Congratulations for your decision to be in the wonderful field of occupational therapy! You have chosen what may be the most adaptable, flexible and rewarding career that has ever been in existence! Today, you may be working in a genre of OT that you really love, or maybe you are not so lucky, maybe you do not enjoy it anymore. Maybe you have always enjoyed your job before motherhood, but now you find that you need to work less and be more available for your growing children while you are still providing a meaningful income for your family. Lucky for you, you can totally reimagine your career to fit into your lifestyle throughout the lifespan! Let me tell you a little about my own career as an OT over the last 27 years.
At 20 years old my very first job as an OT was what I consider my foundational work. I worked for two years in a hospital rehab setting with many seasoned therapists and that is where I cut my teeth as an OT. I learned real life clinical skills and here I gained the confidence I needed to set out on my own as an occupational therapist for the rest of my career. I believe setting a strong foundation in an established place with seasoned professionals is one of the best things any new therapist can do for themselves.
After a couple of years, I got the itch to travel deep within my heart. So, I then set off on my own to do traveling therapy for over a year to see the country before I got married and became a mother. It was such a wonderful experience! I made friends that I still have today. This south Louisiana girl watched plays on Broadway, saw covered bridges in Vermont, watched the leaves change in New England, ate lobster in Maine, and had many a grand adventure on the weekends when I was not working. It was such a wonderful experience that I still hold dear to my heart today! I highly recommend doing this while you are young and unencumbered. Be brave, be bold, do what you are being called to do!
After over a year as a traveling OT, I moved back home and took a job in the nursing home setting for almost 10 years while I got married, had my first child, built my first home, and brought in a significant income to my growing family. In the beginning, I really enjoyed working in this setting because I really loved working with the elderly population. I was also lucky enough to work in the nursing home where my grandmother resided for the last years of her life. This provided me the priceless opportunity to be an active partner in her care, and to check in on her and visit with her on a daily basis and I will always cherish this. However, the nursing home setting did come with a heavy burden of paperwork and productivity standards that eventually I could not physically or mentally uphold anymore as I transitioned to motherhood.
After I had my first child, I needed a job that offered less stress from the productivity and paperwork demands, but that would still allow me to help financially support my growing family. This change was necessary, since I no longer could afford the stress of working nights and weekends to complete documentation, now that I had an infant at home. I was lucky enough to be offered a full-time school OT position which was a much better fit for my new role as a mother. Later, as my children grew and their demands became more intense with extracurricular activities, I was able to transition from a full-time job, to a part-time job remarkably close to home. My latest job, where I continue to work today, eventually offered me the opportunity to work in the schools where my children attend school, allowing me to be a part of their day to day school activities as they grew. This is another priceless opportunity that I am so grateful to have had as an OT. Although it was scary to move from full-time to part-time income, it was the best decision for my family, and has been the best decision we could have made from a personal wellness, and family wellness perspective. Once again I say, listen in, be bold and courageous.
Now, in what I consider the final phase of my occupational therapy career, I am transitioning to holistic OT and coaching via private practice. Due to my personal health and wellness journey, I am being called to teach all the things that life has taught me in my own occupation of “life” through a variety of integrative modalities. I believe OT’s really are the original “life coach”, and I am very drawn to this in this stage of my career. I am learning a whole new set of professional skills, working through my own personal blocks and beliefs, and setting out on a courageous new adventure that is quite a bit different from the adventures of my traveling therapy days. It is a little bit scary, and extremely exciting! Sometime soon, I will hang up my school OT hat, and I will exclusively wear this one… I am waiting for the right moment to be bold and courageous and I trust that I will know when the time is right…. Just as I have at every other transition in my OT career.
I will close this letter in saying, my occupational therapy profession has served me well. It has given me the skills I have needed to make significant financial contribution to myself and my family over the last 27 years while bending and flexing with my personal and family needs over my own lifespan. It has allowed me to make lasting friendships with co-workers from every job I’ve ever had, it allowed me to meet thousands of beautiful souls of every age, race, and walk of life. I have seen the best and worst of people. But I am grateful, because there has been so much more good than bad, and I’ve become a better person because of my OT career and I will continue to grow and develop and use those skills directly in my career until the day I retire. So! I say, be bold, courageous, listen within to the whispers of your heart, for it knows best.
May your occupational therapy career serve you as well as mine has!
Tanya Gauthier, LOTR
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