As an Occupational Therapist I have worked in several different settings. For the past 7 years I have worked in Home Health, where I go to peoples’ houses to treat them when they are not sick enough to be in a hospital or a nursing home, but it would be too difficult to bring them to an Outpatient Rehab place. For a few years before that, when I lived in Tampa, I worked as a Rehab Manager for an Outpatient Place (I usually refer to them as “Their Name – That Horrible Company” – they’re the ones who demoted me on my birthday and then fired me 8 days later. I later found out that the official reason they let me go was downsizing but instead of saying that that I was downsized, they preferred to tell me that I didn’t have what it took. B@stards. Oh, and by the way, I got a new job 20 hours later. Take THAT, motherf*ckers! But I digress.). When I lived in Staten Island, I worked full-time on a Psychiatry unit of a local hospital for 11 years and for 5 of those years I also worked on an “as needed” basis, at a Home Health company. However none of those sorts of jobs were ever in my original career goals. Nope, not even close. Originally, from when I was 13 years old and decided to be an O.T., until I was almost done with college, I was going to work in Pediatrics.

But something went terribly, terribly wrong.

It took years before I was comfortable telling this story but when I was near the tail end of Occupational Therapy school, I failed my Pediatric Internship. Yup, I totally flunked it. I got an F. I remember hearing that my supervisor, “Caroline,” felt horrible about failing me. She had never had to do that to anyone before, and I certainly was devastated. In 20/20 hindsight though, I absolutely, positively deserved it – I was a socially immature 23-year-old who had no idea of what I was doing when it came to working with children who had disabilities. However, also in 20/20 hindsight, I’m very, VERY grateful for the experience – yes, I’m actually glad it happened. After spending 2 days in bed in a fetal position, having a mini mental breakdown, I picked myself up from my bootstraps and started life again, this time planning to work in Psychiatry. As I’ve mentioned in past blog entires, I LOVED working in Psych and, I have no doubt, would still be there if I still lived up north (or at least hadn’t moved to Central Florida, where there are NO jobs for O.T.s in Psych). But even more important, failing that internship was the kick in the ass that I needed to finally grow up and start being 100% responsible for my actions.

It’s funny how things go around, though. After about 4 or 5 years of being well-entrenched in working in Psych, we got a new patient one day who turned out to be the mother of the woman who had failed me in my Pediatrics internship.

AWKWARD!

Of course, I had to say something. The tables were turned and now and instead of Caroline being responsible for my education, I, the student she had to fail, was responsible for her mother’s well-being in groups. As if her mom being in a Psych unit wasn’t stressful enough. I had to make Caroline know that things were OK.

It sure wasn’t going to be easy, though.

I took a day or two to figure out what I was going to say, making sure to avoid my Caroline whenever it was Visiting Hours. Finally, when I knew what I was going to say and had the nerve to say it, I approached her, my patient’s daughter, took a deep breath and asked her to take a walk down the hall with me so we could chat in private.

“Hi Caroline, do you remember me?” She did. Of course she did – besides being memorable simply because of my height, I was also the first student she ever had to fail. Another deep breath. “Well, I just wanted you to know that I am not the same person that I was back then. You did what you had to do and, in looking back, I totally deserved it. My failing that internship also really helped me to open my eyes I wasn’t going to say it was a kick in the ass and see what I had to do to become, not only a responsible O.T., but a responsible adult. Like I said, I’m not the same person I was then and I want you to know that, just in case you had any concerns about it, you don’t need to worry about me working with your mom.”

Caroline was a true lady and was gracious about the whole thing. I was grateful for that because although I kept my cool, the conversation had really scared the crap out of me ;-).

It’s funny though – as much as I grew up as a result of her failing me, I grew up even more when I had to approach her and the ghost of our mutual past. I don’t think it’s often that you can put your finger on situations that helped you mature. Now I had these two – and both of them from interactions with the same person.

Interesting.

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