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Gretchen Bakkenson

Gretchen's path to becoming rehabilitation professional...
Gretchen BakkensonI took the round-about approach.  My Bachelor's was in Dietetics and then I pursued a Masters in Counseling with an emphasis in Student Personnel.  I eventually became an Academic Advisor and then a JOBS support Specialist, but was not all together happy.  I had a sister-in-law who was a Private Vocational Rehabilitation professional.  She suggested I take a look at the profession.   I was eventually hired by the Idaho Division of Vocational Rehabilitation.  Once there, I felt like I fit.  I was able to use my applied medical skills and career counseling at the same time.  After 4 years with IDVR we moved to Arizona and I eventually went into Private Practice.

Gretchen's rehabilitation education...
The University of Idaho and IDVR joined forces to bring a Rehabilitation Masters program to Boise, ID.  I had been attending course toward Adult Education and started taking courses with my Rehabilitation co-workers.  After working for IDVR for 3 years and taking courses to fill in the requirements for CRCC, I sat for the exam.  After earning a CRC, I continued to pursue CEU's and eventually earned an additional certification.

Gretchen describes the development of her practice...
Once I entered Private Practice my caseload was split between rehabilitation clients and assessments of loss of earning capacities for workers compensation.  My practice eventually expanded to Social Security work, Personal Injury employability assessments and life care planning.  

Gretchen's "Ah-Ha!" moments that have shaped her rehabilitation career...
The biggest Ah-ha moments for me have arisen out of ethical, moral or personal dilemmas.  The big one happened 3 years after working for a private rehab firm.  A referring attorney sent an inappropriate, sexually demeaning note to my supervisor, asking that one of the female vocational experts go make friends with a particular employer to get the information the attorney wanted.  My supervisor indicated I should act "professional" and not let the attorney know how I felt about this note.  At that point I knew I needed to create my own referral network.  I needed to pull in my own cases so I could decline work when necessary and that I had value I could bring to my referrals that did not include, "making friends".  Once I had established in my own mind my value to this practice, my referral base grew exponentially and opportunities presented themselves which met my new criteria for work.

Gretchen's outside interests that inform/influence her work...
I believe all interests, relationships, past worker experiences and activities influence my work and vice versa.  I scuba dive, and once the kids are grown and gone, I would like to get involved with organizations that assist with allowing individuals with disabilities experience the expansive world under the ocean surface. 

How IARP has served Gretchen's professional development...
IARP allows me to recharge vocationally through conferences.  I get excited about this profession after attending a conferences and experiencing what my colleagues are excited about.  I am able to connect with other professionals to gain new perspective.  I have also made some really good friends.

Gretchen's advice to folks considering a career as rehabilitation professional...
Learn the fundamentals of rehabilitation in the classroom or state agency.  Then find a mentor or two, people working in the field.  Find someone who is a good fit with your personality, someone you respect.  Watch how he or she conducts business.  Then grow from there.  Never believe you have all the answers.  Always look for areas of improvement.  Create a professional network to support your practice.  And have passion for the work you do.

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