Hissong presents keynote address at Pennsylvania conference

MONT ALTO, Pa. – Angela Hissong, professor-in-charge, and teaching professor for the occupational therapy assistant (OTA) program at Penn State Mont Alto, took her message about the importance of self-nurturing to a statewide audience as the keynote speaker at the Pennsylvania Occupational Therapy Association’s (POTA) annual conference Oct. 15 and 16.

Christine Daeschner, chairwoman of the POTA Commission on Legislation and Advocacy, and Traci Herc, chairwoman of POTA’s Commission on Conference, extended the invitation after hearing Hissong speak at the 2017 POTA plenary lecture. They left her talk feeling uplifted by her positive message of infusing occupational therapy work with mindfulness.

Hissong’s address, “Our Embodied Story of Occupational Therapy: Passion, Nurturance, Advocacy,” focused on the importance of occupational therapists (OTs) nurturing themselves so they can maximize their caregiving potential.

“You have to care for yourself before you have the energy and wherewithal to take care of others,” said Hissong, who considers passion, nurturance and advocacy to be an essential triad in occupational therapy.

According to Hissong, there is considerable evidence that shows that volunteerism, community engagement and advocacy are effective ways to care for the mind, body and spirit, all of which leads to better health and well-being.

Since OTs help people engage in meaningful occupations – including the ability to complete daily tasks to live a fulfilled life – being centered and developing healthy patterns and routines is critical when balancing the mental, physical and emotional demands of the job.

Hissong’s philosophy is rooted in her personal experience as an OT practitioner. While exploring ways to feel settled and calm in her work, she discovered meditation, a practice that resonated so deeply with her that she became certified in mindful meditation, and later, life coaching, integrative reflexology and yoga.

She delivered her keynote virtually from her home office, where she ensured that the environment provided a visual reinforcement of her message: she was surrounded by plants, had her oil diffuser on and placed a hot pack on her solar plexus to reduce anxiety.

Hissong, who’s been teaching at Penn State since 1997, shared how she integrates mindfulness – including meditation and yoga – into the campus’ OTA curriculum.

"In one course, students deeply study how their roles, routines, habits and rituals play out on a daily basis,” Hissong explained. “In a fourth-semester course focused on documentation and critical reasoning, we engage in different types of meditation, progressive muscle relaxation, visual imagery or seated movement at the start of class to settle the mind before diving deep into (the) intense material of occupational therapy practice.”

She said occupational therapy practitioners are busy by nature – as creators, innovators and doers – and often forget to nurture themselves so they can be fully available to those around them.

Through her work with students and the public, she hopes to curb that tendency.