Happy Occupational Therapy Month! This month, we celebrate you and the profession you have chosen. Your holistic and customized approach helps children with disabilities participate in school and social situations, allowing them to live life to its fullest. Your dedication makes it possible for all of us to make a difference one child at a time and we are grateful to have you as part of our team.
Here’s an opportunity to get to know Emily Kershner, an Occupational Therpist currently on assignment with Mediscan.
How long have you been an Occupational Therapist?
I have been practicing occupational therapy for five years now. I find it to be the most rewarding career. I am so grateful to be able to make a difference in the lives of the individuals I serve. I worked at both a school for students with autism, and a skilled nursing facility when I lived in Buffalo. Since moving to Los Angeles a year and a half ago, I have worked in four different school districts taking contracts through Mediscan. Additionally, I currently practice home health care.
Why did you choose this profession?
I was lucky enough to know that I wanted to be an OT since I was 12 years old. I became aware of the profession when my two cousins began receiving OT treatments for early intervention for both autism, and physical disabilities. I used to visit them during their therapy times, and would beg their therapists to let me observe and assist in their sessions. The impact of occupational therapy on my cousins’ quality of life was clear after each 45-minute session. I witnessed them overcome sensory processing, behavior, feeding, fine motor, and self-care challenges over the years. From that moment on, I just knew that this was what I was meant to do.
What has been your biggest challenge as an OT thus far?
The biggest challenge of being an OT has been balancing my workload, and caseload. I have a responsibility to treat in individual and small group settings, in order to provide quality and individualized care for my students. I also have an obligation to create and implement treatment plans, attend individualized education program meetings, assess students who may benefit from therapy, and collaborate with teachers and families to ensure generalization of skills. This balance requires delicate thought, organization and time management.
What kind of advice would you give for those starting out in the field?
My best advice for new graduate therapists is not to limit yourself to one practice area when you first begin your career. Whether your passion is for pediatrics, adults, or geriatrics – mental health, physical disabilities, community practice – it’s so important to keep an open mind. Frequently, therapists can feel stuck in their comfort zone from beginning their practice in a familiar setting. The beauty of being an OT is that we can do such meaningful work with a variety of populations, so take advantage of all the knowledge you have! When I started practicing, I worked full time in a school-based setting, and per diem for a skilled nursing facility. This opportunity provided me with the confidence to gain experience working with both children and adults. Both are such valuable skill sets to have, and the knowledge you acquire from both, complement each other well. (It’s a great way to pay off your loans, too!)
How did you like attending AOTA? Did you find it beneficial?
AOTA is such a motivating, inspiring and positive experience. The organization does a phenomenal job with representing occupational therapy’s wide practice scope. It is so rewarding to be surrounded by other therapists who do such great work for our profession. I connected with professors from my alma mater, D’Youville College, previous co-workers from The Summit Center, my first job in Buffalo, supervisors from my current contract with Los Angeles Unified School District through Mediscan, and met some future occupational therapists as well. I found the conference to be easy to navigate, well versed in all practice areas, and it offered a variety of content that was applicable to practice. I personally enjoyed attending the short courses relating to pediatrics, school-based therapy, and trauma-informed care.
Which session/activity during AOTA had the most impact on you and why?
I attended a session called “Theoretical Neuroscience Foundations for Pediatric Interventions”, and it was so intriguing to me. I have always been fascinated by the brain, and I loved the way the speaker tied in the science of what happens in the brain when my students exhibit certain behaviors or have sensory experiences in the classroom. It helped to explain the “Why?” for those responses, and how I can better assist my kids in treatment from a neuroscience approach. This lecture really expanded my mind to think about these practice implications, and gave me some new ideas for treatment.
Your fondest/favorite memory of visiting New Orleans? Tell us about something no one should miss when visiting NOLA!
New Orleans is unlike anywhere I have ever been – and I am a traveling girl! I enjoyed seeing the style and tradition of weddings in the south. The bridal parties dance down the streets of the city together, following a full jazz band just like a parade. They hand out flowers, blow bubbles, and throw beads. Add some of my favorite experiences to your must-do list, including live jazz music on Frenchman Street, eating beignets at Café du Monde, riding the streetcar, and exploring Jackson Square.
What has your experience with Mediscan’s team been like thus far?
I have been so grateful for my experiences while traveling with Mediscan the past two years. My hiring manager, Juan, is the best around. He collaborates with me to find positions that complement my skill set and personality. Mediscan does an incredible job of making sure I always have the equipment and knowledge I need to be the best therapist I can be. Mediscan has made so many opportunities possible for me, and I am so grateful to represent them in the field.