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 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.


Aug 27

Blue Jays back to school

Welcome back signsThis week is the beginning of the new academic year!  The O.T. department proudly welcomes 52 new freshmen students, along with 51 sophomores, 39 juniors, 48 seniors, and 34 graduate students.  Did you add that up?  224 students!  We are excited for a new year with our wonderful students – the best OT students in the country!

What advice do you have to offer to our new and returning students?  Any helpful tips?  Please add your ideas in the comments below.


Students in human development class, observing babies

Look at the numbers for the juniors through graduate students – these students will be needing level I & II fieldwork now through the summer.  You can support Etown by providing a student with real life learning.  For information, contact Christine Achenbach at or 717-361-1146.

Aug 20

Fieldwork Myth #5: We’re not a psychosocial setting.

Louisbourg_LighthouseALL patients involved in healthcare have an emotional response to their diagnosis, treatment and other aspects of their care. If a patient is emotionally labile after a stroke, we address that emotional lability and help them learn to cope with their new normal. If a child with limited self regulation has a meltdown in therapy, we address their regulation and coping skills, preferably with the family so they can carryover these skills at home. If a family asks about the support they need to manage their loved one’s care after discharge, you may make referrals to support groups or to the team’s social worker or psychologist in addition to giving some practical skills for dealing with the change in demands on the family. Does this sound familiar to you?

Addressing psychosocial issues can be overt as in traditional mental health settings or it can be integrated into a treatment plan in a physical rehabilitation setting, school setting, and more. Recognizing these components helps our students learn these vital therapeutic skills. Maybe we all need to be more intentional in our thinking about this aspect of our daily therapy practice.  If you are not in a “mental health” setting, think about the psychosocial aspects of your patients’ lives – how do you address these as an OT?  How can you help fieldwork students integrate this aspect of care into therapy?

Aug 15

Continued Competency – What are the acceptable activities?

blue ribbon for being the bestFor OTs licensed in PA, there are 7 classes of acceptable activities. Each activity has certain guidelines and requirements.   

1. Distance and in-person education programs

Attending continuing education programming either in person or via online formats. Therapists can attend approved programs or seek approval for programs that are not already approved by the board. The proposed approved list is extensive, and employers may seek approval so that in-house education programs related to practice may be used for credit.

2.  Professional writing about occupational therapy and related topics

This includes writing articles in peer-reviewed journals such as the American Journal of Occupational Therapy, etc.  It also includes writing a book or a chapter in a book. Occupational therapists can receive credit (without spending any money) for writing an article in a non-peer-reviewed publications/journal such as Penn Point, OT Practice, an employer-generated newsletter, etc.  The only restriction is that the topic must be related to occupational therapy.

3.  Editing or reviewing articles and books

This includes editing or reviewing articles for peer-reviewed journals, such as the American Journal of Occupational Therapy, and non-peer reviewed writings. Alternatively, occupational therapists can receive credit for reviewing books or book chapters for publishers prior to a book’s publication.  Any editing or reviewing activities must be related to occupational therapy topics.  Documentation from the publisher is required to verify competence in this activity.

4. Unpaid service

The PA OT Board added a class for occupational therapy-related volunteering. An example of such service could include offering assistance to a day care related to increasing hand coordination, or serving on a board to enable a museum to better serve individuals with disabilities.

5. Fieldwork supervision

Therapists will receive credit for supervising both level I and level II fieldwork students — 1 contact hour for supervising a level I student and 3 contact hours for supervising a level II student.

6. Mentorships

Therapists earn credit toward competences by engaging in documented mentoring relationships  as either a mentor or a protégé and in professional study groups. Mentorship and study group participation is not limited to relationships between occupational therapists. Therapists can engage in mentorship relationships and study groups with physicians, psychologists, and other professionals who enhance competence in a specific related area.

7. Presentations and instruction

Therapists can provide presentations and instruction at both peer-reviewed and non-peer reviewed venues. Therapists can present at venues related to occupational therapy and outside of the discipline. Therapists are not able to receive credit toward competence when the presentation or instruction is a component of the therapist’s primary work role.

Aug 12

Reflections on cultural occupations and cultural effectiveness

By Dr. Nancy Carlson Steadman

One of the things that I truly enjoy about the WFOT Congress is the traveling. It is fun to meet people from all over the world and to experience life in a different part of the globe. This summer, my husband Karl and I spent three weeks in Japan including a week in Yokohama, where the conference was held. After three weeks of traveling, visiting the Matsuzawa Hospital in Tokyo, living in Japan, and getting to know some Japanese people, I am challenged to reflect on my own cultural effectiveness.

ADL suite or bedroom at a Tokyo Hospital

ADL apartment

The ADL space at the Matsuzawa Hospital in Tokyo: The flooring in this ADL space is tatami (畳) . In more traditional homes, this space would be used for a tea ceremony and sleeping. Before entering a space with tatami, you must remove your shoes. Typically, you take one large step up from the place where you remove your shoes to this folding flooring. In this type of room, the bedding mats are housed in the closet. They are brought into the room for sleeping.

Origami irises (flowers)

Origami as Leisure

An inspired Origami Art from the residents at the Matsuzawa Hospital in Tokyo: Folding paper into artful creations remains to be an historic, cultural heritage. I saw this in Hiroshima with the story of Sadako Sasaki, who believed that folding 1000 paper cranes would make her well as she contracted after she survived the deployment of the atom bomb. I also saw this in contemporary society. The OT who organized our tour of a Japanese mental health facility made all of the visiting OTs a paper crane gift as a memento of our experience.

sculptures with knitted hats and bibs or scarves

Spirituality and customs in everyday life

Sacred sculptures with knitted bibs and hats: In my travels, I noticed red peppered shrines, temples and sculptures. This photo made me smile because of our connection with knitting as a handicraft. These sculptures guarded the graves in a small town called Nikko, just north of Tokyo. Since the 1970s, it has been a custom for women to knit these caps and bibs. You can learn more about this custom and its spirituality at

How is your practice influenced by your local culture?  What are the values, beliefs, traditions, and customs that are important to your patients/consumers/clients?

Aug 06

Fieldwork Myth #4: I must be available 8 hours/day, every day while I have a student.

clockThe OT educational standards do not require this.  However, your employer may have other rules, policies or expectations about supervising students.  Some third-party payers also have policies about students’ provision of therapy and needing direct supervision for reimbursement of student services.  So, check with your supervisor, administrator or business/billing office to be sure you know what is required for supervising students where you work.

See myth #2 – full-time supervision is not required by the OT education standards.  Does this change your thinking?  Do you still have questions about student supervision?  Feel free to comment or contact me.

Aug 01

Continued Competency – How does the PA board’s requirements differ from NBCOT’s PDUs?

hedge mazeNBCOT requires continuing education (counted as professional development units or PDUs) rather than continued competence. It is the PA licensure board’s opinion that continued competence requires engagement in the profession. In order to ensure engagement, there were a few areas where the Board did not incorporate the PDUs from NBCOT:

  • (a) activities wherein documentation supporting completion of the activity was not independently verifiable (NBCOT PDU 9 and 12)
  • (b) pre-preparation activities (NBCOT PDUs 1 and 2)
  • (c) activities stemming from an employment role (NBCOT PDUs 17 and 28), and
  • (d) collection of data credit (NBCOT PDU 27).

For Pennsylvania, acceptable continued competency activities are broken into 7 categories of activities.  With several exceptions and breakdown differences, these categories are similar to the NBCOT’s 28 professional development units (PDUs).  Watch this blog for a review of the acceptable activities, or you can check them out for yourself.