Sarah Lyon is the founder of the well-known OT blog, Potential, and she also writes as the OT expert for About.com. In an interview with SpOTlight, Lyon talks about her work with Potential, her time at NYU, and life after graduation.
Where did you get the idea for Potential?
Right after I graduated from NYU, I moved back to Nebraska– my home state–and started work at a hospital in a small town. Like NYU had taught me, I sought out a place of employment with a good mentor, and for the first couple months had the opportunity to work alongside an OT that I respected. But due to life circumstances, she had to leave the practice after a couple months. So all of a sudden, I was working by myself in an isolated area. Like any good millennial, I took to the Internet for resources to help me with my practice and simply could not find the information I wanted. Even the AOTA website was an older version and was really hard to access.
I saw a big gap in accessible information for OTs. So I started blogging in 2012. It was something I did in my spare time, off and on, for a couple of years. Then about a year ago, I moved to Chicago and while I was waiting for my license to get approved by the state, I started blogging more regularly and my numbers started ticking up. This made me feel like the information I was sharing was meeting a need. I’ve been blogging regularly ever since.
So, is this your full-time job?
I tell people it’s a part-time job– the hours vary from week to week. I’m not in clinical practice right now, because I’ve been able to generate enough income to make things work and I really enjoy the blogging process.
Is this something you ever saw yourself doing for a living while you were in school?
When I was in school, I was passionate about patient education. I was fascinated by the growing number of avenues for patients to learn about their condition and their treatment options. So I had a passion for sharing quality information, but didn’t know what a good outlet for that would be. I definitely didn’t anticipate myself writing this much.
You’re still young for having been practicing and now starting your own blog. Even with the experience you have, do you think your age has played a role in how people view you as an OT?
Sometimes I wonder if being a younger OT hurts my legitimacy. I certainly haven’t experienced everything. But, at the end of the day, there seems to be a need for quality information, and as long as the writing is solid and the piece is thoughtful and truthful, people seem to be open to hearing from a younger voice.
What do you hope for Potential in the next five years?
One opportunity that I’m particularly excited about is a new section called Rehab Share, which is place on my site where practitioners can post items they’ve created for their practice – anything from daily documentation forms to e-books. An online marketplace like this would have been especially helpful when I began working by myself in a small-town general hospital. I was generating so many items from scratch. It was frustrating because I knew there were OTs around the country who generated similar forms and policies already, but I didn’t know how to access them. I’m hoping that this new marketplace will be a helpful resource for OTs and that it will continue to grow.
What drew you to NYU’s OT program?
During my senior year at St. Olaf College, I decided last minute that I wanted to be an occupational therapist. At the time, I had it in my mind that there were good OT programs and not-so-good OT programs. I definitely wanted to go to a good one, so I looked up the top-10 OT programs and chose to apply to schools in cities where I knew people.
I’m thankful for the education I received at NYU. The quality of the education has given me a lot of confidence in my OT practice. Also, as I’ve begun writing about OT, the network at NYU has been invaluable. Five years out, my classmates are still my first phone call when I have a question.
What has your relationship with your fellow NYU alumni been like?
It’s been fun reconnecting with some of my classmates through the blog. I’ve had the opportunity to interview several of them. It has been fun to see the different routes people have taken. I’ve been really inspired at the success so many of my classmates have had early in their careers – from leading departments to opening their own businesses. I’ve seen a trend of my classmates really excelling.
After having been out of practicing OT for a while now, do you want to go back to it at some point?
Absolutely. Even if I decide to keep focusing on writing about OT, I know I need to experience OT on the ground. I also miss the interactions with patients and would love to at least pick up 1-2 shifts per week. But, for now, I have a toddler and am enjoying spending time with him.
What’s your favorite part about what you do?
One of my favorites is responding to peoples’ comments and interacting with people on social media. The other highlight is simply putting out good information about OT that’s engaging and easy to read. Writing for consumers is a particularly fun challenge because I have to push myself to describe occupational therapy without all of the industry lingo that we we’ve become entrenched in.