OT vs the Business World: 4 differences from my experience

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Enjoying a long warm weekend in Chicago before my next 4-day work week. The schedule of rehab is pretty wonderful – when I leave, I leave, and I wouldn’t take work home if I weren’t obsessed with researching/treatment planning in my downtime. Inpatient is a job that you don’t need to take home, which was something I did constantly in the business world. I worked in business development, basically sales, in the logistics industry. The more I worked, the more money I made, which bit this lady with workaholic tendencies in the butt.

Because it is always nice to think about, here are the main differences between OT and my business world experience.

OT vs Business.

  1. Attire.
    • Pro: Anyone who knows me knows I am not someone who looks forward to putting together the perfect ensemble of clothing each day, or spending any time at all shopping. I like to look good when I can, or when I go out, but it has never been a priority for me. As an OT in pediatrics, I could wear yoga pants and a long shirt every day. It was like heaven. In rehab, I don’t think twice about what I wear as long as it is business casual (modified to enable me to squat, reach, and do everything I need to do at work). Nobody is there to pick about your attire and it emphasizes what is really important.
    • Con: Aforementioned attire will likely end the day looking less sharp than my clothing in the business world. I fluctuated between casual at the office, to professional/suit when traveling, and I rarely ended the day feeling like I needed to wash the clothes immediately. In both pediatrics and inpatient rehab, I often throw my clothes into the wash right away as the “human” aspects inherently make it a messier job. In the business world, you can spend hours shopping for great clothes and have a perfect place to wear them each day. You end the day unscathed, unless you’re like me and spill coffee or lunch from time to time.
  2. Hours.
    • Pro: Being an OT allows an incredible variety of work hours/settings depending on which job you take. In business, I sometimes worked around the clock checking emails, sending emails, and probably stressing about these emails the rest of the time. I got a couple of weeks of vacation per year, which seemed insignificant to the 60+ hours I often worked each week. While I don’t plan on working part-time to start, as a hopefully future parent it is a priceless option. As an OT, even working part time allows a meaningful career and I could not have had this in my previous industry. Working part time is an anomaly. I could also work Wednesday – Saturday as I do now, which is rare in business, allowing us to get childcare just 3 days/week vs. 5. After working a “9 to 5” – aka 24/7 much of the time – there is much to say for scheduling options.
    • Con: None. There is much variety in the business world as well but since this is based totally on my experience, the hours aspect has been an immensely welcome change.
  3. Taking work home.
    • Pro: In OT, I take home an altered perspective of health and wellbeing. I see patients with health issues be positive and content, and I take home a bit of their passion for life. I an introduced to traumatic events that can happen and the implications they may cause in life, and take things in mine less for granted because of it. I take home happiness or empathy from relationships I have built, and I take home a fervor to find out everything I can about a certain diagnosis/issue/deficit to enable someone however I can.
    • Con: There are days I have slipped away to the bathroom because I saw a patient/situation that makes me question the fairness of life or challenges my beliefs of modern medicine, and I was not sure I could keep it together. I take home this question of whether or not every minute of the session was valuable and beneficial to the person. The rawness of the work gives us an incredible job to do, and this comes with a sense of responsibility that I will always carry with me.
  4. Most importantly, the human connection.
    • Pro: It was vastly different to sit at a desk most of the day talking to my team when I could, emailing and phone calling for the most part. I was removed from the work being done, kind of a middleman organizing and communicating everything behind the scenes. In OT, it is you and the person you’re treating. There are no barriers, and it is a constant lesson in being my genuine self. If I am not, I will not only get burned out but will not be fully present for the patient because I am worried about my actions/words.  If I do not seem confident, the patient will tell me. If I need to do something a different way, I typically hear about it. Again and again, this human connection is what has allowed me to grow.
    • Con: Some of the humans are, of course, not as easy to work with as others and the hours with them will be more difficult because of it. Yet even the most difficult patient is a learning experience – a direct opportunity to alter my behavior, problem solve, and find a way to encourage the person to complete therapy.
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