Alison Tevyaw is a 2014 graduate of New England Tech’s Master of Science Degree program in Occupational Therapy (MSOT) as well as a 2011 graduate of NEIT’s Associate in Science Degree program in Occupational Therapy Assistant (OTA) Technology. Alison is a remarkable young woman who has also mastered the art of parenting an 18-month old toddler and newborn twins while traveling from El Paso, Texas, to NEIT to complete her MSOT degree this past summer.
When Alison began the MSOT program in October, 2012, she was working full-time as a Certified Occupational Therapy Assistant (COTA) in Rhode Island. Her husband was about to deploy for the second time to Afghanistan, and they were expecting their first child. Their daughter was born in March, 2013. Alison stopped working in September, anticipating her husband’s return from Afghanistan and their move to his new post in El Paso, Texas.
The question now became whether Alison should complete her MSOT program with these changes in her life. After much thought, she decided to stay in the program even though she would now be living thousands of miles away because she had already completed half of the curriculum. Then, three months after the move, Alison learned they were now expecting twins! Ironically the expected delivery date of the twins coincided with the last quarter of classes. Alison stated, “Time management, finding balance between family life and school, and a great support system is what helped me to succeed, not to mention, my passion for learning and to grow within my career. I love being an Occupational Therapist because it gives me the ability to actually make a difference and to affect change and to me, that is powerful.”
What made you decide to attend NEIT?
The decision to attend New England Tech to obtain my MSOT stemmed from having graduated from NEIT’s OTA program. I felt that the supportive staff in the OT Department, the hybrid class schedule of the MSOT program, and because I was living in Rhode Island when I began the program, would make it a good fit for me.
How did you choose your program?
As a graduate of New England Tech’s OTA program, I was faced with the decision of where to attend a graduate program. Initially, I chose the OTA program because I had a friend in the program who educated me about OT as a career. I originally dreamed of going to pharmacy school and had worked as a pharmacy tech for 5+ years, but the prospect of attending college full-time for six years plus working full-time didn’t seem logical to me. The healthcare field is ultimately where I wanted to be, and I knew from my previous experience working with children and the elderly that I would enjoy working as an Occupational Therapist.
What did you do to get started with your career?
Initially, after graduating from the OTA program in 2011, I had worked with Career Services a great deal perfecting my resume and writing cover letters. I had submitted a number of resumes for available positions, and then one day I received a phone call from a local agency which I had never even applied to. I learned that the agency reached out to NEIT and requested resumes from recent graduates to fill an open position and mine happened to be one of them.
Tell us about your position.
Before we relocated to Texas, I worked as a pediatric COTA in a private school that provides children, suffering with severe and profound disabilities, medical rehabilitation and individualized comprehensive educational programs. I worked with students from 9-15 years of age who had been diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder, traumatic brain injury, and a variety of genetic and behavioral disorders.
What do you feel ultimately prepared you for your position?
I really think the lab time within the Occupational Therapy program is so beneficial. The lectures are also important, but working in the labs is where students can put it all together and actually apply the knowledge gained. Additionally, the benefit of having fieldwork built into the curriculum is immeasurable. Not only do students get a wealth of hands-on experience, they are exposed to a variety of cases, clinicians, and complimentary therapies.
Do you have any advice for graduates who are just beginning their job search?
Beginning the job search can seem a bit overwhelming. My advice would be to take the first job you find interesting even if it’s not in the specialty you may want because there will always be other opportunities down the line. I had peers who were absolutely sure about their area of specialty, such as pediatrics, but took a position in physical rehab or mental health instead and now wouldn’t dream of being anywhere else. Proficiency in any specialty will always be helpful because the same set of basic skills is needed to be competent and to build client trust. Supervision and mentorship is key since it’s where students learn the most. Networking with other therapists is important. Attend RIOTA meetings, and never be afraid to link back up with your NEIT peers and instructors. Students can never have too many personal and professional resources.
What can current students do to better prepare themselves for jobs in this field?
Finding balance is important for health and success. A therapist should possess patience and determination. While completing coursework, don’t be afraid to ask for further explanation or examples from faculty, and be sure to chat with peers to discuss each other’s viewpoints. As a new therapist, there are many different perspectives on a variety of issues, and many times there is no right or wrong answer. Clinical reasoning is where everything stems, and building this skill is imperative to leading a successful career. Seeing the look on the faces of my clients when they can successfully participate in an activity that is meaningful to them is priceless.
For more information on New England Tech’s over 40 associate, bachelor’s, master’s and online degree programs, including Master of Science Degree program in Occupational Therapy (MSOT) as well as Associate in Science Degree program in Occupational Therapy Assistant (OTA) Technology, call 800-736-7744, 401-467-7744, or email NEITAdmissions@neit.edu.