Denisonians in Health Professions: Occupational Therapy

Denisonians in health professions: occupational therapy - erin-williamson-300x298.png image #0Erin Williamson ’06

Role: Occupational Therapist (OT)

Graduate School attended: Occupational Therapy M.S. Program at Columbia University, graduated in 2009      

Fun Fact:  I make pottery and am working on setting up my own in-home studio

Describe the process you went through to select your career path: what impacted your decision?
I began working with special needs children while still in high school, which I continued throughout college.  Then, during my sophomore year in college, I was fortunate enough to shadow a physical therapist, speech pathologist and occupational therapist at Vanderbilt University.  This introduced me to occupational therapy and I have never looked back. I enjoyed the ability of the OT to integrate daily activities which have meaning/purpose to the patient into treatment and goals for progress.

What are your favorite aspects of your profession?
As an occupational therapist, we have the unique ability to work in any setting/ venue (examples: hospital, school, consulting in universal design, theater settings, etc.) as well as work with any age group. I have worked in the acute care hospital setting, home health services, skilled nursing facilities and school systems. I have now been an OT for 8 years. 

What is the most challenging aspect of your work?
Occupational therapists are often seen as an added service and always work as part of a team. One has to ensure that all professionals we work with understand the legalities and capabilities of an occupational therapist.  You must have strong people/social skills to ensure your patients’ needs are met.

Describe what a typical day looks like for you.
I primarily work in the school system with elementary to high school special needs students. A typical day entails direct service in individual/small group settings, observations of students in the general education classroom, consulting with teachers and special education staff, IEP meetings with families as well as completing daily notes and evaluations.

What advice would you give a student interested in pursuing your field?
Most OT programs require specific pre-requisites and shadowing an OT in the field. I would recommend starting shadowing hours as soon as possible.  As a new therapist entering the field I would recommend first working in the hospital setting.  There you have the opportunity to be exposed to numerous diagnosis/ages which then prepares you for any other area of OT you may wish to pursue.