Oct 15

Blue Jay OTs’ new “nesting” place

We are growing, and so is our space.  Last month, the O.T. dept. started using space at 855 E. College Ave – across from Esbenshade. This charming house provides office space for our fieldwork coordinator and her assistant as well as a lounge area for meetings and workspace for our graduate students. The house is wired for internet service, and several computers are available for student use.  A microwave, refrigerator and coffee pot help equip the kitchen. We look forward to students using this space for group meetings and projects as well as just a place for them to study.  Construction started last week to remodel the 3-season back porch into a year-round meeting space, too.  If you are coming to Homecoming, stop by and check out the new “nest.”

855 E. College Ave. - back porch

The back porch – soon to be a year round gathering place for graduate students.
Photo from Christine Achenbach – Thank you!


Oct 10

Think Spring!

Spring is a busy fieldwork season at Elizabethtown College! We have 2 cohorts of students, all of whom must complete 10 visits of level I fieldwork during this semester. The juniors are starting their very first level I fieldwork in sensory, perceptual and cognitive assessment and treatment (OT 332). The seniors are wrapping up their third and final level I fieldwork in psychosocial assessment and intervention (OT 434).

bright purple crocuses

Our program is growing! This spring, we anticipate having 48 seniors in OT 434 and 37 juniors in OT 332. We can only make this happen with your help  - our local clinicians as well as some of our clinicians who are further away from Etown —(some students may do 5 days of level I fieldwork over spring break March 2-6, 2015). Level I fieldwork will begin during the 3rd or 4th week of January, and most placements during the semester are needed on Mondays and Wednesdays.  There is a real shortage of psych-based OTs everywhere and it seems especially in south central PA. Of the 4 psych OTs within an hour’s drive, only 1 can take level I students. We rely primarily on non-OTs from diverse healthcare backgrounds in south central PA to help our students understand psychosocial dimensions and the delivery of psychosocial interventions in various settings.  We need everyone to consider how they can help students recognize and intervene with psychosocial issues with any age group, in any setting.

Student supervision and education is critical to our students’ learning objectives but also in touching the future of occupational therapy and in fulfilling AOTA’s Centennial Vision. I would be glad to talk to you and your organization about how fieldwork education can benefit everyone!  Please contact me to discuss how you can help support Etown this coming spring semester.  Thank you!

Christine L. Achenbach, MEd., OTR/L
Academic Fieldwork Coordinator & Instructor
Phone: 717-361-1146
Email: achenbachc@etown.edu

Oct 08

Malpractice Liability Insurance Law for OTs in Pennsylvania

scrabble tiles with the word "insurance"Attention new grads who are pursuing licensure in Pennsylvania: You must have malpractice insurance within 30 days of obtaining your license. If you do not provide verification of it within 30 days, your license will be revoked – not a good way to start your OT career! You have a couple of choices to make this happen. You could go ahead and get the license and then apply for jobs; if you don’t have a job secured within 30 days you can apply for malpractice insurance on your own. There are many companies that provide timely affordable malpractice insurance for practicing occupational therapists (HPSO and Marsh are two that I know of). Some companies give new grads one year free!!! If you get a job that covers you with malpractice insurance, you can cancel your personal policy and then get most of your money back. It will be easier to get a job with a license already in hand …… and if you have the license you want to follow the rules.


Oct 03

Guess Who is Approaching a 40th anniversary???

Photo of Doris Gordon and other faculty/students from 1976Join us for Homecoming this year and look back on 38 years of Etown graduates; 40+ years of memories. We will be highlighting the 10th year of the Master’s program with a photo display. You will also have a chance to look at photos and documents from the 1970’s and 1980’s when the program was in its infancy. Try your best at the OT@Etown Trivia Challenge (preview questions below), and if you haven’t been back to campus in years, tour our ‘new’ labs and student spaces.  The OT departmental reunion will be held in Esbenshade 360 from 2:30 – 4:00 on Saturday, October 18.

Preview Trivia Questions:

  •  In which year did the first students graduate from the OT program at Etown?
  • In which year did the first Masters’ students graduate?
  • What message did the Master’s cohort of 2008 inscribe on their graduation caps?
  • The photo below shows the Master’s cohort of ______? How many faculty members can you find (and name) in the photo?

Class of 2006 in front of libraryPlea: We are still looking for photos of the Master’s cohorts of 2007 and 2010  with their caps. If you have such a photo, please send to ot@etown.edu .


Sep 30

Alumni Spotlight – Amanda (Sedlak) Billmann, MS, OTR/L (’11)

Meet Amanda from the class of 2011.

