Marlene Vogt Nurtures MCC’s First OTA Graduating Class
OTA program director/instructor Marlene Vogt (on right) and another student demonstrate therapeutic exercise to assist a patient improve balance, muscle endurance and strengthening.
Marlene Vogt became interested in occupational therapy as a career nearly 30 years ago, when her aunt suffered an aneurysm and was left paralyzed on her left side of the body. “Seeing how people cared for her at the Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago really inspired me,” she said.
As Director of MCC’s Occupational Therapy Assistant (OTA) Program, Vogt strives to inspire her students and instill the same passion that she has for helping patients and clients of all ages achieve optimal function in their daily life roles. This past December, she watched the first 13 OTA graduates receive their Associate of Applied Science degree. Adding to her sense of pride about their accomplishments, she was thrilled to hear that half of the students have already landed jobs prior to or just after graduation. With a shortage of occupational therapists in our county, these graduates are filling a void for people in the community who do not have services, she said.
What makes MCC’s OTA program unique is the strong emphasis of hands-on learning in the classroom, where they practiced a variety of tasks each week, such as professional behaviors, documentation skills, and various forms of technology. Students even practiced transferring their instructor and other classmates from a mat table to a wheelchair. Second year students participate in fieldwork placements at skilled nursing facilities, schools and pediatric clinics and rehab centers.
“We make them feel what it’s like to work in a real occupational therapy setting,” Vogt said. “Students are taught that they don’t treat any two people the same,” she said.
When planning treatment sessions and activities, students consider a number of things, such as the patient’s values, concerns, goals and how the injury or disability affects their ability to as independent as possible, whether that is in their home, the community, or even the workplace.
“We can really think outside the box,” Vogt said, citing an example of OTAs can help someone living with a physical ailment or injury adapt to gardening by creating an herb garden built inside the home instead of outside.
Vogt said she does next expect students to perform a skill perfectly the first or second time.
“Even when they feel they can do it, when they try it on various people, they will have different experiences since everyone is unique and different themselves,” she explained. “An activity may work great on one person or several people, but the 12th person, it may not work for.”
“I want to expose students to as many scenarios as possible,” Vogt said. “I want them to understand that they’re going to make mistakes and it’s okay because they need to learn from them. Occupational therapy assistants not only need to understand the material, but they learn better by seeing, hearing, touching and feeling.”
For Vogt, teaching is rewarding.
“I really like working with the students, seeing their faces light up and the light bulb goes off when they finally truly get the concept,” she said.
Four key things Vogt wants students to walk away with is to always document everything, keep current on their continuing education credits, uphold the ethical and professional standards, and to have a good rapport with family members and the patient.
“You need to build and maintain trust,” she said.