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New Grad OT Spotlight: Kayla Span, OTR

Kayla began traveling as a new graduate Occupational Therapist and has had an amazing journey so far. With a focus on professional growth and development, Kayla has already achieved so much in less than a year of traveling!

Here is her story!

My first assignment was in Chowchilla, CA at a Skilled Nursing Facility. Being a new grad, in COVID-19, a year out from fieldwork and the only evaluating therapist in the building, it was extremely intimidating, yet I learned so much about myself and about being an OT. For 9 weeks, I was the only OT in a building, a new grad, and tbh, it definitely opened my eyes to the profession. What did I learn? Skilled Nursing is not for me.

On my second assignment, I was given the opportunity to work at the GWCC Covid Field Hospital in Atlanta GA, which to be completely honest, was way above what I thought I was capable of. This was my first experience in what is considered to be "Acute Care". With that being said, I wasn't sure what I would see or what to expect. This was also my first time working with experienced PT and OT clinicians, as well as being a first responder alongside with a team of traveling medical professionals. Here is where I learned that regardless of how much I study and read, it's okay to still learn on the job! I also learned nobody knows everything, to use my team, and to do what i know to do, be an OT! I also learned that in the medical world, we as therapists are sometimes overlooked, PAY ATTENTION to your patients. Make notes of any small changes. We as therapists often are the eyes and ears of our patients. We spend the most time with them, we advocate for them and WE MUST ADVOCATE FOR OURSELVES!

Here I am on assignment number 3, and I honestly wouldn't be here without going to the COVID Field Hospital. I am now working a short term contract assignment in Atlanta Georgia, at a LTAC unit. This has been by far the most learning I've done. In school, I'm taught the OT profession, in the hospital, I'm learning the medical side and everyday, I'm able to put the two together to be the best I can for my patients. Working in a critical care unit, with an ICU has been educational. When I interviewed for the job, they asked if i had any experience with ventilator, tracheostomy, PEG tube, Chest tubes, etc. and of course being a new grad, i answered "no, but i'm willing to learn." & it's been going great since then! I'm extremely grateful for having a DOR who was willing to give a new graduate the chance I never expected to be where I am now, a year ago.

What's next for Kayla?

New goals coming up for me is to advance my degree. Applying to get my Doctorate of Occupational Therapy and hopefully starting in August 2021. Upon that I plan to become a Certified Hand Therapist. In the meantime, my goals are to continue learning the profession and evolving as a clinician.

Kayla has some awesome advice for current students and new grads looking to follow in her footsteps.


  • Don't allow others the field to allow you to feel like you should know EVERYTHING! you won't know everything and that's okay. I truly believe I've come this far, because I'm always open to learning whatever they are willing to teach me. Learn from the veteran therapist in the field and if you don't know something are unsure, RESEARCH & ASK!!!

  • Traveling as a new grad is okay. If that's what you choose to do, go for it. A Lot of us are told not too, which I can completely understand. Oftentimes, in the travel world we don't have mentors to guide us, and there are many places in which you will be the only OT in the building, and while that can be intimidating, if you think you can do it, GO FOR IT! I wouldn't have done this differently.

  • If you plan to travel as a new grad, use the OT groups on Facebook, speak with veterans travelers, ITS OKAY TO SAY NO! Negotiate your pay. KNOW YOUR WORTH! You went to school to be an OT, you took and passed your NBCOT, and you deserve what you're worth!!!!


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