Tell us about your first life as an OT after graduating from Etown:

Amanda Sedlak BillmanMy first job was at Children’s Specialized Hospital in New Jersey. I worked in outpatient therapy, serving a variety of ages, but mainly children ages 2-6. Most of the children I treated were on the Autism spectrum or had sensory processing difficulties, but I also treated children with many other diagnoses. With continuing education and training, I became a member of their multidisciplinary feeding team that cared for medically fragile children.  Children’s Specialized gave me the opportunity to grow as a therapist through the use of technology, resources, research and exposure to countless diagnoses.

Where else has your life taken you since then? 

While working at Children’s Specialized, I met Patrick Billmann, who is in the Army.  In 2013, I moved to Anchorage Alaska for six months where he was stationed.  While preparing for the next army duty station in Kansas, I interviewed for a job via Skype, and they held the job for four months until we moved in January 2014. 

I am currently working for Unified District 207, on Fort Leavenworth. I serve special education classrooms as well as general education students. I also am in charge of all evaluations on the base for children transitioning from early intervention to a classroom setting. In addition, I serve the children who have qualified for occupational therapy services in the Child Development Center (day care) on base. The vast majority of my job involves working with children less than 5 years of age which I absolutely LOVE! I use a lot of my skills and knowledge about sensory integration and upper extremity strengthening, and I am learning lots of school based strategies for prewriting, handwriting and scissor skills. The biggest change from working in a hospital setting to a school based setting has been the change from a medical model to school based model. The people you most communicate with have never been in a medical setting and have no idea what you’re talking about when using medical terminology! 

sedlak wedding 2

Mr. & Mrs. Billmann
May 31, 2014

My personal life continues to be exciting as well. Over the summer, Patrick and I got married at home in New Jersey.  Courtney (Lang) Miller, MS, OTR/L ’11, was my maid of honor – the same person who alleviated my stress and was my Blue Bean study buddy while at Etown.   

Our stay in Kansas is soon coming to a close, and we are scheduled to move to Portland, Oregon in December. It looks like it’s about time to start the job search again!

Describe a recent career highlight and what Etown means to you.

As part of my Master’s degree, I conducted a systematic literature review with a peer as well as one of our professors.  Our research topic of Spirituality in OT was presented at the 2014 AOTA conference in  Baltimore.  Although I was unable to attend the conference, the chief editor of OT Practice interviewed me about our research.  Out of the hundreds of presenters, I can’t believe our work was chosen to be featured in the magazine on top of being selected for conference. The article was published in the August 25th issue of OT Practice. Of course it was an honor to be interviewed and published in our profession’s magazine, following in the footsteps of SO many occupational therapists who have laid the foundation for our profession… Reflecting back on completing my Master’s, I cannot believe it paid off…the early morning computer lab sessions, the money spent at Starbucks, the $33,000 tuition, the weekly meetings with our professor telling us we needed to think more “abstract” (ABSTRACT? IS SHE CRAZY?)…all the research that seemed like it wouldn’t ever be used or read or even seen by another OT has finally made itself useful!

Do you want to share any final thoughts or reflections on your chosen profession and/or Etown?

The relationships with professors and friends you make at Etown will forever impact you. These are the people who will shape who you become, while discovering the profession you will practice. They are the people you will turn to after an insurance company denies your patient’s Sedlak in Alaskaservices, cry to when a patient passes away, send pictures to when you just don’t know what to call the handwriting grip your student uses, email links of the newest research just to share with someone who really cares like you do, will be with you on your wedding day, will reference in conversation to new coworkers and call to share the excitement of the success of a treatment intervention. Your peers and professors are your greatest resources; they are your link to learning or understanding something in an entirely different way. Take advantage of the relationships available to you.

Sep 23

“Pack it light, wear it right.”

From Jennifer Bush, BS, MOTS ’15

Backpack awareness 2014 Jen Bush (630x852)

Jennifer Bush demonstrates how to wear and adjust a backpack to prevent strain and injury.

To highlight backpack awareness day (Sept. 17) and for my advocacy assignment in my O.T. Administration and Management course, I organized a backpack awareness event with the help of members of the Pennsylvania Occupational Therapy Association as well as Elizabethtown College students. To spread the word about our event and to raise awareness about backpack ergonomics, I created a flyer with the location date and time. The flyer was sent to local schools in the Lancaster County area; some schools posted the flyer on their website while others disseminated printed copies to students. Daniel Panchik, who teaches Kinesiology for the occupational therapy department, lent us posters that his students created about backpack awareness, and we displayed the posters on our information table.

We gathered at the Park City Mall on September 21st to teach school-aged children about backpack ergonomics. School-age children passing by were invited to our table to learn how to wear their backpacks safely.

