We sat down with Anna Cristo - a student in UC's Occupational Therapy. She shared her experience and gave some advice for future OTD students.
Can you explain the steps you took to get to graduate school?
I graduated from Cincinnati State in 2020 with my associate’s degree to be an occupational therapy assistant. I am a certified occupational therapy assistant (COTA). I graduated with my bachelor’s degree from UC’s online Pre-OT program in 2022. I have been working in skilled nursing facilities and schools as a COTA while obtaining my Master’s.
When did you know you wanted to be an Occupational Therapist?
I knew I wanted to be an occupational therapist when my grandma received OT services when I was in high school. I loved how they interacted with her and help support her independence. I want to be an occupational therapist because I can empower clients to achieve their goals and to be as independent as possible in their daily life. I love the holistic aspect of occupational therapy and finding ways for people to help themselves achieve a high quality of life.
How does the hybrid nature of UC’s OTD program accommodate your work/life balance?
The hybrid program has allowed me to work as a COTA and gain valuable experience while in school. Our time on campus is prioritized to focus on the hands-on skills we need to develop.
What types of hands-on experiences have you been able to gain in the program?
I love the hands-on experiences we’ve had during our lab courses. Some of my favorite experiences were going to CCHMC and UCMC, learning about wheelchairs and assistive technology from the VA’s OT fellows, and learning about evaluation and interventions for a variety of populations. My research project is focused on caregiver experiences and client outcomes at the Cerebral Visual Impairment (CVI) clinic at CCHMC. I am the Ohio Occupational Therapy Association liaison through our Student Occupational Therapy Association.
Tell us about your clinical placement experience(s). Where are they or where have they been?
My level 1 fieldwork placements have been at the Hamilton County Educational Services Center, the University of Cincinnati Medical Center, and the Queen City Clubhouse. My first level 2 fieldwork placement will be at the TriHealth Rehabilitation Hospital starting in the fall of 2023, and I do not have my spring 2024 placement yet but am hoping for a pediatric rotation.
What are your career goals?
I have worked in schools as a COTA, and I have enjoyed that role. I want to work as a pediatric OT once I graduate and am most interested in school-based, outpatient, or early-intervention occupational therapy.
What impact do you hope to have in the lives of your patients or in your field?
I want to foster independence and growth among my clients and their families.
Anything else you would say to a prospective student who is searching for a program that fits them the best?
I would recommend asking questions about their contracts with fieldwork placements and the amount of experiential learning they offer. I also recommend shadowing OTs in a variety of settings before beginning a program so that you have an understanding of OT’s role in different settings.