I spent FOURTEEN straight weeks (two back-to-back rotations: PGH-DRM Pedia then PGH-DRM Adult). It wasn’t easy. Nobody said it would be. But it was definitely an experience that would stick with me through the rest of my future career as an OT.
So, here are the TOP 5 things that I've learned as a PGH-DRM OT intern:
5. If at first you don't succeed, try again... and again... and again... and again...
REVISIONS. You guys wouldn't believe how frustrating it is to revise the same paper over and over again. Even those ROTs, which are basically the most basic document you'll ever have to write. I can't help but feel disappointed with myself whenever my CS returns yet another commented and unsigned ROT again. I keep thinking that I should have gotten the hang of it by now given the fact that it wasn’t my first rodeo any longer. What this taught me though is that in order to become better at something, you first have to acknowledge that you're no good at it at all. And that's exactly what I did. Instead of dwelling on the fact that I'm revising the SAME paper for the nth time (okay, just the third, but whatever), I just keep thinking that each revision is an opportunity to do better and learn from my mistakes.
4. Documents aren't everything
I have no argument about the fact that punctuality is a professional behavior that one must possess. However, there really are some instances in which you're forced to choose between submitting a crappy paper on time or a late paper that's worth reading. At the end of the day, it's not about whether how many papers you can write in one night but the amount of effort and thought that went into writing that paper. Trust me, your CS, and your patients, will appreciate you more for coming up with well thought-out plans. And in the long run, it won't matter how many DMs you had when you were an intern but the skills you honed during your internship... and as OTs, writing quality documentations is a must. But if you can do both, well, why the hell not? Congrats to you! :)
3. Learn to ask for help
There's a reason why there are at least four of you in that clinic and it's not merely because the case load demands four (or more) bodies to handle the constant flux of patients. The fact is, four brains are so much better than one. Don't hesitate to ask for help from your co-interns. As busy as you all are in that clinic, 5-minute brainstorming sessions would go a loooooong way in making your treatment plans and your sessions better. The fact is, there will always, ALWAYS, be something you were not able to think of on your own. We're not machines that can remember every single thing we've ever learned (well, unless you're one of those people with a superhuman brain or something).
2. That same, old adage: Time is gold
Being idle is not an option during a PGH rotation. That's a sad fact of life that you need to learn early on if you want to survive 7 weeks in there. Make your time worthwhile. Spend it for rest or spend it to make papers, just make sure that you budget your time wisely and that you do things that are actually worth doing. Take me for example. I'm one of those people who CANNOT be productive all day, everyday. If you know me at all then you probably already know that about me. But the thing is, what I do with my time is something that helps me become more productive in a sort of roundabout way. Confused, yet? Haha I am, too. Okay, here's the deal with me. I will not survive without my daily dose of geekery (books, TV, movies, comics). So, instead of NOT doing anything and staring blankly at my to-do list and stressing about everything else, I give in to the urge and use my time for leisure activities. Yes, I'm an OT. And yes, occupational balance is key (OMG, someone give me my diploma now. hahaha). Other people think of my extracurricular activities as laziness or procrastination but I see them as my own way of taking a much needed breather from the hectic-ness of each day. Remember, time spent for something you enjoy is time well-spent. Don't be too harsh on yourself if you watched an episode of your favorite TV show instead of writing that ROT... or if you read a few chapters in Lang Leav's latest book of feels instead of getting started on that IE. Drowning yourself in the stressfulness of PGH with no me-time to keep you afloat will be the fastest way to a burn-out... and no, you wouldn't want that.
1. One day at a time
And finally, the most important thing I learned so far... and this is something that I learned with my partners-in-crime. It's good to have long-term goals, definitely nothing wrong with that. But what I learned from my first four weeks at PGH is that looking that far ahead keeps you from appreciating every single step that would take you there. When I started this internship, it's like my subconscious set-off an internal countdown leading towards my graduation. But making graduation my only goal kept me from internalizing every little thing I learn along the way. So I took a step back and thought about what I really want to gain from this internship. And it was then that I realized that I want to make the most out of this experience for myself and for my patients... yes, even the most difficult ones. Focusing on the here and now put me in the frame of mind to really focus on the reason we're doing this internship in the first place: to provide OT services and learn from the experience. Before, I thought of it as a means towards a goal, which was graduation. But now it has sort of become a goal in and of itself. One day, I'll graduate and I'll cross that bridge when I get there but for now, I'm focusing on making each day a success, to learn from my patients as much as they learn from me (maybe even more), and to savor each learning and let it guide me towards my end-goals one day at a time.
As stressful as those fourteen weeks had been, I wouldn’t trade it for anything. I learned so much in such a short period of time and I think I fell even more in love with the profession than I did when I started out. The PGH rotations are not for the weak. It challenges you until you’re on the brink of giving up. It pushes you until you have no choice but to move forward. That’s the beauty of it, I guess. Because just when you think you can no longer take one more day, you find strength you never thought you had and find yourself getting over each obstacle.
As I look back on my experiences, I’ve never been more proud of myself. I may not have my diploma yet but I have gained so much more than that piece of paper.
(Originally submitted as my post-internship reflection to my PGH OT CS)