  • Each child was asked to take a backpack quiz, which included true and false statements and multiple choice questions about backpack ergonomic strategies and backpack injury statistics. We reviewed the correct answers with each student and gave explanations for the answers.
  • After the quiz, the children were asked to step on a scale to determine their weight so they could calculate how much their backpack should weigh. We showed them how to use a calculator to figure out 10% and helped them to calculate the safest weight for their backpacks.Child's feet on a scale to determine body weight
  • The child then had an opportunity to fill a backpack full of books to try to get it to weigh exactly 10% of their weight. As each child filled the backpack, my helpers and I reminded them of tips and strategies for the best way for them to pack their bag and the best way to adjust the backpack to their bodies. When each child got their backpack to weigh exactly 10% of their weight, we asked them to remember what this bag feels like on their back and to never pack a backpack heavier than that.
  • We also handed the bags to parents to feel and asked them to remind their children to weigh their backpacks at home. Afterward, each participant was given handouts about backpack tips and injury statistics, as well as parent handouts about ergonomics for purses, suitcases, and briefcases.

    student at a display table with information about backpack

    Angela Meyers, junior OT student.

We received a great deal of positive feedback and appreciation from both parents and students for holding this event. Almost everyone was surprised at how light their backpack should be in order to be a safe weight. Parents also frequently told stories about having to help their children onto the bus because their bags were so heavy and many students also admitted to experiencing back pain due to heavy backpacks. All of the parents with whom we spoke thanked us for our efforts. Parents and students alike promised that from now on they would “pack it light and wear it right!”

Sep 16

Blue Jays “on the road” to the Pennsylvania Occupational Therapy Association Conference

group of 3 blue jays in the grass

Photo by BobMacInnes at Creative Commons

Are you planning to attend the POTA conference?  We are!  Etown faculty, recent graduates, and current graduate students are presenting at the Pennsylvania Occupational Therapy Association’s Annual Conference in King of Prussia.  We hope to see you there! Go to www.pota.org for more information.

Friday Oct. 31

7:30  – 8:20 AM The Implication of Neurofeedback in Occupational Therapy PracticeJoanna Davis, MS, OT (’14);  Christine Achenbach, M.Ed, OTR/L, Megan DiBernardino, MS, OT (’14); & Sarah Marcolongo, MS, OT (’14)
11:30 AM – 12:20 PM Weighted Blankets in Ethiopia: Service and Occupational TherapyJessica Krueger, MOTS (’15) and Kerri Hample, OTD, OTR/L
2:00 PM – 2:50 PM
Physical Activity in Children with Congenital Heart DefectsDebbie Waltermire, MHS, OTR/L, Rebecca Porter, MS, OT (’14); Nora Redmond, MS, OT (’14); & Megan Steber, MS, OT (’14)
4:00 PM – 4:50 PM
The Occupational Challenges and Supports for Individuals Providing Care to People with DementiaKimberly Cosgrove, MOTS (’15), Jennifer Bush, MOTS (’15), & Tamera Humbert, Ed.D., OTR/L

 Saturday Nov. 1st

8:00 AM – 9:50 AM  Partnerships Promoting Occupational Therapy Mary Muhlenhaupt, OTD, OTR/L, FAOTA, Keri Golden, EdD, OTR/L, Cathy Dolhi, OTD, OTR/L, FAOTA, Kerri Hample, OTD, OTR/L, Michael Allen, Esq.
10:30 AM– 12:20 PM  Poster C5: Sensory Diets and Sensory Processing Disorder: How Much Education Majors Know? Laura Kleindienst, MOTS (’15) & Nancy Carlson-Steadman, Ph.D., OTR/L
  Poster C20: The Implementation of External Memory Aids on a Brain Injury UnitEmily Peters, MOTS (’15), & Linda M. Leimbach, ScD, OTR/L, C/NDT
2:00 – 2:50 PM Going Beyond Continuing Education to Continued Competency: An Opportunity to Shape Your Career and the Future of OTKerri Hample, OTD, OTR/L & Christine L. Hischmann MS, OTR/L, FAOTA
  Sexuality in Individuals with Quadriplegia or ParaplegiaKala Swope, MOTS (’15), Aaron Cecala, PhD (biology), & Terri Dennehy, M.Ed., OTR/L


Sep 09

People come first!

People with disabilities lying in a circle on the ground - circle of friendsMany of you have heard an anecdote about a patient who was in a hospital, and the patient’s family member was horrified and angry to overhear a doctor talking to the nurse about the “S.O.B.” in room XXX… only to discover that the doctor was using an abbreviation of the diagnosis, “shortness of breath.” More recently I have heard or seen people refer to autistic children, ADHD’ers, schizophrenics, the cancer guy…and more.  Wait a minute – are our patients defined by their diagnoses?  Do WE want to be defined by our own diagnoses?

Several years ago I received a compliment from a director of mental health services at a community agency where some graduate students were conducting research.  She noticed that these Etown students used person-first language.  The students consistently referred to the clients as “people with mental illness.”  Yes, they truly “got it”- that we interact with people…and a diagnosis should not define anyone.  A diagnosis may be part of who we are, but should it be the first thing that people think of?

