Learning About Cancer

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brent braveman's blog

Thoughts about occupational therapy, interdisciplinary management and living live to its fullest!

Learning About Cancer

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This week my orientation shifted from a focus on the organization and my division (Clinical Support Services) to a focus on my department (Rehabilitation Services) and to learning about cancer and the services we provide to our patients.

Even though I had heard some of this before, the facts are shocking............cancer is the second leading cause of death (after heart disease) and 1 in 2 men will have some form of cancer at some point in their lives and of course much of the disease is preventable by not smoking and making simple alterations to diet.

I was overwhelmed with information this week at work and in a GREAT presentation given by three of my OT staff at my first TOTA meeting. Three of the occupational therapy staff gave a one and a half hour talk on cancer related fatigue (and they were amazing!).

In addition to learning about the most common types of cancer and surgical and pharmacological interventions I started to learn about occupational therapy and physical therapy intervention. I am happy to say that I can't count the number of times when the answer to questions were something like "oh we immediately refer the patient to occupational therapy for that (said by the PT's) or "PT also plays a critical role and we have to get them involved right away (said by the OT's)." The level of respect and collaboration across the disciplines is inspiring.

Another thing that I am delighted about is both the occupational therapy staff and physical therapy staff pay attention to not only physical and functional issues but both disciplines are clearly attuned to our patients' psychosocial and emotional health.......as one therapist said "We save peoples' lives here, but we do really difficult things to them and can put them through hell; you have to have compassion and and pay attention to every aspect of human existence."

My orientation continues this week and I will start to learn about systems such as documentation and billing......things I am sure I will think about a lot as Director. I also have to start to figure out what clinical knowledge and skills I will need. With over 100 FTE's there are tons of management issues to address and I will seldom have time to treat patients but I will be in the "on call" rotation (we are a 24/7 operation) and will have to be able to manage the clinical issues that pop up over night or on the weekend, so I know I have a lot to learn.....in some ways I am JUST like a new grad again!

The one other thing that I can think of for this week is that I am very excited that I think there will be opportunities for me to continue my scholarship around the area of work and disability. Last week I attended a seminar put on by Cancer and Careers (cancerandcareers.org) and had a conversation with a physician who is interested in research on cancer and work....very cool!

Lots and Lots and Lots to think about! but THIS is certainly living my occupational therapy life to it's fullest!


  • Congrats on the new job - sounds like you are off to a great start!  It definitely sounds like a challenging but rewarding position within a facility such as that.

    This may seem to be a petty concern, but I am also very happy to see a very well-qualified OT assume the position of Director of Rehabilitation Services.  Throughout my career, I've worked for organizations where it seemed to be a constant struggle to simply advocate for OT due to all the higher positions typically being filled by PTs.  One rehab manager even went so far as to say that since OTs were getting more orders than they could handle, rather than using it as a strategy to hire more OTs, that PTs could "screen"  patients and let us know if OT was really required!  It was a seemingly uphill battle to educate her (she had been in the position for over 20 years) on the value of OTs.

    Good luck and best wishes as you continue in your new job!