CE administrator/assistant editor for continued's OccupationalTherapy.com discusses work, family time, and virtual school during COVID-19
By Nika Ball, MOT, OTR/L, ATP
I joined continued nearly six years ago after spending 10 years as a practicing occupational therapist. I work part time as CE administrator and assistant editor for OccupationalTherapy.com and love the work-life balance this offers, not only for my personal life but also because it allows me to continue to see patients two afternoons a week.
As a family of six, we jokingly refer to our clan as the “Ball Family Circus,” where every day is an adventure with lots of laugh-out-loud moments, hilarious catastrophes, and many one-line zingers—similar to what you see in the famous comic strip. Our days can be an exciting and crazy juggle, but the last few months have presented unique challenges to say the least. With school districts nationwide closed to help slow the spread of COVID-19, many of my colleagues and I are attempting to work remotely with our kids at home.
Now, it’s non-stop laundry, non-stop dishes, and a lot of teamwork to keep this train moving! Here’s what a typical day looks like in the midst of the current circumstances:
Early morning treadmill time while checking email—I love my treadmill desk!—followed by yoga on the back porch. The support provided by our company’s wellness program keeps me on track and helps motivate me to start the day off with some “me time,” exercise, and reflection. I am thankful for everything our company does to promote healthy living!
Kick off the kids' morning routine with breakfast. Go over the daily schedule with everyone and watch the school’s virtual morning announcements. Make sure my eighth grader, fifth grader, and first grader are logged in and set up for their various e-learning activities for the day and gather a lot of matchbox cars to keep my preschooler occupied.
Today is an extra special day because it’s my oldest child’s birthday (chocolate cake for dessert tonight!). It’s also the last full week of e-learning after unexpectedly shifting to online school due to the pandemic. I’m not sure who’s more excited about summer break, the parents or the kids!
The kids have a rotation of e-learning assignments, class Zoom meetings, brain breaks, and music practice, and each one takes a “chill time” with our 4-year-old. With everyone squared away for the time being, I start my workday by prioritizing items to be addressed and then responding to email and starting on tasks.
As a member of the continuing education administration (CE admin) team, my colleagues and I ensure that continued's online courses meet the continuing education needs of our members in all 50 states. Each profession is matched with a CE administrator trained in that field—for me, occupational therapy. Our individual expertise brings a unique perspective to the role. We each have an in-depth understanding of how professional associations, state associations, and additional credentialing entities work for licensure, as well as knowledge of current trends, updates, and needs for each field. I truly care about our members and feel a great sense of pride in helping them succeed.
“We each have an in-depth understanding of how professional associations, state associations, and additional credentialing entities work for licensure, as well as knowledge of current trends, updates, and needs for each field. I truly care about our members and feel a great sense of pride in helping them succeed.”
I head outside with the kids for some fresh air and lunch. My daughter, the birthday girl, created her own twist on the classic “Happy Birthday” song with a little help from her brothers: “Happy birthday to me. We’re still in quarantine. School’s almost over, and I’m having a virtual party!”
Today is one of my “shorter” days, so I end my work day by finishing up items from this morning, setting up meetings for later this week, and responding to member emails. The kids continue the rotation of e-learning assignments, Zoom meetings, and “chill time.”
My shorter days are sometimes spent working with my occupational therapy patients via home visits at retirement/assisted living communities. The new parameters in place for these folks during COVID-19 have my OT brain working overtime to find creative ways to address the “new normal” as their daily tasks and routines have changed.
Today though, I’m able to use my extra time to hang with the kids. We head outside to play some driveway tennis. We bike, swing, and slide in the backyard, and “fly” in the hammock as my little boys say. Typically our schedule would have us moving in numerous directions, but current circumstances have given us more movie nights, game nights, bike rides, walks, and mealtimes together as a family.
“While it has been an adjustment having all the kids home every day, we’ve had some really special moments and are enjoying this extra time together as much as we can.”
Tonight's dinner is also a virtual birthday party for my oldest, and some friends and family were able to “visit” thanks to Zoom and Facetime.
Having more time at home together has inspired us to ramp up our traditional family dinners to include many more made-from-scratch items. We have regular theme nights like Italian night, Taco Tuesday, breakfast for dinner, and Friday night pizza and movie—my husband’s favorite night to be in charge of the meal! Through this experience, more life skills are being taught—everyone knows the recipe to chocolate chip cookies now!
While it has been an adjustment having all the kids home every day, we’ve had some really special moments and are enjoying this extra time together as much as we can.
Now, bring on summer!
“I’m not sure who’s more excited about summer break, the parents or the kids!”
Nika Ball, MOT, OTR/L, ATP, is the CE administrator/assistant editor for continued's OccupationalTherapy.com. In her role, she is part of the team that oversees course compliance, renewal cycles, reporting, and more, to ensure that the online courses offered meet the continuing education needs of its members.
Ball joined the continued team in 2014 after a decade as an occupational therapist. She is an American Foundation for Suicide Prevention (AFSP) field advocate and is passionate about mental health awareness, advocacy, and education. She continues to practice OT part time and lives in Zionsville, Indiana, with her husband and their four children.