The Scenic Route to Becoming an Occupational Therapist

The Scenic Route to Becoming an Occupational Therapist

Karen Porter - Galvin Therapy Center

What I love so much about working with kids is seeing the joy on the faces of the children and their families with big and small accomplishments. I have the opportunity to be able to work with amazing families to help them develop lifelong skills. As all of our families know, it’s not just about the kids; it’s a family thing. I sometimes “therapize” family members as well – helping mommy become comfortable playing in shaving cream for example.

I Love What I Do

I am passionate about the work I do and I hope it shows every day. I chuckle sometimes in my therapy sessions. If an outsider watched our therapy sessions, they would probably wonder what is so special about what we do in the clinic since it looks like play.

Yes, it is play, but it is play with a specific purpose and agenda (sometimes mine and sometimes the child’s, depending on who is running the show that day). I feel very blessed that the families allow me to be a part of their journey.

I love hearing from families years after I have stopped treating their child through graduation announcements, or simply a note about how they are doing now. I can’t help but wonder what these kids will look like when they are 25 or 30 and what they will be doing. Of course, some of the kids I treated in the beginning are now in their 20’s. How did they get so old and I haven’t aged a day?

My Scenic Route to Occupational Therapy

I like to tell people that I took the scenic route to becoming an OT. The first time I was in college I took a “what do you want to be when you grow up class”. One of several careers that popped up was occupational therapy. After some research and consideration I flipped a coin, so to speak, and chose the graphic communication field.

For 8 years I worked in the sales department of a printer and direct mail firm. I thoroughly enjoyed my work, met many wonderful people and gained many wonderful skills. This path also allowed me to meet my wonderful husband, Rob, who was a graphic designer at the time. He was a guest lecturer the second to last week before I graduated (that is another story for another time).

When life threw me a curveball about 6 years after I graduated, one of the first things that came to mind was that this was an opportunity to be able to go back to school for OT to be able to work with kids, a passion I have had since I was a kid (babysitting, organizing neighborhood festivities etc). OTs work in many areas of practice, but pediatrics was the only one for me. Just to be sure, I took another “what do you want to be when you grow up” class when I started taking my prerequisites, and I was on my way.

My current employer knew I was taking classes, but I wasn’t ready to tell them it was for a career switch yet, so every time someone asked I would tell them it was for Underwater Basket Weaving, which got a chuckle.

Rob was extremely supportive of my decision. Many things fell into place unbelievably well for this career switch to happen, including prerequisite classes scheduled at times that worked around my full time work schedule. Once in the program I was able to work part time at my current job that happened to be close to Cleveland State University (CSU).

Someone was watching over me.

Then and Now: The Galvin Therapy Center

Fast forward another few years, I graduated from CSU and there were 5 pediatric job openings in the Cleveland area that I knew about. I interviewed with Cleveland Public Schools and Barrie Galvin, who at the time was looking forward to moving from her house to office space. As so many other things in my occupational therapy adventure had fallen into place, so did my employment.

I began working for Barrie the summer of 1995, as a trial for both of us. For the first part of that trial I thought it was a nice short-term job, but I would never work for her full time. My reasoning was this: Barrie has a lot of knowledge and passion about OT and loves to share both. Initially I thought the expectations were going to be unrealistic regarding what I needed to know and learn immediately. Here I was a new grad who just wanted to remember the kids’ names and what I needed to work on.

As the summer progressed I realized this was not the case and that I could learn at my own pace. Fast forward 19 years and I am still working at Galvin Therapy Center!

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