By Katarina Fiorentino, B.H.S. Communication Sciences and Disorders ’21
Albert Daley II is an occupational therapist at UF Health with extensive experience in general medicine, pediatrics and intermediate care units. He received a Master of Occupational Therapy degree from the UF College of Public Health and Health Professions in 2017, and a Bachelor of Exercise Science and Health Promotion from Florida Atlantic University in 2014. He enjoys running, exploring nature trails and visiting all of Florida’s beach towns.
Daley shares insights about his career journey, working in the field of occupational therapy and memories from his time as a student at UF.
Why did you choose to pursue a career in occupational therapy?
My father was an occupational therapist, so I got to learn about the field from a very young age. I wanted to help people, and I remember thinking that this is a profession where people have gone through some sort of change, and our whole job is to let them know we are going to do our best to get them back to independence and back to whatever it is that brings their life joy. Whatever it is they need to do to live their life to the fullest, we’re going to help them get back there. As time went on, I saw that although occupational therapy is one profession, there are so many different routes you can take it in, whether you’re talking about acute care (where I work), a rehab facility, outpatient, schools, etc. There are so many different ways you can take this career, and I knew one of those would be a good fit for me.
What has your career path looked like during your fieldwork experiences and since your graduation as an OTR?
My first fieldwork was at Orlando Regional Medical Center in acute care on the orthopedics floor. Then I did a specialty here at UF Health Shands in pediatrics, both general pediatrics and with ICU patients, so I got to see a lot of cool things with that fieldwork. My third internship was at Orlando Health’s outpatient brain injury center. I am currently one of the staff occupational therapists at UF Health, and I started out mainly on general medicine units. If a patient gets readmitted, then they are on our list, so we get a wide range of diagnoses and patients, including those with orthopedic, gastrointestinal, neuro and cardiovascular needs. I love working at UF Health and in Gainesville.
After my internship in outpatient, I realized that I need a little faster pace, and that’s why I like acute care. Every second something is changing, and you have to work with the full interdisciplinary team. I can go from talking to a case manager to a doctor to a nurse all in a matter of 30 minutes. It’s a quick pace that keeps you on your toes. There’s always a new problem popping out. Because I did my internship at UF Health in pediatrics, I can float to pediatrics and help that floor. I also go to some of the intermediate care units as well. There’s something about being up and moving constantly, different populations even inside of our one hospital that keeps it really interesting. It keeps your skills fresh to have a wide variety of populations to work with.
What does your day-to-day look like and what is your favorite aspect of your job?
For starters, getting an idea of what brought the patient into the hospital and what we can do to help them going forward. Talking to the patient and finding out what their goals are for therapy, what are some of the things they are having trouble doing. With acute care, the biggest thing is just getting the patient out of the hospital and back home or to a facility that they can be safe functioning in. Sometimes we’ll work on toileting or dressing, sometimes it will be ‘I need to be able to walk x amount of feet to get to my mailbox’ and that’s an activity of daily living that needs to be accomplished, or ‘I want to be able to play with my grandkids’ and that requires a certain amount of aerobic capacity that we can work on as well. It changes from patient to patient, day to day, but just kind of seeing where the patient is at and adjusting. Maybe there’s a piece of equipment that they need to make them independent, where it’s not so much building up strength, but instead, ‘I just can’t reach this spot anymore, do you have a reacher or a long-handled sponge that can help me regain that independence.’
In terms of my favorite aspect of my job, there is something special when someone thinks they can’t do something, and either through adaptive equipment or some techniques or advice, they are suddenly able to. There’s something powerful in being able to toilet yourself. Just working on techniques or saying, ‘Oh with these pieces of equipment, you can be able to take care of yourself.’ To me that is the best feeling there is.
What is something many people might not know about the occupational therapy field?
I could start off with what we do in general. When I was applying to graduate school, I had to explain to a lot of people what occupational therapy is. I think that we are kind of the jack-of-all-trades. This field can go from anything from treating geriatrics to the great pediatric feeding therapists that I work with in the hospital. Through the entire lifespan there is always something that occupational therapy can help someone improve on. Whatever a patient’s activities of daily life are, it’s our job to get them as independent as possible. From day-to-day, my job description can change depending on if someone is having trouble with cooking a meal, just simply getting dressed, or taking care of themselves. We’re very malleable as OTs, and we have to change a lot and adjust to whatever the need of the client is. Looking at it very holistically, there’s not an age range or diagnosis that I think wouldn’t benefit from an occupational therapy consult.
What is your favorite club or experience from your time at UF?
I have two! Going to the American Occupational Therapy Association (AOTA) conference in 2017 was eye-opening for me as a student. Just getting to be with so many great therapists, seeing the full wide range of what occupational therapy can look like, and knowing that as I went into my career, any one of these specialties was available for me to pursue if I wanted. Also, I was a part of Adventist Campus Ministries which was very formative on my life. I met a lot of great people through this organization, and this experience stuck with me through the years.
What is your favorite place on campus and in Gainesville?
I would say Lake Alice and the Bat Caves are very cool. It’s a little scary when the gators come out of the water, but Lake Alice is also very serene, especially in the morning if there’s a fog sitting on the water. Really pretty. My favorite nature place in Gainesville is La Chua Trail, once again getting to see all those gators. My favorite place in general is TeaStori because I am addicted to boba tea. There’s a lot of great boba tea places in Gainesville, but TeaStori is probably my favorite.