Student Profiles: Bailey Rainey
Major: Masters of Occupational Therapy
Why did you pick UTEP?
I chose UTEP for a few reasons, first and foremost I wanted to stay in Texas! Otherwise, I was really excited for the way our program integrates service learning into the curriculum. I believe the best way to learn about yourself and others is through service and I have always prioritized giving back when deciding how to spend my time. In El Paso, there are also the unique opportunities to work with Spanish-speaking and military populations, something I was really looking forward to. Plus, I had never been to El Paso before and I thought it would be fun to live out here for a while!
What sparked your interest in occupational therapy?
My passion for helping others is the driving force behind my decision to pursue a career in occupational therapy. Before discovering occupational therapy, I wanted to work for the government and change the world. Slowly, I realized this may be harder said than done. However, through volunteering with my mother, an occupational therapist herself, I learned that with patience, creativity, and compassion you can change one person’s world very easily. This profession is unlike any other in the way that we help people return to what they truly love after experiencing disability, and nothing means more to an individual than being able to pursue what makes them happy.
My specific interests within OT are pediatrics and military families. This intersection is natural to me because I am a military child myself. I am very proud of being raised as an “Army brat” and love giving back to the community that has given me so much. This profession puts me in a unique position to serve and advocate for this population by working to creatively problem-solve, even in tough situations. I look forward to the opportunity to give back to those who sacrifice so much for our country and our freedom.
Tell us about a service-learning or research experience you’ve had at UTEP.
Currently at UTEP, we complete roughly 20 hours of service learning per clinical course, which can be up to 60 hours a semester. We do these hours at local agencies such as Xceed Resources, La Familia, The Rescue Mission, Alternatives, Every Little Blessing and more. In addition to these hours, I also complete around 50 hours a semester on my own coaching various Special Olympics teams and working with the Exceptional Family Member Program on Fort Bliss. This program services military families who have children with special needs. My continued involvement in various volunteer organizations both in undergraduate and now in graduate school has taught me more about my future profession and the communities around me, as well as how easy it can be to make an impact in a stranger’s life by sharing your time and a smile. At UTEP, what we learn in the classroom is solidified for me in practice in the El Paso community. I believe in part, it is the service learning aspect of the program that has helped me to achieve my current level of academic success.
What are your career aspirations?
Being raised a military child, I have lived in seven states and two countries. Each move brought me into a new and diverse community which helped me meet people from all social, cultural and socioeconomic backgrounds. In some of the lower income communities I lived in, I saw the disparities in adequate health care and education. As an occupational therapist, I hope to be able to use the holistic nature of our profession to meet a variety of needs in my community, not solely medical ones. I know that by working hard, performing well in school and actively seeking opportunities to volunteer in my community, I can make this goal a reality.
What advice would you give to a student thinking about studying occupational therapy?
This job is the best because it is so flexible. That being said, you have to be creative, easily adapt to new situations and be able to connect with patients. I learned these skills by moving around so often and meeting incredible people from every background imaginable. However, even if you live in the same house your whole life you can learn how to do a lot of these things by volunteering and getting involved in your community! So, my biggest piece of advice is to get involved, work with others and be on the search for something you are passionate about. Each of us has our passion, and I have found mine in occupational therapy.