I am that stereotypical person who entered the healthcare field because I wanted to help people.
But starting a career is a lot like getting married, you have no idea what you are signing up for. I still love my profession because I get to help people, but there are so many factors that contribute to career satisfacation that I did not consider when applying to occupational therapy school.
I feel like I got lucky.
Here are some unforeseen reasons that I love my career:
Yes, I work in an industry brimming with regulation, but when I begin each treatment session, it feels like the brush is in my hands. Within certain limits, I can bring whatever creativity and insight I believe will bring the most value to my patients.
2.) The buck does not stop here
While I love autonomy, I am also glad that I do not have ultimate responsibility over matters that can literally be life and death. Doctors can take on that stress. Doctors typically sign off on our treatment plans. If something goes terribly wrong, there is an emergency button I can push and a care team will come running.
3.) Opportunities for specialization and mastery
Lymphedema management. Women's health. Wheelchair management. Assistive technology. Hand therapy. Myofacial release. Neonatal care. Low vision. Sensory integration. The opportunities for specialization in this field are extensive. When I was first looking into careers, I did not consider how long a 40 year career could be and the drive I would feel to keep learning and honing my skill-set. I am thankful there are so many avenues to pursue with an OT license. Many therapists will pursue multiple specialities over their careers.
4.) Schedule flexibility
School teachers have to teach during the school year. Nurses have to provide 24-hour care. There are obvious scheduling challenges in many helping-professions. Luckily, therapy usually happens between 9-5 on weekdays. Due to the demand for therapy, full-time, part-time and contract positions are often available. I never would have anticipated how sick I would get during my pregnancy. Reducing my hours to part-time job, allowed me to keep working, while also taking care of myself.
5.) Knowing there are other jobs out there makes me happier in my current job
I receive voicemails and mailings at least weekly from OT recruiters. These keep me from feeling trapped in my job. There is great comfort in knowing that there are other jobs out there and, ultimately, I am making a choice to stay in my current position.
6.) I was able to get out of debt relatively fast
I received my masters in occupational therapy and was able to get a full-time job lined up before I even passed my boards. To be a physical therapist you have to have a doctorate (more school and more debt). Occupational therapy is heading toward the entry-level doctorate, but I feel lucky to have gotten licensed at a time where I could receive a similar education to my doctoral counterparts and contend for the exact same positions. There are of course many factors to debt reduction, but taking on less debt in the first place is a good way to start.
7.) The balance of new with routine
I suspect that this plays a role in why many healthcare professionals love their jobs. The type of work lends itself to nice balance. To keep us grounded, we have an established community of coworkers and certain tasks that we need to do everyday. But, you never know who is going to be on your caseload. This variety provides new challenges and gives us something to talk about over the lunch break.
8.) International network
My Twitter community hails from England, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa. OT is a booming industry globally and it is so fun to connect with colleagues from around the world. In college, we talked a lot about becoming global citizens. I never would have dreamed that becoming more invested in my local work would lead to global connections.
9.) My patients
This is so cliche, but I don't even care. My patients keep me coming to work. I have been so inspired and moved by the lives I have encountered. I can only hope that I have helped them half as much as they have helped me grow as a therapist and as a person.