OT Stories From The Field | Jenna Nguyen, OTR/L

#OTStoriesFromTheField Jenna Nguyen

This guest post is part of an OTinsight series #OTStoriesFromTheField.

This is a guest post written by Jenna Nguyen, MS, OTR/L. Jenna graduated from a 5-year MS Occupational Therapy program in 2017. She has worked with adult and geriatric clients in acute care and rehabilitation settings. Her clinical interests include practice and research in cardiac rehabilitation, hand therapy, and Parkinson’s Disease.


When I think about occupational therapy, one of the things I value most is the idea of connections.

Within the field of occupational therapy, one can find meaning in many different connections, including the relationships between educators and students during schooling, practitioners and clients in the workplace, and even the connections between clients and their occupations in everyday life.

I first connected with Anna via Instagram when she launched her website, OTinsight.org. In our initial conversation, we talked briefly about my experience in my first year of practice as a registered occupational therapist. We connected over my passion for writing and sharing my story, which I’m now excited to be sharing with you.

What Do You Think Is the Most Important Aspect of OT?

As occupational therapy practitioners, it is important that we hear other people’s stories. In our unique field, we believe in the distinct value of occupational therapy. Yet in order to be successful practitioners who desire to deliver meaningful and impactful therapy, we must listen to the values of the people we work with.

A few years ago, I attended my state’s annual Occupational Therapy Association Conference. I attended sessions, viewed posters, and met many other occupational therapy practitioners and students, and learned a lot of new information.

One thing I can clearly recall from the first day of the conference is when one of the speakers told the group that, “Occupational therapy practitioners can set themselves apart from others by really listening to their clients—by understanding what that person wants, and what that person wants to do.” This is the exact essence of client-centered, occupation-based therapy.

What Do You Do as an OT?

In the occupational therapy process, we look at where our clients have been, where they are now, and where we hope they will be in the future. We do chart reviews, perform initial evaluations, build occupational profiles, write goals, deliver meaningful interventions, and continue the therapeutic process until our goals are met.

Throughout all of this, we consider how the person, environment, and occupations interact to impact overall occupational performance. In the process, we learn from experience, we learn from stories, we learn from what happens to us, and we learn from the things we listen to.

What Has Your OT Journey Been Like So Far?

After graduating from OT school, I worked primarily in acute care, though I had another PRN job in a subacute rehabilitation setting.

Being an occupational therapist in an acute care setting quickly taught me that you can’t know it all, especially in the first year of practice (which is a whole other series of stories). So here is a word of advice to you, prospective students, and those on your way to becoming occupational therapy practitioners: find your resources, find your support system, and learn from everyone you meet and every situation you encounter, even the difficult ones.

Working in a high-stress environment like acute care is very demanding, especially as a new grad. Another very important lesson that I learned during this time is that you cannot let a job demand more of yourself than you are able to give.

During my time working at the hospital, someone close to me was admitted and eventually passed away. This was, of course, a very difficult process, and I couldn’t come back to work the same way after his death. I needed to do what I needed to in order to take care of myself.

So, I resigned from a job I thought would be my perfect career. Maybe I will end up back in acute care in the future, but for now, exploring other settings is the best thing for me.

I believe that when a meaningful connection is severed, it is important to take time to heal. As occupational therapy practitioners, we encounter people in the most vulnerable times of their lives to help them find meaning and, in many ways, inspire them to participate once again in their lives. We support participation in self-care, but we also need to care for ourselves, especially in a profession that values therapeutic use of self. While we absolutely need to listen to what our clients value, I think it’s also very important to listen to what matters to ourselves as occupational therapy practitioners, and as people, as well.

What Are You Focusing On Now?

During the past few months, I’ve been researching new jobs in new settings, filling out applications, going for interviews, but I haven’t found my best fit yet. I have not, however, given up on pursuing the things that give my life meaning.

I am attending dance and exercise classes at a studio and choreographing, as well as completing workouts and mindfulness practices at home on my own as a way to practice self-care. I am reading and writing and listening to music and engaging in the occupations that are meaningful to me.

I’ve taken time to connect with people who are interesting and inspiring. And I’ve learned that connecting with myself so that I can better myself in my occupational therapy practice is the most important thing I could be doing right now.

I have learned so much from my own story and experiences. I’ve learned that you don’t need to wait for your work to dictate your passions. During these last few months, I’ve had time to explore my interests, both personally and professionally. I’ve been taking online courses and getting certifications in areas I am passionate about. I have looked into PP-OTD programs to further my education and refine my interests in a way that can serve the occupational therapy community in new ways.  

I believe that the therapists who value lifelong learning will find their work fulfilling. I challenge you all to keep reading, keep attending conferences and lectures when you can, and keep taking the time to learn from others so that you will keep growing and bettering yourself. You don’t need to formally go back to school to keep being a student. I believe that we should not live the same year of our practice over and over again. And with everything I’ve dealt with in these last 12 months, I certainly don’t want to.

I love quotes and so I’ll leave you with this one: “Be fearless in the pursuit of what sets your soul on fire.”


This guest post is part of an OTinsight series #OTStoriesFromTheField.

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