by Angela Hissong, DEd, OTR/L,CMCP
The celebration of April is Occupational Month has been a constant in my life since 1987; the year occupational therapy became my official career path. This article will encourage occupational therapy practitioners to pause and take a moment to ponder their OT Core Story. This encompasses how passion, nurturance, and advocacy fit into their journey within the occupational therapy. From the first day occupational therapy found me, I have had a passion for the philosophy of engaging others in meaningful occupational to enhance, maintain, or find their well-being. In 2009, as I sat in on my 15th Eleanor Clarke Slagle Lecture and listened to Dr. Swartz speak of OT’s need to reclaim our heritage, I felt the passion for occupational therapy fill the room. However, I knew from past experience that sometimes when folks leave a room filled with a few thousand OT’s with positive energy sparked by an incredible speech, the passion fades once everyone goes back to the hustle and bustle of everyday practice. As I noted, I felt early in my career that occupational therapy was THE best profession I could ever ask for and I have felt consistently lucky that I verged onto the OT path. As a long-time educator and community practitioner, I have met a lot of people who are unsure of occupational therapy and I decided early on I wanted to be a consistent change-agent – to the positive – in spreading the OT story, sharing how incredible it is to help people find or decide what is meaningful in their everyday lives and then assist them in occupying it.
So, I wanted to share with you the challenge of building and holding onto the passion that is ignited during OT Month. Take a moment and sit with these questions. Take a moment to build your OT Core Story: What makes you tick, what do you need to fuel your spirit, feed your goals and objectives, manage stress, and breathe freely on a daily basis? What is your current professional mission statement? What is your purpose for being an occupational therapy practitioner? What makes up the essence of your everyday practice?
To assist you in building your OT Core Story, here is an OT Core Story Guide to assist you in building passion, nurturance, and advocacy into your daily OT practice
Pause – Ponder – Find yourself in your daily OT practice this week! Really concentrate! How do you make a difference in the individual’s engagement in meaningful occupation? How do you live? How do you want to live out your passion for OT in your everyday living?
Occupational therapy practitioners are busy by nature – we are creators, we are innovators, we are doers, and we often forget to stop to nurture ourselves so we can be fully present with those around us. Self-nurturance is a meaningful occupation which supports and enhances an occupational therapy practitioner’s overall health and well-being. Most importantly, how do they navigate and negotiate nurturing self as a professionally meaningful occupation which allows them to be more informed and rested advocates for those around them (Hissong, 2005). In occupational therapy, meaningful occupation is defined as those experiences which promote, enhance, and/or maintain an individual’s state of well-being (Christiansen, 1999). It has been further defined by Pierce (2001) as being personally constructed within perceived temporal, spatial and socio-cultural conditions. Wilcock (1998) describes engagement in meaningful occupation as, “the synthesis of doing, being and becoming” (p. 249). It is time occupational therapy practitioners do as they say – so they can engage in all aspects of professional behavior which invokes and carries forward the original passions of this incredible profession (Peloquin, 2005; Schwartz, 2009).
Become the number one advocate of the profession! Envision yourself engaging others to have a better understand of the wisdom and effectiveness of the occupational therapy continuum of services within your communities, states, and across the globe.
Next you need to take the challenge further by composing your OT Core Story. It seems at times, occupational therapy practitioners just need to breathe and consider how and where they are headed on their professional journey. There are three core areas to consider:
- Nurturance of Self: How do you refuel your system?
- Advocacy: How may you better help others engage in or understand Occupational Therapy?
- Passion: What ignites that OT-fire within you and in/around the contexts of your everyday practice.
The bottom-line is that occupational therapy practitioners need to Live Life to the Fullest ™ in and around their journey! I truly believe in the power of passion within this profession. Be bold and spread the word about The Essential Professional Occupational Triad: Passion, Nurturance, and Advocacy!
I will leave you two pieces of information that I have gathered and have stuck with me throughout my life’s journey and as an occupational therapy practitioner and educator. The following is a poem that has been a mainstay for me over the years…its message is that life is lived forward but understood backwards.
If you want to know me, then you must know my story, for my story defines who I am.
And if you want to know myself, to gain insight into meaning of my own life, then I, too, must come to know my own story.
I must come to see in all its particulars the narrative of self – the personal myth that I have tacitly, even unconsciously, composed over the
course of my years. It is a story I will continue to revise, and tell myself
[and sometimes others] as I go on living… McAdams (1993)
The final piece of inspiration that helps me keep the passion, nurturance, and advocacy of occupational therapy alive in me from day to day is something my grandmother shared with me when I was about 13 years old and it was this, “Dear Angie, it is your choice each day – do you want to be a blessing or a curse to those whose path you cross? It is as simple as that and your choice.” She was a woman full of wisdom and now that I look back, she was an OT at heart.
So during OT Month and beyond, enjoy your life as an occupational therapy practitioner and share your wisdom with those whose path you cross.
Christiansen, C. (1999). Defining lives: Occupation as identity: An essay on competence, coherence, and the creation of meaning. The American Journal of Occupational Therapy, 53, 547 – 558.
Hissong, A. (2005). Learning self-nurturance and unlearning patriarchy: A feminist poststructuralist narrative inquiry of constantly shifting identity. Published monograph.
Pierce, D.E. (2003). Occupation by design: Building therapeutic power. Philadelphia: F.A. Davis.
Peloquin, S. M. (2005). The 2005 Eleanor Clarke Slagle Lecture—Embracing our ethos, reclaiming our heart. AmericanJournal of Occupational Therapy, 59, 611–625.
Schwartz, K.B. (2009). Reclaiming our heritage: Connecting the founding vision with the centennial vision. American Journal of Occupational Therapy, 74: 112-120.
Wilcock, A.A. (1998). Reflections on doing, being, and doing. Canadian Journal of Occupational Therapy, 65, 248-256.
Featured PediaStaff Columnist: Angela Hissong, DEd, OTR/L,CMCP
Dr. Hissong holds a doctorate from The Pennsylvania State University in adult education with an emphasis on feminist studies and women’s wellness. Prior to her doctoral studies, she earned a BS degree in occupational therapy from the Medical College of Virginia. She holds a BS degree in biology/health sciences and a master’s in special education focusing on children with diffuse sensory needs. Additionally, she is a Certified Master Coach Practitioner specializing in everyday life transformation across the lifespan. She is the Program Director for Penn State’s Associate in Occupational Therapy Program, where she teaches in the disciplines of occupational therapy & women’s studies.
Over the past 20 years she has consistently published for, consulted with, and presented to an audience of occupational therapists, caretakers, and educators at local, state, national, and international venues on topics ranging from sensory processing, grant writing, evidence-based practice, therapeutic use of self, thriving in the workplace, mothers’ care of self, and agri-safety. Most of all – she has a passion for education & helping others navigate & negotiate through everyday living!