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Interested in Occupational Therapy? Meet Nikki Morton

Name: Nikki Morton
Age: 25
Hometown: Rowlett, Texas 
Undergraduate University & Major: University of Louisiana at Monroe
Major and Minor: Health Studies: Management & Marketing Major; Business Administration Minor
Graduate School Attending: University of St. Augustine for Health Sciences- Austin Campus

Hobbies/Interests Outside of School/Work: Exercising, being in nature, interior design and cooking. 
Organizations/Activities you have been involved in OT School that you are passionate about: While in professional school I was a student mentor for the incoming OT students to show them the ropes as well as an anatomy tutor. I also serve as the student representative for the National Black Occupational Caucus (NBOTC). The NBOTC by far is my favorite organization that I have been involved in because I have the ability to directly communicate, access resources, and network with African American clinicians and students from all over the country. 
Quote OR Bible Scripture that has meaning to you: Regardless of the trials I go through in life I try to bring myself back to Romans 8:28. “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” It reminds me that God ALWAYS has a plan and purpose for us even if we can’t see it. 

The Past

Take me back a decade, what did you want to be when you grew up?
I wanted to be so many things! I thought about being a sports medicine doctor, neonatologist, dentist, or a veterinarian. At my core, I knew I wanted to be in the healthcare field but I was unsure where exactly my niche would be.

Tell me about your college application process. How did you decide on a school and major?
My college application process was a bit different than most. I only applied to 3 schools, and got into my first choice which was Texas State in San Marcos, TX. I went for orientation, registered for my classes, saw what dorm I was staying in, the whole shabang. A couple of weeks later, I received a call from the head track and field coach from Univ. of Louisiana at Monroe offering me a scholarship to come run for them. So I unenrolled from Texas State 2 months before classes started and ended up going to Louisiana Monroe for undergrad. While I was there, I started off as a kinesiology major, then dental hygiene, and eventually decided on Health Studies: Management and Marketing because that resembled what I wanted to do at that time which was healthcare administration. 

What was the hardest part of your undergraduate studies? How did you get through it?
The hardest part of my undergrad studies was definitely time management. I was a student athlete, a student mentor, and involved in other organizations, so I had a lot on my plate. In order to make sure I was able to be successful at all those things & still have time to be a regular ole college student, I lived by a planner. I would write down every assignment and test from my class syllabi, track practice schedules and meets, as well my work schedule; which saved my life and kept me organized. 

The hardest part of my undergrad studies was definitely time management.
I was a student athlete, a student mentor, and involved in other organizations, so I had a lot on my plate.

What did you do between undergrad and graduate school?
I took a gap year to finish taking  prerequisites in order to apply to occupational therapy school and got a 9-5 at an office in North Dallas. I was encouraged to get a typical 9-5 corporate job and apply to school with only shadowing hours, but I didn’t believe that was going to be enough for me. I quit my corporate job and went on a mass hunt for a rehab technician job in order to further my skills and improve my chances of getting into school. It was very risky and crazy thinking about it, but I’m glad I went out on a limb.

The Present 

How and when did you decide on OT school?
By the middle of my junior year in undergrad I knew that healthcare administration wasn’t quite a fit as I got in my higher level classes.  The courses focused primarily on health policy, personnel management, and higher up administrative components which I didn’t realize wasn’t quite my cup of tea until I got to experience it myself. Something within me longed to take on more of a clinical role that involved greater patient interaction and the ability to assist with patient outcomes rather than a managerial/administrative role. While I was going through the mental back and forth of trying to choose a set career, I had a family friend that was an occupational therapist and she encouraged me to shadow a couple of OT’s in different settings to see if I was interested. I had an amazing shadowing experience and automatically knew that occupational therapy was for me. 

What did you do to be a good OT School applicant?
I tried to make the best grades that I could once I realized the average GPA suggested to get into OT school and I made sure to make A’s in the prerequisites I took during my gap year. I was already really involved in undergrad in various organizations and being a student athlete but I didn’t want to rely solely on those activities to get me into school. I made sure I had a lot of shadowing hours in various settings to really capture a good understanding of what OT was and making sure I was able to convey that knowledge. I also sought out a rehab technician position at a pediatric clinic because I didn’t get to shadow that speciality and I thought the position would be fun!

What advice would you give to a freshman pre-OT student? 
Try to make good grades from the beginning of undergrad if possible and try to be involved in other activities and organizations that you’re passionate about. I learned that getting into OT school isn’t just about grades, they truly want you to be well rounded. 

I learned that getting into OT school isn’t just about grades, they truly want you to be well rounded. 

What has been your favorite class in OT School so far and why? 
For sure clinical neuroscience! Looking back it was my favorite and my most difficult course. This class challenged me to think bigger, study longer, and get very creative with the way I learned information. It was amazing learning about how much is processed and involved with your brain and connecting anatomy. Learning the disorders, diseases, and conditions that could damage a part(s) of your brain and how it can affect everything from the way you move, think, react, and look was very interesting. 

What has been the most challenging class in OT School so far and why?
Refer to question above

How have you managed to balance school/ relationships/self care since starting school?
I felt like being organized and disciplined helped me to manage all those things. I continued to live by a planner and managed my time accordingly to take some of the extra stress off. I also purposely set aside time to do things that were fulfilling to me! Taking time for myself even when I had a test or a gang of assignments coming up was difficult at times, but it was a must. I still made plans and would block off my schedule to decompress with activities I love, hang out with my friends and family, and spend time with my boyfriend because it was really important to me to maintain those relationships.

Are you interested in any specific specialty?
At this time, I am interested in home modification and driver rehab certifications. 

The Future

What does your ideal career look like?
My ideal career would include extensive clinical experience for about 10-15 years, then becoming a part time clinical OT once my desired entrepreneurial endeavors and community outreach begins to take up more of my time.

Where do you see yourself in five years? 
In 5 years I would have liked to obtain valuable experience in a couple of different settings such as inpatient rehab, home health, and dabbling in some emerging practice areas. 

What sacrifices have you made for your career? 
So far it’s more of general life events of family and friends that I’ve missed while being in school, but nothing too crazy just yet.

Is there anything else you would like to add?
When I decided I wanted to apply to OT school, I was not the “typical/suggested” student profile with a stellar GPA and a high GRE score, but I was involved and very passionate about why I wanted to be an OT. I even had an advisor tell me I wouldn’t get into school, but don’t pay your naysayers any mind. Apply anyway! All things are possible when you set your mind to it and God tells you yes. That’s the only approval you need.

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