Getting to Know: Linda Gatewood
April is Occupational Therapy Month — an excellent opportunity to share the value of occupational therapy.
Occupational Therapists evaluate and treat people who have injuries, illnesses, or disabilities to help them live independently and meet goals to develop, recover, improve, and maintain skills needed for daily living and working.
At CCRI, our Occupational Therapy Assistant Program prepares students for successful completion of the certification examination, to obtain state licensure, and for gainful employment as Occupational Therapist Assistants in various health care settings.
To celebrate #OTmonth at CCRI, we're profiling several members of our OTA staff who've been inspired professionally by their work in this industry and who continue to inspire students looking to join the OTA workforce. Meet Assistant Professor of Rehabilitative Health Linda Gatewood, a Brockton, MA, native who's been working at CCRI for 25 years and is also continuing her education this year by completing the Graduate Certificate in Gerontology and Geriatrics from the University of Rhode Island.
Linda graduated the University of New England's Occupational Therapy School in 1986 and the Bancroft School of Massage Therapy in Worcester, MA, in 1987 before spending two decades working in southern California. When she returned to New England in 1998, Linda began working at CCRI and eventually earned her M.Ed. in Adult Education at URI in 2018. During her time at CCRI, Linda has been instrumental in developing new programs for the college and facilitated a number of community events to help the spread the word on the myriad benefits of the college's OTA program.
Tell us how you first got involved in Occupational Therapy and what motivated you to pursue a career in this field
OT first came onto my radar when I was in high school. I took a computerized ability/aptitude test which generated a list of professions matching my interests and aptitudes. OT was included in the list and I hadn’t heard about it before. After researching the profession, I thought it might be a good option because I wanted to work in healthcare. What really reined me into OT was that it was described as a profession of creative clinicians oriented to fostering independence for individuals with a wide range of conditions (e.g., mental health, physical disabilities, learning challenges, gerontology, pediatrics).
Thirty-seven years later, I feel I made the right career choice. The variety of opportunity in this profession is unmatched. OTs educate their clients and caregivers on many topics and the transition to adult education seemed like a natural transition for me (despite having a fear of public speaking!)
Which specific programs have you developed for the college’s Occupational Therapy Assistant program?
I have been involved in the OTA program since it began in 1998 and developed many of the core courses within the program.
I created an online Pain Neuroscience Education Series for OTA and PTA students.
Throughout the years, I facilitated OTA student participation in volunteer and learning experiences (e.g., First Swing, CarFit, Rebuilding Together, NAMI Walk, Spaulding Easter Egg Hunt for Children with Disabilities, TRANS 101 training, Mental Health First Aid).
I am currently partnering with the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute (OLLI) at URI to develop and offer a course that will be taught by OTA students in spring of 2024.
OTA students have been involved in creating unique adaptive equipment for a local fisherman following a severe hand injury.
You’ve worked in a variety of fields (burn unit, neurological therapy, etc.) within your profession. Does the work carry over and do the shared experiences help make you a better therapist?
Regardless of the client’s condition or the treatment setting, my primary focus as an OT is to facilitate independence in my clients. This is accomplished by focusing intervention on these areas: care of self and others, work, play/leisure, rest/sleep, education, health management, and social participation.
Some OTs discover a population or setting they love and specialize in that area of care provision. I couldn’t decide on one area and gained experience working in a variety of settings with diverse patient populations. This has served me well as a clinician and contributed a successful transition into adult education.
What is the most rewarding part of working in Occupational Therapy?
The creativity involved in being an OT is one of my favorite components of the work. I really enjoy the challenge and problem solving required to design and fabricate a piece of equipment to help a help a client independently perform a task important to them.
Also, it is unique to be able to work with the same client in ICU, acute care, inpatient rehab, and follow them through to outpatient rehab. I have met numerous amazing and brave humans in this profession who taught me as much as I taught them.