Bringing Back Normal

Anjali Schutt ’15 spends her days as an occupational therapist (OT) trying to bring a little bit of normalcy back into her patients’ everyday lives after they suffer a debilitative brain injury or disease. She likes the fact that each day is different as she focuses on her patients’ goals and the therapy process of rehabilitation. Schutt said, “I focus on increasing patients’ independence in their daily activities, such as dressing, bathing and eating.”

After graduating from Colby-Sawyer College in 2015, Schutt went on to pursue her master’s degree in occupational therapy and graduated from the American International College in May of 2019. She explains that the fancy title of OTR/L stands for a licensed and registered occupational therapist. Schutt said, “It was a whole lot of tests to get here!”

Schutt currently works in Boston, Mass., at a subacute rehabilitation center and skilled nursing facility. In her spare time, she also serves as an elected member of the Board of Health in her hometown. This position is part of a small team that enforces and manages sanitary, environmental and housing health standards for the town. The focus of Schutt’s work last year consisted of a lot of COVID-19 management and safety protocols. Working closely with the Department of Public Health and the governor of Massachusetts, the group is preparing to obtain and distribute the COVID-19 vaccine to their residents.

Schutt credits her professional success to her time at Colby-Sawyer College helping her discover the career path that interested and motivated her the most. “My eyes were opened to the possibility of becoming an occupational therapist during hands-on learning experiences in my exercise and sport sciences (ESS) courses. While at CSC, my leadership and communications skills developed, and I use them in my everyday life, especially at work,” said Schutt. “Colby-Sawyer afforded me the opportunity to become involved and grow as an individual.”

Many of the professors at the college had a positive impact on who and where Schutt is today.

She admits that Professor Jean Eckrich has particularly been very influential to her, both during her time at CSC and as an alum. Schutt said, “Jean pushed me to be the best version of myself. She encouraged my participation in the ESS club as a president, provided assistance whenever I was stumped on a homework assignment, and connected me with alums to fully discover my passion for OT. To this day, Jean continues to provide me guidance whenever needed.”

Although COVID has changed many things for Schutt throughout the past year, she says that work is slowly getting back to a new normal. For a while, the facility where Schutt works was mostly COVID positive which caused fear and anxiety for many. The hardest part for her was seeing her patients so sick without having their loved ones near them. As things are getting better, there are still some things that Schutt longs for at work. “I miss seeing the smiling faces under the masks of my co-workers and patients,” she said.

Schutt loves being an occupational therapist and the collaboration that takes place between social workers, physicians, nurses and the rehab team for the benefit of their patients. She said, “My favorite thing about my job is being a part of a patient’s road to recovery. It is so rewarding to work with patients who come to the facility requiring total assistance and care and leave walking right out the front door independently. As an OT, I have assisted many patients in increasing their independence in their daily activities and provided them with autonomy and a sense of hope.”

Exciting times are on the horizon for Schutt, as she got engaged this past January. She said, “My now fiancé was so thoughtful and planned an amazing surprise. He proposed to me at a local chapel where my parents got married and it was the quickest ‘yes’ I have ever said!”

As the world and her work try to find their way back to some sort of normalcy, Schutt is still hopeful that there is a light at the end of the tunnel. She said, “I am feeling more confident now that I have the vaccine under my belt.”