I hope you enjoy this interview with Cheryl Hall. She is an occupational therapist with over 30 years of experience and a pioneer in the occupational therapy entrepreneur arena. Can you believe she started her website in 1997! Below Cheryl shares her experience as an OT and the process that lead her to create such a great resource for occupational therapists and patients.
What was your first exposure to occupational therapy?
My first exposure to OT was as a volunteer at a state hospital for the developmentally disabled.
In your 30 years of experience you have been exposed to a variety of settings and populations. Which setting has been your favorite, and why?
Hands down my answer is home health. Working with patients in their own environment allows an OT to see barriers and opportunities firsthand. For me the perspective always sparked more creative OT strategies and interventions than other settings. Patients are more motivated at home and engaged with the therapy plan.
Has there ever been a time when you doubted your skills as an OT? What advice can you share for new grads who feel imposter syndrome?
Doesn’t everybody have that moment when they wonder if they are really ready to treat a patient. Once I started working, finding a mentor really helped me to be a more confident OT. I worked with a PT with many years of experience who was willing to take on the role of mentor and taught me so much about working with patients. I have always been grateful for her friendship and commitment to my growth. Having some go-to resources like the Occupational Therapy Toolkit or AOTA’s OT Connections can also be helpful.
Looking back at your career. Is there anything you would have done differently?
I don’t think so, I have had a wonderful career which has taken me in a direction that I never would have imagined as a new graduate. I considered doing research or going into teaching, but I am happy my path led me to writing the Occupational Therapy Toolkit instead.
If you could visit the past. What would you tell yourself on your first day as an occupational therapist?
Be as kind to yourself as you are to your patients. After all, we are in this work because we love helping people, but sometimes we forget to take good care of ourselves when we are busy with others.
In recent years, there has been an influx of therapists sharing occupational therapy content through blogs, YouTube channels, and social media accounts. However, you were a pioneer in many ways when you started your site in 1997. What sparked that idea, and how is creating content different now?
I was working in home health for a well-known teaching hospital and at the first visit after discharge, I asked my patient for his home OT program. He handed me 5 Post-It notes. I thought to myself, as a profession, occupational therapy must strive to be better than 5 Post-It notes. After that I started sharing my own handouts online and that grew into the Occupational Therapy Toolkit. Today I love having so many ways to share information with other OT’s, around the world, but as professionals, we need to be discerning and careful to use trusted and reputable online resources.
Why did you decide to take your content from the internet to a book?
At some point, I had doubled the content available online and had started illustrating the handouts, so when I needed a new direction in my career creating a book was the natural next step. My dad had always encouraged me to be an entrepreneur and so creating a product to sell made him very happy too.
On the cover of the book you are credited as illustrator- which is amazing by the way! Do you have a background or formal education in visual arts?
No formal background, but I have always drawn. In fact, I considered art therapy as a career path before I learned about occupational therapy.
Did you self-publish the book? If you did, what was that process like?
Yes, and it was challenging because self-publishing was not as ubiquitous as it is today. I was forging a path that wasn’t cleared yet! Now, publishers like IngramSpark have a whole host of resources online to get you started.
Was there ever a time that you wanted to give up throughout the process?
No, but I have at times been overwhelmed with the amount of work that it takes to run a small business. I am lucky to have a very supportive husband who encourages me at every step.
What tips/advice would you share with fellow occupational therapists looking to introduce entrepreneurship to their career?
Go for it! I love to see an OT turn a need into a business, in fact, one of my favorite parts of the AOTA Annual Conference is meeting OT’s who have developed a new product. Running a business and protecting your work can be complicated, so find trusted people who can help you. I’m lucky to have siblings with small business and marketing backgrounds who were both willing and able to step in to work with me.
Lastly, favorite quote to live by?
“Tell me and I will forget. Show me and I will remember. Involve me and I will understand. Step back and I will act.” – Chinese Proverb.
I love this quote and it helps to remind me that my time with a patient is limited and it’s important to guide them to their most independent self.
Visit www.ottoolkit.com to purchase the Occupational Therapy TOOLKIT