Mandy Chamberlain MOTR/L is an occupational therapist with a passion for working with the older adult population and the founder of SeniorsFlourish.com and the membership site, The Learning Lab. Both are dedicated to helping other geriatric OT’s be the best they can be through education, resources, tips and videos. Her varied clinical background includes working with geriatrics through long term care, home health services, home modification consultation, assisted living, inpatient critical access and outpatient therapy services. When she is not busy working as an independent contractor and running a website, she is enjoying life in the mountains of Colorado with 3 energetic kids and an inspiring husband, all while sipping coffee and planning their next family travel adventure.
Here are takeaways from our conversation:
GERIATRICS IS COOL TOO
Mandy is an occupational therapist that enjoys working with older adults and sought to create a space for other occupational therapists to access resources and information to successfully work with that population. Mandy shares how especially in the field of occupational therapy that many clinicians have identified themselves as being proud pediatric OTs, hand therapists, etc. but do not necessarily identify with being a geriatric OT. There weren’t that many resources out there for this population, so Mandy stepped in and filled that space with her brand.
The thing is, working with geriatrics may not be as appealing and ‘fun’ as working in pediatrics. Mandy expresses that the reason why there are a ton of pediatric therapy treatment websites for occupational therapists is because it’s fun! Of course the treatment interventions in pediatrics is fun- you get to squish things, create cool gross and fine motor activities, engage in pretend play while doing sensory integration, etc. Why can’t working in geriatrics be fun? Well, it can, and Mandy is making sure that occupational therapists understand that. We are the occupational therapists and therefore it is up to us to make anything we do fun. We should find what’s meaningful in therapy.
EARLY BEGINNINGS IN OCCUPATIONAL THERAPY
Mandy grew up on a hobby farm on North Dakota. When she was a teenager, her grandfather lived on their property in a mobile home so they could hang out and keep an eye on him. He experienced a massive stroke and went to a nursing home. The stroke left him with cognitive deficits and flaccidity. Mandy was exposed to OT/PT/SLP through the care that her grandfather received. She loved how occupational therapy addressed cognitive and physical limitations, which motivated her to pursue occupational therapy at the University of North Dakota.
THE ELEVATOR PITCH
Yes- we may be able to help you a job. But there’s more to OTs than that. Mandy’s elevator pitch for what is occupational therapy is: Occupational therapy is a healthcare profession where we help people do the things they need and want to do in order to have a good quality of life. Occupational therapy isn’t a black and white profession- we don’t just do exercises or just do cognition or just do basic activities of daily living. As an occupational therapist, you are analyzing all the things that go into making someone’s performance in their desired occupations (whether that’s getting dressed, going to school, being able to play with their grandkids ) successful. We help people to be independent and to thrive.
STRIVE TO BE A GOOD PRACTITIONER
You didn’t go to school to become mediocre. You want to do your best and be your best clinician. If you can listen to what your patient needs, you can’t really go wrong because our profession is typically client-centered. Mandy used that same concept and shifted that into a business where she listened to the needs of occupational therapists that began working in a skilled nursing facility (SNF) or with older adults in another setting and began creating content based on their needs and wants.
As occupational therapists, we are educated heavily in theory. Once we get into a real working environment and experience an organization’s work culture, we can step into an unexpected and surprising realm that we weren’t prepared for. You may see clinicians doing repetitive and rote activities, a stagnant team culture, continuing education and opportunities for learning is not supported or encouraged, etc. Your organization must support your basic, individual, team, and professional growth needs, which may vary and look differently from facility to facility. Regardless, if your organization is NOT supporting you in any of those arenas, how can you be expected to flourish yourself? Side note- you can download this twelve question engagement survey to find out what exactly those needs are at work and if they’re being met. It can be used a tool you can bring to your boss or a way for you to decipher if you should start an initiative at work or- maybe it’s time to find a new job.
Mandy describes this pressure you can feel sometimes when you are a new grad and/or at a new working environment to conform to the basic type of activities and interventions that aren’t meaningful. We enter the workforce with high expectations and a whole bag of new ideas and interventions, but we may be afraid to do them because no one around us is doing them. Many times, we are doing interventions in a group setting and it can even be ‘taboo’ to do things outside of the box.
It’s hard to do something against the grain and make that first step- like a cooking activity or a home evaluation if no one’s done it before. This is the fuel behind Mandy’s mission to empower occupational therapists to be the best they can be and just go for providing the best interventions boldly and confidently.
If you feel good about being a clinician and you show up to work with that, you can further empower your patients. Granted, not every patient is always going to want to work with your or cooperate, but the whole experience of pushing yourself to be better will lift your career up too.
LOW BUDGET, NO PROBLEM
When your clinic gives you lemons, you’ve got to make lemonade- and as occupational therapists, we’ll teach you how to make the lemonade (I, Erika, am funny, I know). Yes, preparatory tasks are important and necessary and may be more basic. Even if your facility has a low budget or limited space, you can still find ways to be creative. We have to figure out what are the things that our patients need to do or would like to do everything and help them get there as occupation-based as possible.
LEARNING LAB FOR CLINICIANS
The Learning Lab is Mandy’s online membership course for occupational therapists that will work or work with the older adult population. The lab includes a library of short videos under 10 minutes with different treatment ideas, journal club, forum and Facebook group, patient handouts, clinical resources, assessments, how-to’s, and more all in one place. Each week, Mandy is adding something new to the lab. This is the place to have a supportive network with other clinicians that you can bounce ideas off of in a safe environment. Mandy refers to this as an on-demand resource.
Let’s be honest- once you leave school, you are RELIEVED that you are done with having to back up everything you do with evidence. You are more than happy to throw the words ‘evidence-based’ out the window! OK, maybe it’s not a conscious thought process, but we typically get comfortable with our treatments and get in our groove and may move further away from basing everything in the latest research.
You can take advantage of this Learning Lab from Seniors Flourish to get the latest evidence based treatment ideas for a variety of conditions, including a library of videos and materials that will provide you with invaluable information and interventions so you can be the best clinician for your patients. We are proud affiliates of the Learning Lab and you join the membership and use code JET:120 at checkout for 10% off your yearly plan!
Connect with Mandy:
The Learning Lab: https://seniorsflourish.com/learninglab/