Monday, August 5, 2013

10 Tips for New Pediatric Occupational or Physical Therapists

Not that anyone asked but here are my 10 tips (not in any specific order) for any newbies entering the pediatric therapy world:

1. Make sure you love kids!  - It is super important that you love hanging out with children.   You are going to be acting like a kid, joking around with kids and playing games all day.  Make sure you like that kind of work.  To me, it is the best kind of work there is!!!!

2. Stay current on the top toys, trending items and video games.  - Make conversation with the kids. Sure there are plenty of things to talk about with kids but to form a playful bond with them you might need to know who Pokemon, Tinkerbell or Luigi are.  And if you don't, just ask.  Kids will love to go into details about any toy or game they enjoy.

3.  Go for it! - The only way that you will become a great pediatric therapist is through practice.  Just like you will expect the children to practice a motor skill over and over again, therapy skills evolve through practice.  For example you will need to assess muscle tone and facilitate movements over and over again before you feel comfortable with your clinical decision making skills. 

4.  Be informed about each child. - You will need to be in contact with many people that surround a child: parents, teachers, friends, school nurse, etc.  It can be hard at times in a school district to get a complete picture (medically and educationally) when therapists bop in and out of classrooms.  Do your best to gather all the information you can about a child's medical, social and emotional history. 

5.  Ask for help. - If you are not sure what you are doing from a therapy perspective with a child ask another therapist.  First of all we were all in your shoes once.  Second of all, occupational and physical therapists are constantly questioning and asking each other for help.  Whether we have 1 year experience or 20+ years of experience,  we encounter children or situations that puzzle us.  

6.  If you have no one to ask for help, establish a professional learning network.  - There are many opportunities via the internet to connect with other pediatric therapists.  Read this previous blog post entitled 5 Ways to Develop A Personal Learning Network.

7.  Read, read and read some more.  - Stay informed and up to date on the latest evidence based research.  Join the pediatric section of the APTA or AOTA.  Sign up to receive our newsletter and the monthly digital magazine for pediatric occupational and physical therapists. 

8.  Take pediatric continuing education courses. - When I first started out, I signed up for so many pediatric therapy courses.  It was wonderful.  Since I was young and fresh out of school, I did not have many other obligations so I could devote plenty of time to learning new skills.  Now that I have a family and run a business it can be difficult to make time for continuing education but I always do.

9.  Become informed or stay up to date on technology. - The amount of assistance that children can receive from technology or how they access technology is constantly changing.  Stay up to date the best that you can.  Follow blogs or different therapists on Twitter to stay informed. 

10.  Always shoot for the stars! - Children will surprise you at what they can achieve.   You may learn in school that you need certain range of motion to complete a skill, and then you will meet a child with significant contractures who can do that skill independently.  Be realistic in your goal setting, but if a child wants to accomplish a certain skill do the best you can to help him/her. 

Anyone care to add some tips to the list...

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