Ali Zwicker

Tall Tree Integrated Health Centre
Occupational Therapist
Victoria, Canada
Victoria, Canada

What are your main responsibilities or activities in your current position?

I am an occupational therapist presently working with people who are taking time off or having difficulty attending work or school due to brain injury, physical injury, or mental health. I first meet with clients in their home, workplace, or the clinic and strive to get a better understanding of how their injury or symptoms are impacting multiple areas of their life. Next, we set goals together and identify what is most important for them to address (e.g., attending a child’s swimming lesson, preparing a meal, returning to work, etc.). We work collaboratively in the clinic, their home, or the community to address barriers to their goals. I use assessments before, during, and after we work together to track changes so I know what we are doing is working and the client can see their own progress over time. It is beyond fulfilling to work with these clients and teach them skills that will help them get back to what they want and need to do in their life. I am convinced I have the best job in the world.

How does your current work relate to your graduate degree?

My current work is directly related to my graduate degree – in order to work as an occupational therapist in Canada, you must have a Master’s in the field and successfully complete the national exam at the end of your studies. During the first year of the MOT program, we learned theories to help guide our thinking and studied different health conditions and their potential impact on different areas of people’s lives. We then practiced occupation- or activity-based solutions to the areas people are having difficulty as a result of injury or disability. In the second year, we broadened the lens from individual people and looked at areas such as overall access to healthcare in Canada, or how to create and advocate for occupational therapy-based programs and policies that can serve small groups of people, local communities, British Columbians, and Canadians. The focused and broad lenses I learned in the MOT program prepared me for the national exam and workplace to better understand solutions to injuries facing individual clients and all Canadians.

What do you like and what do you find challenging about your current position?

My favourite part of my position is the variety! Half my days are spent in the clinic meeting with clients in a private space. The other half of the time, I am travelling southern Vancouver Island meeting clients in their homes, workplaces, or the community helping them return to what they want and need to do. Sometimes it can be challenging to go from one type of injury to the next, such as switching gears from brain injury to mental health. That said, I have found intentionally taking a moment, be it several minutes or a few deep breaths, before meeting with the next client helps keep me grounded and ready to be 100% present for my next session.

What motivated you to pursue graduate work at UBC?

My interest in pursuing a graduate degree at UBC was founded on both professional and personal grounds. UBC is a top global university and home to the best occupational therapy program in the country. When I was researching programs, it quickly became evident the opportunity to learn from and work with the top tier faculty here was something I couldn't pass up. Additionally, I knew the campus and program cultures would create a place for students to thrive given the university’s emphasis on student well-being and mental health. It was everything I thought it could be and more.

How did the graduate degree at UBC help you achieve your career and/or personal development goals?

The MOT program at UBC was outstanding and is helping me achieve both career and personal development goals – such as being a better therapist. We learned the importance of self-reflection as a critical tool for development, which admittedly was something I did occasionally before entering the program and I now do almost daily. We also discussed leadership, occupation-based solutions to big problems we are facing as a society, and health policy throughout the program which I truly enjoyed and have goals to implement into my practice.

What key things did you do, or what attitudes or approaches did you have, that contributed to your success?

There were a few approaches I used during my graduate degree that I believe continue to serve me today. First, I tried to arrive at each lecture with an open mind and leave with at least one takeaway. I now use this approach during each of my sessions with clients and they are always teaching me something new. Second, I asked a lot (a lot) of questions, even if they seemed silly. I continue to ask questions because I do not think there is a time I will ever “arrive” and know everything. Lastly, I identified key people I admired, whether they were classmates (now colleagues), faculty, clinical faculty, guest speakers, or alumni. I paid attention to their leadership, how they spoke about themselves and others, and their vision for occupational therapy. These people lit and continue to light a fire that fuels my excitement for this profession.

What is your best piece of advice for current graduate students preparing for their future careers?

When you graduate, know that you have a solid foundation. It is okay, and even expected, for you not to know everything. You already have the skills you honed during your program to continue asking questions, reflecting, and proposing ideas – these will continue to serve you in your future careers. You got this!


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