On the flip side, some advocacy groups don’t want to appear as too sensitive and do not recommend using person-first language.  Some groups of people are proud of who they are, the challenges they have overcome, and see their disability or condition as part of their normal lives or their culture.

So, how do we use language and other forms of communication to demonstrate respect and caring for those we may encounter as therapists?  Do you use person-first language?  Why or why not?  What do you think about this?


Sep 05

Sleep – an important occupation. Are we getting enough ZZZZs?

cartoon drawing of sleeping cat with zzz over its headHow are you sleeping these days? How are your clients sleeping? In a society of ever-increasing busyness and trying to juggle multiple roles, tasks, and responsibilities, are you feeling rested in the morning? I work with college students, some of whom are notorious for all-nighters. Throw in some hospital experiences with a family member, and I realize that hospitals are not good places to get good sleep either, despite the goal of healing. Rather ironic, isn’t it?!?

Many Americans are simply not getting enough sleep – regardless of any other health conditions they may have. In addition, lack of sleep can contribute to new or existing health conditions. Do you talk about sleep with your clients? How do we expect our clients to function in daily occupations when they are overtired and lacking enough physical, emotional, and cognitive energy?  Here are some basic ideas for you and maybe even some of your clients to think about in order to get enough REST:

R: Routine

Do you have a bedtime routine or habits that help you unwind and get ready for bed? In the hour before bed, engage in some calming bedtime routines and activities to help prepare your mind and body for sleep. Some ideas are:

  • Gentle stretching or relaxation exercises before bed.
  • Reading – something restful or calming (no murder mysteries or horror novels)
  •  Listen to quiet, calming music
  • Meditation or prayer

E:  Environment - Is the sleeping area dark enough, quiet enough? Light stimulates the brain, and noises can disrupt sleep.  What about the temperature of the sleeping area?  While warm rooms may tend to make us feel sleepy at first, a cooler room may be better for longer-term sleep.  Consider these ideas:

  • Cover the windows – consider using shades, blinds, and curtains that are called “black-out” or “room darkening.” Many of these are available at department stores.
  • Try a sleeping mask. These are very inexpensive (often less than $5) and available in the pharmacy aisle of your local “mart.
  •  Using a white noise machine or even a simple fan can softly block out background noises that might interrupt sleep.
  • Turn the thermostat down and snuggle under a blanket for warmth. OTs knows that the weight of a blanket can help calm the nervous system and thus help the body calm down.

S: Stimulation…or lack thereof, is important for your brain and body to rest

  • Turn off the electronics – TV, smart phones, computers, video games, etc. at least 30-45 minutes prior to bedtime. Are you texting or emailing just before bed? Put your electronics out of the bedroom. If you are using a phone for your alarm, put it on the other side of the room so you’re not tempted to look at it to check for the latest text message while lying in bed. In fact, turn texting features off during sleep hours.
  • Avoid caffeine 4-6 hours before bed. So nix the caffeinated coffee, tea and sodas in the evening. Watch for hidden caffeine in certain brands of soda where you might not expect it (e.g. Sunkist© orange, Barq’s® root beer, A & W® Cream Soda) and other foods such as chocolate.
  • Avoid rigorous exercise too close to bedtime. Such exercise elevates the heart rate and internal body temperature, making it harder to relax and sleep.

 T:  Time

  • How are you or your clients managing their time?  Do you allow enough time in your day for adequate rest?  Are there tasks or other activities that can be lessened in our 24 hours so that we have enough time for sleep and are not stealing from our sleep time?  You probably know that newborns and infants will sleep 16 – 18 hours per day on average. School-aged children need anywhere from 8-10 hours per night (plus naps, depending on their ages), while most adults need 7-8 hours per night on average. (Adults may want to take short naps, too, but beware – too much napping may simply be shifting your total sleep hours to the daytime, making it hard for you to get all of your sleep at night.)
  • Related to routines, having a regular bedtime (and awake time) can help your body get into habits that help you prepare for sleep on a regular basis.

In a future post, I will cover some helpful tips for people with special health care issues or who are in hospitals, nursing homes, etc. In the meantime, feel free to add your own suggestions and tips in the comments below.

Sep 02

Magazine Features Etown Faculty and Alumna

Dr. Kerri Hample wrote an article entitled, “Sharing Skills: Strategies for Enhancing Professional Competency” in the July 14, 2014 issue of OT Practice (pp. 16-17).  The article focused continued competency and described various options for engagement in ongoing professional development.

Amanda (Sedlak) Billman, MS ’11 and Dr. Tam Humbert were recently featured in an article, “Have Faith: How Spirituality is a Regular Part of Occupational Therapy Practice.”  The article appears in the August 25, 2014 edition of OT Practice (pp.13-16) and helps define spirituality while describing ways that therapists can incorporate spirituality into daily practice with clients.