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Beyond Diagnosis: Navigating Pediatric Cancer and Personal Growth Through Occupational Therapy

Fieldwork Reflection by Caroline Stegall, OTS, AHF OT Student Intern Summer 2023

Rewind 12 weeks ago, I began my Occupational Therapy (OT) Level II Fieldwork

Placement at the Austin Hatcher Foundation for Pediatric Cancer. Coming into this opportunity, I had no idea what to expect. I was excited to be done with classroom learning (hallelujah) and I was a combination of eager and anxious for what was to come. In this fieldwork I learned more than I could have ever imagined about pediatric cancer, non-profits, occupational therapy, and myself. I also learned some fun space knowledge from Space Odyssey and how to build an electric car.

Things Learned about Pediatric Cancer

Through AHF, I learned so much about pediatric cancer. In my schooling, I had learned about the diagnosis itself, how the cancer cells act and impact the different organs and body functions. While working here I was able to see how pediatric cancer goes far beyond just a medical diagnosis. I saw how resilient the cancer survivors are throughout the different stages of their cancer journey. I also came to the realization how much a pediatric diagnosis impacts not just the child with the diagnosis but the entire family. Siblings and parents experience many challenges and barriers as well that can be addressed.

Things Learned about AHF

One of my biggest takeaways from my experience is how unique the Austin Hatcher Foundation is. When I describe to the other occupational therapists in my program how AHF provides numerous services to the entire family at no cost, their minds are blown. AHF is a one-of-a-kind facility that provides world class care. The entire team- from the clinical team to the operations team- works hard to carry out AHF’s mission on a daily basis.

Things I learned about Myself

While I learned countless OT related things like evaluations, assessments, and treatment

sessions, I also had the opportunity to self-reflect and experience growth as a person. I saw my confidence grow largely in part to the supportive environment at AHF. I was able to grow in my collaboration skills as I had ample opportunities to work with other professions like Recreational Therapists, Child Life Specialists and Family Therapists! Overall I learned that I am more capable than I had previously thought and have gained confidence in my abilities!

I am very thankful for my time at Austin Hatcher Foundation and will carry what I have learned

for the entirety of my OT career.

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