Elizabeth Szymke, MSOT/S ‘16
Clinical/Community Track: Low Vision Laboratory
Why did you choose WUOT for your occupational therapy education?
I chose WUOT for my occupational therapy education because of the ample hands-on opportunities provided for students through the program, both in class and through labs, and for its reputation.
Why did you choose a community/clinical track experience for your degree?
I chose the community track experience for my degree because of the opportunities to work with and develop programs for actual clients with the lab mentor.
Briefly describe your agency.
Low Vision Community Practice (LVCP) at WUOT helps clients with glaucoma, macular degeneration, and other low vision conditions maximize their remaining vision so that they can safely and independently see and do the things they want.
Describe your involvement with the agency (programs/services).
For the LVCP, I was involved in researching and trialing an outcome measure to use within the clinic. The purpose of finding an outcome measure was to track ADL/iADL tasks that require vision through the OT process (i.e. initial and discharge evaluations).
How do you think this work has enhanced your clinical skills?
This work has enhanced my clinical skills in that I am able to think on my feet more quickly. I can more easily converse with clients during interview sessions, and utilize therapeutic use of self in my day-to-day interactions.
How did you feel about the guidance provided by your faculty mentor?
Dr. Monica Perlmutter allows students to discover information independently before meeting with her for weekly updates and to brainstorm further ideas together. She was always available and approachable especially if I had questions or needed further guidance on my poster for OT Scholarship Day.
How would you describe this experience to prospective students who may be interested in community practice?
The LVCP is unique in that students have the opportunity to co-lead a LV self-management group session, which allows for a different kind of leadership and practice skills to emerge. Facilitating the self-management program requires communication, empathetic listening, and therapeutic use of self. It was extremely rewarding to participate in this setting as an OT student. We also observed 1:1 sessions with Dr. Perlmutter in the clinic and during home visits.
How will these experiences affect or influence your career direction after graduation?
These experiences will affect my career direction after graduation because no matter where I work, I will see clients who have some type of vision loss. It is very likely that I will encounter older adults with one of the common vision loss disorders (macular degeneration, cataracts, glaucoma and diabetic retinopathy), and even the pediatric population may present with congenital and developmental vision issues. In the LVCP, I learned skills, assessments and clinical tools for working with this population, regardless of age. I feel I will have a clinical edge to interact with my clients because of my experiences in this lab.
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Current, future, and accepted applicants are encouraged to visit. We also welcome people who are exploring career options and considering occupational therapy. Dr. Kathy Kniepmann, one of our faculty members, opens our visit sessions with an informal presentation and discussion, followed by a tour that’s led by one of our current occupational therapy students.
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