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Before I applied to OT school, I was a therapy aide at a pediatric clinic in Carlsbad. In the course of working with various therapists, one OT told me something that has since stuck with me: When you start having kids of your own, it can make you a better pediatric therapist.

As someone who wants to be able to give my full effort and attention to the things that I do, this made me feel a lot better about going into OT school at the age of 25. I knew that I wanted to start having kids in my late 20s, but I was afraid that by me going to grad school, I was essentially acknowledging the fact that I wouldn’t be able to start having kids until I got into my 30s. It only seemed logical that if I started grad school at age 25, then I would finish at age 27 and work for a few years before having kids so that I could earn some money and get used to the whole new career thing. Right? But when this OT — who has 2 young boys of her own — told me in 2008 that you don’t necessarily have to put off starting a family in order to still be a good therapist…that totally changed my perspective. And, clearly, I have come to embrace this perspective, as my husband and I will be welcoming our first baby into the world just 3 months after I graduate from OT school.

Why might having kids of my own actually help me become a better pediatric therapist? When the OT first mentioned this concept to me, she said that she found that she could relate better to the parents (a HUGE part of working in pediatric OT) and seemed to develop this uncanny ability to somehow understand her pediatric clients in a more complete way. It seems that, once you have kids of your own, you can more fully understand the realities of living with and raising children. While every family’s situation and experience is different, having kids of your own gives you the ability to be more realistic in the things that you ask of your kiddos’ parents. Things like home programs, community outings, and environmental modifications.

And not only may having kids of my own improve the technical aspects of my pediatric practice, it may also boost the potential for parent-therapist rapport. One of the things I’ve always fixated on when working with kids is my ability to gain respect from parents because, well, I look like I’m 14 years old even though I’m in my late 20s. That doesn’t mean that parents don’t come to respect me through the work that I do with their kids. But I sometimes envy those who don’t have to work to gain parents’ respect — they just have that look about them that says, Don’t worry, I’m old enough to handle this.Issues…

I should also add that just because you don’t have kids of your own, it doesn’t mean you can’t or won’t be a good pediatric therapist. And just because you do have kids of your own, it doesn’t mean that you’ll automatically become a superstar therapist either. It’s just another dimension of life that has the potential to improve your practice. I hope people don’t think I’m saying that my situation is the best, because it certainly isn’t. I mean, who really wants to have to worry about pumping schedules, how long your milk will last on ice during the workday, and the potential for leakage while working with crying children, all while looking for a first job as a pediatric OT? Not many people, I’d imagine. It’s a whole new set of factors to consider.

Anyway…

I bring this all up now because as I’ve been looking through potential pediatricians in the Santa Barbara area, I have found myself drawn to those doctors who have kids of their own. And, specifically, who have boys of their own. Maybe it’s a petty factor to consider, but I’m finding that it really does make a big difference to me. It sets those doctors apart because, whether they are male or female, I know that they’ve been through this before.

That being said, I’m excited about the pediatrician that we’re scheduled to meet with at the end of May. Not only is he a Bruin (!!!!!) who’s a strong advocate of breastfeeding and has 2 boys of his own, but he’s also a Santa Barbara native who is super involved in the community, both locally and nationally. He writes a healthcare column in the local newspaper as well as in national publications, is involved with the local AYSO soccer league and Little League, is a distance runner, and is a medical consultant for the show Burn Notice. And although he does all of that stuff and provides a ton of parent resources on his website, my favorite thing about him (without having actually met him yet) is the fact that he has an entire page of his site devoted to kid-related things that his 2 boys and his wife enjoy in Santa Barbara. From local activities to baby accessories/toys to wife-recommended breastfeeding supplies, he really seems to understand the need to be able to relate to the parents of the kids he works with. It appears that he recognizes the fact that the kids and families he treats are more than just his patients. They are people. And although it’s nice to put together a list of local resources and recommendations (something we’ve done as an assignment for one of our pediatrics classes in OT school), it means a lot more when the person making the recommendations has some personal experience with them rather than simply looking things up online and throwing together a list of resources.

So even though I am sort of (sort of???) terrified of the idea of having my first baby and then immediately starting a new career, I know that it has the potential to make me better at what I do, both as a new parent and a new therapist. It’s a lot to handle, I know. I realize that being a new mom and a new therapist will be anything but a cakewalk. But I truly believe that God will be able to use each of my new roles to strengthen each other, as well as to draw me closer to him. Praying for peace and encouragement as each of these milestones quickly approach!

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