Who Am I?
I’m Chelsey Rey, a senior in the Health and Wellness Department here at UNC Asheville. If you had asked me what I wanted to do when I first started college, I would have told you I wanted to be a physician so I could change people’s lives with the power of knowledge and medicine. I started out here at UNCA as a Cell and Molecular Biology Major, because I knew if I wanted to go to medical school that was the way to do it. As I made my way through 2 years of being a biology major, I realized that medical school was just not for me. I was at a complete loss. What else could I do?
After some research I found the Health and Wellness Promotion Department here at UNC Asheville and I made an appointment to talk to Dr. Keith Ray, the department chair. This meeting with Dr. Ray convinced me I had finally found the perfect major, and I filled out the paper work to become part of the Health and Wellness family. I discovered that medical doctors are not the only people who can make a difference and improve other’s quality of life (crazy, I know.), which is what drew me to becoming a physician in the first place. When I first entered the department, I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do as a career. I took the Strong Interest Inventory Test at the Career Center and discovered Occupational Therapy.
What is Occupational Therapy?
I had never heard of occupational therapy before, so I did some research. Occupational Therapists help people across the lifespan participate in the things they want and need to do through the therapeutic use of everyday activities. My interest in occupational therapy lead me to CarePartners, an outpatient rehabilitation clinic. For my internship I worked with CarePartners Outpatient Clinic. Not only did I get to shadow occupational therapists as they evaluated and treated patients, I got to put my academic knowledge into use by working with others in the office to create a health information booklet for patients with lymphedema, the chronic swelling of the lymph nodes. Lymphedema treatment is a specialty at CarePartners and it was important for CarePartners to give their patients the best information possible to help them create a better quality of life while managing this chronic condition.
How has my internship experience benefitted me?
This experience has helped me greatly, academically as well as professionally. I have made connections with people in the community and I have learned much more than I would have ever been able to learn just in the classroom. This internship gave me a hands-on experience of what it was like to work in my field of interest. This experience has helped me to become a competitive candidate for occupational therapy school because I now have 120 hours of clinical observation and the required amount is usually around 40. I have also developed great relationships with the therapists I have worked with who are willing to write me letters of recommendation, which is also a requirement for occupational therapy school.
What am I going to do next?
Overall my internship at CarePartners has been a fantastic experience. It has helped me solidify my decision to go into occupational therapy, as well as given me a great opportunity to extend my connections in the community. I got to see patients with the therapists and learn about their story and about why they are in therapy. The therapists gave me opportunities to ask questions and learn more about each individual patient and their condition. I created lasting relationships with the therapists, patients, and other professionals at CarePartners. I would definitely recommend participating in an internship before you graduate from UNC Asheville. It has helped me tremendously and it has also given me the opportunity to be given the Community Engaged Scholar Award. All of these experiences will make me a better candidate for occupational therapy school as well as a valuable employee after I graduate.