning. We can't learn everything in OT school and we are in a profession that is constantly evolving. New practice areas are emerging, research is showing the power of occupational therapy in all settings, and we are learning more about how we can make the most of our limited time with our patients. As a new grad it seemed overwhelming to keep up with all the new evidence. I realized that I couldn't do it all and I had to find ways to keep progressing as a practitioner while maintaining a work-life balance. I suggest setting up a monthly journal club with another practitioner, going to the free NOTA workshops, or working with a mentor. These are simple and straightforward ways to keep up with current evidence and improve your clinical skills. I also believe strongly that professional progression is a powerful tool in combating burnout. Reading new research and improving your clinical skills is a great way to reignite the passion that drove you to pursue this great profession.

3) what is your proudest moment or greatest accomplishment as an OT?

I don't think that I have a specific moment. One company I worked for gave patients the option of writing down their "Success Story" upon discharge. I kept all the stories of patients that were able to resume occupations they loved because of their time in occupational therapy. I look at these often to remind me the power I have as an occupational therapist to improve the lives of others. I love this profession and all that it offers. I will say that one of my favorite things is when I get to use my OT knowledge to help family and friends outside of work. I use my OT skills on a daily basis with my 4 kids and I have also been able to help my grandparents after CVA's, my Mom after joint replacement surgery, my sister with BPPV, and the list goes on.

My greatest accomplishment is actually finishing OT school. I put OT school off for 2 years after my undergraduate education because I couldn't take anatomy with a cadaver. I am not ashamed to admit it but cadavers freaked me out! I had nightmares about them every time I tried to enroll in an anatomy course. I had all the pre-requisite courses done except anatomy. At that time I was an ASL interpreter, had a BA in Deaf Studies/Linguistics and was working full-time. Even though I knew I wanted to be an OT, I didn't think I could ever pass anatomy or get near a cadaver. For about a year I contemplated staying where I was and working as an interpreter. Some of you that know me may laugh at this now, but it is true. My wife will attest to this. We had many discussions about my fear of cadavers and I even contacted mulitple schools to see if they would accept anatomy without cadaver experiences. It was very difficult for me to take anatomy in undergrad but I did it and found that I loved learning about the body. Strange as it may seem, I now teach the anatomy course at Touro University Nevada for the first year OT students. I do not love working with the cadavers (but I recognize the value they add to our education) and you could not pay me enough money to ever flip one over, but I love learning about our amazing bodies and sharing that knowledge with new OT students. I hope to offer some "Anatomy Refresher" courses through NOTA in the near future. Don't worry though, I have a lot of teaching tools that don't require cadavers, if you aren't too fond of working with them either. :)

Thank you Johnny, for sharing your wealth of knowledge and signing skills with the OT community in Nevada.

Jan. 2019: NOTA Member Spotlight/OT Couple

Justin & Jenna Favero 

Justin and Jenna met while completing their undergraduate studies at Weber State University in Ogden, Utah. Justin received his Master’s degree in occupational therapy from the University of Utah in 2016. Two months later, Jenna began her studies at Touro University Nevada where she received her degree in May 2018. As a couple they enjoy spending time outdoors, cooking, and chipping away at student loans.

Justin works for Life Care Center in South Las Vegas and Jenna works for Encompass Health at Desert Canyon.

Jenna and Justin both love their work as OTs. ”We effect change in a very real and personal way. Seeing a client gain confidence in their abilities over the course of their rehab is very rewarding.”

April 29, 2018: NOTA Student Member Spotlight

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Rachel Rosenthal

Touro University Nevada OTD Class of 2020 

Hometown: San Diego, California

1) Why did you choose OT?

I chose to become an Occupational Therapist because I love the direct impact that I will get to have on a client’s well-being and everyday life. I have always loved the idea of being a part of a health related profession. After exploring various options, OT seemed like a perfect fit because it combines physical, cognitive and psychosocial ways of thinking. I love the creative aspect involved in OT, as each and every client and setting allows you to use your unique OT mind. To me personally, OT is a perfect profession that is all about helping to facilitate the small differences in your client’s life.

2) What has surprised you so far about OT?

I have loved learning about the wide variety of practice areas that we can go into as future practitioners. From an acute care setting to driving rehabilitation to psychosocial practice and everything in between, it truly is fascinating to have the opportunity to explore some of these different fields. I am also intrigued and surprised by the level of creativity that goes into planning a session with a client! It is so exciting to get to use research to guide your practice while still preserving a session that is directly centered on the client’s goals. Whether your client loves sports, cooking or hiking, you have the unique ability to facilitate meaningful engagement with them based on their preferences.

3) What is your dream OT job?

Every week in class, I honestly learn about a new population that I would love to work with or a new setting that I would love to work in! As of now, I am interested in aquatic therapy as it would combine my two worlds of swimming and OT, while helping to fill a need in the Las Vegas community. Eventually, I would love to open an interdisciplinary private practice that could incorporate aquatic therapy with other disciplines. Until I figure out my dream job, I will just stay in school so I can keep learning about all of the exciting opportunities that are out there!

April 24, 2018: NOTA Student Member Spotlight

Brynn Coseru

OTD19 at Touro University

Hometown: Santa Clara, CA

1) Why did you choose OT?

I love how OT addresses a person's limitations in a meaningful, engaging way and allows a person to participate in the activities that give his or her life purpose and value. I enjoy being challenged to use my creativity to come up with interventions that don't feel like therapy. I have always been interested in children with developmental disabilities and am fascinated to learn how their brains work. OT allows me to use evidence-based interventions that will teach a child's brain to adapt in order to be more functional and improve their daily lives.

2) What has surprised you so far about OT?

I am fascinated by how many different areas of practice and settings where occupational therapists can impart their knowledge and expertise. I love how the field is still growing and open to adopting emerging areas of practice. The more I learn about what occupational therapists can do, the more excited I am to be a part of this field and want to discover even more about what we can do.

3) What is your dream OT job?

My dream job is to develop an aquatic occupational therapy program for infants and children with a disability, developmental delay, or those who are at risk for impairments in their future performance. I have been a synchronized swimmer since I was 8 years old and I would love to combine my passion for the water with my affinity towards infants and children in a way that utilizes the unique aquatic environment to help a child improve their participation.

March 8, 2018: NOTA Student Member Spotlight

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Ifeoma Odili

Program: Occupational Therapy Assistant Program at Pima Medical Institute

Las Vegas

1)Why did you choose OT?

I chose to study OT because I wanted to go into the medical field in a profession that will truly make a positive difference in the lives of clients and their families in particular and the community in general. When a community has its population living a functional wholistic and purposeful life, everyone benefits from it and this in my humble opinion, is what OT is about.

2)What has surprised you so far about OT?

The fact that the sky is the limit for OT. There are so many settings in which OTs/COTAs can work; schools, homes, rehab, animal therapy, VA, military, SNF, internationally and there are more emerging practices, such as disaster relief and prisons to mention a few.

3)What is your dream OT job?

My dream job will be to work with the geriatric population, either in the rehab or SNF. This is a vulnerable population and it is growing astronomically as the baby-boomers get older.
Favorite hobby outside of school?
I enjoy spending time with my family-cooking, sight-seeing, traveling and watching classic movies.

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