AOTA Badges with Jenna Nguyen, OTR/L

Have you heard of an AOTA badge? Before this interview I hadn’t! AOTA badges are a digital way to show your learning achievements. Currently, you can obtain a badge is these specialties:

Jenna discusses why she obtained her AOTA badges and how they have impacted her practice. Thank you, Jenna, for taking the time to talk about your experiences as an OT and how furthering your knowledge in specialty areas has made you a better practitioner!

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Jenna Nguyen, OTR/L graduated with her Master of Science in Occupational Therapy in August of 2017, and has been practicing for three years now!

Why did you choose OT?

I chose OT because it was a combination of many of my passions and interests. I did not learn about occupational therapy until high school when I was beginning to look at colleges, but once I started learning about the field of OT, I was in love. Looking back, there are many threads that led to me becoming an occupational therapist and I cannot imagine me doing anything else.

What setting(s) do you work in/have you worked in? Do you have a favorite and why?

I have worked with adults and geriatric populations in acute care, inpatient acute rehab (IRF), inpatient subacute rehab, SNF, and outpatient settings. They are all so different and I love different things about each setting!

Why did you decide to obtain AOTA badges in Fall Prevention and Enhanced-Medical Rehabilitation? How long have you had them for?

 I earned three Digital Badges from AOTA in 2018: Enhanced-Medical Rehabilitation Provider and Occupational Therapy Falls Prevention I and II.

I wasn’t working a lot at the time, so I thought increasing my knowledge through continuing education programs was a good use of my time. As a new grad, I wanted to learn as much as I could so that I could serve my patients in the best way possible. Having the digital badges is a way for me to demonstrate my knowledge in certain areas of practice.

What does a typical day in the clinic/hospital/etc. look like for you?

Working PRN in different facilities, every day is different! In acute care, we get printouts of referrals for OT Evaluations in the morning. I use that sheet to write information from my chart review. I have the flexibility to build my own schedule based on the number of patients currently on our caseload. There are COTAs at the hospital so typically they provide treatments but if I have extra time after completing evaluations, I may pick up a few treatment sessions as well.

The inpatient rehab facilities are more structured. Each patient has a set daily therapy schedule typically created the day before. When I go to work in the mornings, I pick up my schedule and see patients for the scheduled time. In the IRFs, patients get three hours of therapy a day. In subacute settings, I typically see patients for 45-70 minute sessions. Most of my early morning sessions are ADLs, either showers or bedside/in room treatments.

The daily flow at the SNF is similar to acute care in that I just have a list of patients I need to see each day; it is up to me to decide when each person is seen. My practice in outpatient is a lot different because my interventions are focused on other areas of occupation outside of ADLs like I address in the hospital settings. I typically see my patients for 1-hour sessions 1-3x/week.

How often do you find yourself using the skills you learned from obtaining these badges?

Fall prevention is an important part of what I do as an occupational therapist in hospital settings and with my outpatient practice with community-dwelling adults. I definitely use things I learned in the EMR course in my daily practice to guide me to be client-centered, occupation-based, and engage my patients in the rehabilitation process.

Do you believe that obtaining these badges has made an impact on your practice? Good or bad? How so?

Yes, I think that the courses have positively impacted my practice. The badges are displayed on and are linked to my digital resume.

What are the steps to acquiring the badges? (hours of experience, course(s), cost, exams, applications…etc.)

If you take certain AOTA Continuing Education courses, you qualify to earn a Digital Badge if you score at least a 75% on the exam. Falls Prevention I includes two courses on Falls Among Community-Dwelling Older Adults and Falls Prevention II includes a course about an occupation-based approach to seating and positioning for productive aging and a course about Falls Among Older Adults in the Hospital Setting. The Enhanced-Medical Rehabilitation Badge was earned after one course on the topic. Each continuing education course consisted of recorded lectures/slides to review and a graded examination at the end.

[Caroline: I have linked the instructions for obtaining each AOTA badge at the beginning of the blog post!]

Is there a renewal process?

AOTA Digital Badges expire after five years to reflect updated information from new courses that are developed. The Badges are free for AOTA members after one purchases and successfully completes the required courses.

To renew a badge, one would need to purchase and complete the updated courses.

Did you pay this yourself or did an outside source, such as your employer, pay?

I paid for the continuing education courses myself. I also paid for my LSVT-BIG Certification because as a PRN employee, I did not qualify for tuition-reimbursement or anything like that.

Do you think obtaining the badges was worth it?

Yes! I am an advocate of lifelong learning. I would have completed these or similar continuing courses even if I did not gain a Digital Badge to prove it.

You told me you are also LSVT-BIG certified and are enrolled in an advanced practice certificate program for hands and upper limb, can you tell me a little bit more about those? Why you chose to obtain/pursue them and how you use the knowledge in your practice?

To date, I have not used the LSVT-BIG protocol with any patients (due to the nature of the settings I work in and my individual work schedule). However, I have applied knowledge about Parkinson’s disease that I learned through the certification process in my practice.

Hand therapy has always been an interest of mine, and since I did not have a lot of clinical experience in that area, I decided to pursue an advanced practice certification in rehabilitation of the upper extremity to learn more about the area of practice. In order to sit for the CHT exam, you need to have a minimum of three years of clinical experience including 4,000 hours of direct practice experience in upper extremity rehabilitation. Using the knowledge I will have gained from this course, I can be better prepared to work in this setting and pursue the CHT route if that is what I decide to do in the future.

[See my interview about LSVT-BIG here.]

Do you have any words of advice for someone wanting to pursue any of these certifications?

Never stop learning! There is so much to learn and so many areas to work in as an occupational therapist. If you find something you are interested in learning about and are able to do so financially and have the time to do so, I say go for it!


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