HANCEVILLE, Ala. — Graduates of the Occupational Therapy Assistant program at Wallace State Community College were recognized at a pinning ceremony during the final days of the summer semester.
Program director Laura Smith noted this was her first cohort in her three years at the college that was able to take all their classes in person. “Prior to the class of 2022, those classes were impacted by COVID and required some classes to be completed virtually, but this cohort made it through entirely in person.”
“We did it,” said class member Ella Denes, chosen to speak as the OTA program award recipient. She described the last year as “simultaneously the longest yet quickest year of our life.”
One of their first assignments at the start of year was composing an elevator speech to describe what occupational therapy is.
“To be honest, a true definition is hard to come by,” Denes said. “We’ve chosen a beautiful but complex health care profession. A career that provides therapeutic interventions to a variety of populations and diagnoses. Occupational therapy is like, in my opinion, the Swiss Army knife of patient care. We’ll be what you need us to be. It’s a commitment to helping people find meaning and motivation in all of life’s stages all the way from birth to the end of life.”
In her elevator speech, Denes compared it to an actual elevator where the passenger isn’t sure where they need to go once it arrives.
“In walks an occupational therapy practitioner and sees that someone needs help,” Denes said. “So, it’s our job at that point to help determine where that passenger needs to go and how they need to get there. And we ride with them, and we learn about them, and we build rapport, and we build competence and we’re with them every step of the way until it’s time for them to get off the elevator.”
As for the traits an occupational therapy assistant needs, Smith referred to the popular Harry Potter series, which she used to divide lab groups based on the Hogwarts houses from the books and movies.
“Each house has specific character traits,” Smith said. Gryffindors are brave, chivalrous, confident and courageous. Hufflepuffs are loyal, tolerant, patient, hardworking, friendly and dedicated. Slytherins are cunning, determined, ambitious, resourceful, innovative and accomplished. And Ravenclaws are wise, intellectual, clever, sharp and creative. These characteristics are needed to be a successful OTA and our program works hard to recognize, develop and foster them into our students.
“An OTA must be friendly and professional in order to interact with new people every day,” Smith added. “Be hardworking and resourceful to meet productivity standards. Be patient and flexible with dealing with unplanned situations and sometimes hostile people. Be innovative and creative when developing optimal treatment plans. Be wise enough to know that you don’t know everything and might need to look back in a textbook or two. And be confident and brave enough to advocate for the needs of our patients and for our profession. Students, I hope that as you leave this program, you keep these characteristics in mind as you make choices in your career.”
“I know everyone in this class will do great,” said instructor and clinical coordinator Kelly Krigbaum. “You have huge, caring hearts, and I believe each of you came into this profession for the right reason and are ready to change people’s lives. You’ve certainly changed mine, and I will always remember this class for your big hearts and your big personalities. I can’t wait to see what your future holds.”
The Wallace State Occupational Therapy Assistant program is a one-year associate degree program. Two semesters of prerequisite classes are required before applying to and entering the program. Applications are accepted each year from March 1 to June 1 for entry in the fall semester. Students interested in applying for next fall can take any needed prerequisite courses in the next fall and spring semesters.
For more information visit www.wallacestate.edu/ota or call 256-352-8307.