A day in the life of a Occupational Therapist working in community health
Occupational Therapy is generally a profession that comes with a multitude of confusion and misconceptions about its actual roles and duties. Typical myths that revolve around this space are that OTs are basically the same as physios, they work only with disability or the elderly, are predominantly involved in prescribing wheelchairs, or solely help people to return to work after injury.
While some of those myths are true in part, they provide only a small portion of the complete OT picture. OTs perceive the person holistically, collaborate with them using client-centred strategies to achieve optimal health and wellbeing through participation in meaningful occupation in all walks of life.
At Kadia, we are passionate about community health. A community health occupational therapist assists in enabling individuals and populations with complex health concerns to participate in everyday activities. They have a key role in maximising independence, enhancing wellbeing and quality of life for those living in their home and accessing community environments.
Ashlie Kha was interviewed to unpack her role as Occupational Therapist at Kadia, and provide insight as she walked through her day in the life of an OT at Kadia Occupational Therapy.
What is your key role at Kadia?
I am an Occupational Therapist and team member at Kadia. In a nutshell, I provide assessments and intervention, perform home and community visits, and help individuals to meet their personal living goals.
How would you describe Occupational Therapy to someone who is hearing this for the first time?
Broadly speaking, an Occupational Therapist supports and enables people to pursue meaningful activities that are otherwise not possible due to their functional, physical, mental or cognitive limitations. We help to improve quality of life by providing out of the box solutions which are practical, yet holistic in nature. We see the person through an OT lens, which means seeing them beyond their condition and recognizing their strengths and weaknesses. It also means appreciating and acknowledging their social context, respecting important stakeholders, collaborating with family and existing supports, using equipment, and considering community and home environments.
What would a day in the life as an OT at Kadia look like?
It’s fun, collaborative, exciting and uplifting. I perform assessments, interventions, write reports, and respond to emails on a daily basis, to name just a few tasks. There are strong overarching values of collaboration which come through work processes such as regular team discussions and gaining new perspectives into client situations. It makes work fun and exciting to meet together and draw knowledge from each other. I find it uplifting that we share the load of clients together, and share our wins on a daily basis. Other jobs may provide a checklist ticker box-type therapy but at Kadia, we provide a supportive consistent environment where client challenges, successes and insights are shared and where we constantly learn from each other.
How did you get started in occupational therapy?
I first looked into physiotherapy, during which time I completed work experience in a private hospital shadowing a physio, because there was no OT available. However, upon learning more about OT after year 12, keywords of ‘quality of life’, ‘meaningful activities’ and ‘goal attainment’ attracted me to the profession. OTs have the ability to think creatively and push people beyond the limits of what they didn’t think was possible. I like that there is no one stop answer for problems and that I can make a difference to care for others in practical ways that OTs significantly provide for people.
How is an occupational therapist different from a physiotherapist?
Physios teach you quality of movement with key focuses on core muscles and skill development, whereas OTs teach quality of functional ability and participation in life. We take the core skills that physios have developed and attach them to activities that someone enjoys and is important to everyday flourishing and quality of life. This is forgotten in the hospital medical model. It is assumed that if someone can walk, they can go home, but OTs see the bigger picture, that an individual may not yet be ready to function and have the ability for activities of self-care. Thinking holistically is a core strength of the OT. They’re able to see what brings value and meaning to the person and provide strategies to re-engage with those values.
What kind of clients do you work with?
The majority of my clients are NDIS participants who are under 65 years old in the Ringwood demographic area, however some are older adults with My Aged Care and DVA funding. Most clients have complex health concerns, often with combinations of physical, cognitive and mental health issues. Working in this part of the city provides the outer cusp of metro catchment, perfect for service provision of the metro areas, including regional areas, where resources are not as available. The client caseload remains challenging and interesting with such varied demographics, that it enables me to provide highly personalised care, find unique solutions for each individual and build my skills outside of purely clinical areas. This is as opposed to providing care for similar clients where you can quickly become comfortable with your recommendations and interventions. Working in diverse client circumstances allows me to quickly build interpersonal and strategy-making skills, strengthen my communication, problem solving, resourcefulness and report writing.
What kind of other professionals do you work with?
I work with stakeholders involved in the client’s situation. This may include medical clinicians such as allied health professionals, speech pathologists, behaviour support practitioners, neuropsychologists and GPs; funding body professionals such as support coordinators, care managers, plan managers, local area coordinators and those working for NDIS, DVA or My Aged Care; and those related to the building process such as suppliers and builders.
What are the biggest challenges you face at work?
Time limitations are a significant challenge as tasks may take longer than expected such as bringing together quotes, reports, research and waiting for NDIA decisions to be made. Managing clients’ and their stakeholders’ expectations is also another challenge. However, what helps to manage this process is that we collaborate as a team to draw insight from each other, with boundaries set in place as to never bring the workload home with us.
What drives you to pursue success in your occupational therapy career?
For me, I want to do something that’s meaningful and that makes a significant change to people’s lives. I’m highly motivated to locate an area of OT that I’m passionate about and can specialise in for the rest of my career. I think it’s important to focus on things that I’m good at, to hone in and improve those skills, to delegate weaker areas to others, and remember that I don’t always have to be an all rounder. I’m passionate about community health, home modifications, equipment, and to maintain updated knowledge in this domain as new information emerges. Community health provides diversity in every space, and provides me with ever-changing opportunities to be competent in my own learnings regarding all things assistive technology and home modifications.
What would be your take home message to anyone considering to engage with OT?
Take home messages for clients considering engagement with OT, would be:
- To remember that you are the expert in your own life
- To find an OT that respects your narrative, your wants and needs, as this is imperative for your goal-attainment
- And to educate the OT about yourself and your situation and sell that to them.
Take home messages for people wanting to career change to OT, would be:
- Be creative and think outside the box in your solutions
- Care about making change and having fun at work
- Remember that OT is a broad area with multiple aspects to explore such as hand therapy, mental health, neurology, hospital work, community health, or physical rehabilitation to name a few, and to find an area where you can flourish
- And to call Kadia Occupational Therapy if you think your passion lies with community health.