Occupational therapy (OT) students take part in an innovative and unique program at The University of Findlay by gaining hands-on experience in the areas of mental health, pediatric behavioral health and the criminal justice system off-campus in the Findlay community.
OT alumna Katie Dresbach graduated with a master of occupational therapy in 2013 and feels that UF’s hands-on approach led her to be the professional she is today.
“I have always loved the medical field and teaching others,” said Dresbach. “I was always stuck between pursuing a career in medicine or in education.”
During her junior year of high school, Dresbach job-shadowed pediatric therapists at Fisher-Titus Medical Center in Norwalk, Ohio, and found occupational therapy to be a perfect fit for her.
When Dresbach attended UF for OT, she received a variety of hands-on experience in the community and on campus.
“We were given the opportunity to listen to community members with mental illness share their stories, volunteer in the community in various settings such as local food pantries, homeless shelters and Head Start to increase our awareness of diversity,” said Dresbach. “Then, our fieldwork rotations always provided hands-on learning in various settings where we had real life experience with patients and clients in hospitals, long-term care facilities, schools and community health settings.”
Each OT student completes two supervised 12-week fieldwork rotations at hospitals, nursing homes, outpatient clinics and/or home health agencies. UF’s OT program offers up to six unique community rotations for the students to complete their fieldwork placement which allows students to develop skills needed in their careers including respect for diversity, occupation-based practice, client centered care, flexibility, therapeutic use of self and time management skills.
Dresbach’s level two fieldwork placement was at the Family Resource Center, an outpatient pediatric behavioral mental health facility in Findlay. “The staff of counselors, social workers and student OTs provided services to underserved children in the Findlay community,” she said.
During her fieldwork experience, Dresbach spent 12 weeks under the supervision of Miranda Tippie, clinical coordinator for community-based practice in occupational therapy, delivering care to children of all ages in their homes, at school and at the Family Resource Center.
“It was a great experience because I was able to work in three different settings with pediatric clients who desperately needed occupational therapy services and were unable to receive them elsewhere,” said Dresbach. “This experience allowed me to serve as a positive role model and hopefully make a positive difference for the kids.”
Tippie provides supervision to all OT students during their fieldwork and fills in at the community sites when students are unavailable.
“During fieldwork, students provide evaluations to their clients; they do treatment planning, treatments, documentation, discharges and more,” said Tippie. “Students working with the children focus on developmental aspects like attention, coordination, balance, vision, snapping buttons, tying shoes, skipping and hopping.”
UF’s OT students also have worked with Opportunities for Ohioans with Disabilities, which is a grant-funded program that helps individuals who have mental illnesses or substance abuse get jobs. “We do things with them like pre-employment skills, such as time management skills, developing a routine, hygiene, interview skills and home management,” said Tippie.
While UF’s OT students are strengthening their skills and knowledge through fieldwork, the community benefits from their services.
After learning through UF’s OT program, Dresbach is a full-time outpatient pediatric employee at Fisher-Titus Medical Center where she first job shadowed in high school. She evaluates and treats pediatric patients in the outpatient setting from birth to adolescence and works with second and third graders in the Norwalk City School district.
“I still reach out to my cohort and professors for mentorship and support. I would highly recommend UF to anyone pursuing a master of occupational therapy,” said Dresbach. “All of the classes instructed by knowledgeable professors, hands-on experience, great fieldwork places and experience in the community all played a major role in shaping me into the occupational therapist I am today.”