Stephanie Lancaster, program director for the UTHSC Department of Occupational Therapy, saw a gap in the podcast world and decided to take a chance in sharing her love of occupational therapy with others by developing a podcast titled “On The Air.”
To get started, Dr. Lancaster discovered tips and tricks online about how to start a podcast, bought start-up recording equipment, and watched YouTube videos and other tutorials online to learn how to record and edit effectively. She found spaces to record and edit, where background noise was reduced. Sometimes this was in a recording room in the UTHSC Teaching & Learning Center and sometimes in a closet in her home, where she set up a makeshift studio.
Now, almost three years later, this passion-project for sharing information about the occupational therapy profession is reaching audiences as far away as South Africa, Germany, and Australia. In August, the podcast will celebrate three years of being “on the air.”
“I’m a podcast enthusiast,” said Lancaster, EdD, OTR/L, ATP, CAPS. “I had a long commute between home and work for several years, almost an hour each way every day. I filled that time by listening to podcasts, and what I noticed over time is that there really wasn’t a podcast that regularly released content centered on general topics related to occupational therapy.”
Dr. Lancaster decided to fill that missing niche market and designed “On The Air” to appeal not only to occupational therapy practitioners, but also to OT educators, current and prospective OT students, and other individuals trying to learn more about the profession. She committed to releasing content regularly, aiming for two to four episodes every month.
“I really wanted to loop in those prospective students, current students, and others who want to learn more about the field, and people who wanted to connect with what those in OT school and in the profession were talking and learning about,” she said.
Guests on her podcast come from all over the world, including students and faculty at UTHSC. “I’m really inspired to share the experiences and the insight from guests from different backgrounds,” she said.
Topics covered have included things like applying to OT school, with tips from current students on the application and interview process; various entrepreneurial ventures; and ways that animals and art are used in occupational therapy. With every episode, Dr. Lancaster includes resources and recommendations related to the topic at hand, so that listeners can choose to learn more and even connect with guests on their own.
Although she is now an experienced podcaster, Dr. Lancaster remains true to her reason for starting the podcast: “Years ago, I heard it said that if someone who’s considering a career in a particular field doesn’t see or hear about someone that they relate to doing that job, they may not realize that it’s a viable option for them,” she said. “I think that’s true — if someone doesn’t know an OT or doesn’t have a true understanding about what an OT does, they may not be able to envision themselves as an OT. I hope that through the podcast some of that can be remedied.”
A member of the faculty at UTHSC since 2013, Dr. Lancaster has been an occupational therapist for 29 years. She specializes clinically in assistive technology and has expertise as an OT educator in educational technology and instructional design. She believes “On The Air” has brought her love for OT and technology together.
“If you talk to pretty much any OT practitioner, they’ll say this profession is a calling,” she said. “It’s not just a job for those of us in the field; it’s part of our identity. This venture has allowed me to network with other OTs from all over the world and to have conversations about the joy — and sometimes the struggles — that we find in our work. I’ve loved the camaraderie that’s come from that on a global, worldwide basis. That’s not something I expected at all.”
You can find “On The Air” at www.ontheair.us, or listen on Stitcher, Apple Podcasts, Spreaker, iHeartRadio, and all other major podcast hosting sites.
This story was originally published in Health Professions Magazine.