October is Occupational Therapy (OT) month! OTs enable their patients to overcome physical, mental and cognitive impairments and solve problems that interfere with a person’s ability to do everyday things like:
• Self-care – getting dressed, eating, moving about their hospital, and home environments;
• Being productive – completing household management tasks, going to work or school, participating in the community;
• Leisure activities – crafts, sports, gardening, social activities.
The OT team also considers the patient’s environment from a variety of perspectives and makes recommendations about the amount of support a patient needs and assistive devices to improve independence and safety within the hospital and recommendations for living in the community.
At Grand River Hospital, the OT team also plays a strong role in discharge planning. The team collaborates with the patient, the patient’s family, and Grand River Hospital’s (GRH) interdisciplinary team to create an expedient discharge plan that promotes independence, safety and quality of life.
We asked the OT team at the KW and Freeport campuses about their experiences so far as an OT professional and what inspires them within their field.
What role does the OT play on your team and/or how does your role impact patient outcome?
“Occupational Therapy has a focus on function that is holistic and attends to the cognitive, physical and emotional aspects of the person. With a holistic focus, OT is uniquely positioned to support complex patient-centered goals and discharge plans.”
“I find that Occupational Therapy brings a unique perspective to my team as we look at the person holistically, considering all aspects that impact discharge planning - environment, equipment needs, cognition, physical function, and social support needs. This holistic view is crucial to ensure a successful discharge back to the community.”
What about your role, do you wish more people understood?
“We often hear that people do not know the difference between Occupational Therapy and Physiotherapy. We are often asked, does an "Occupational" Therapist help with my return to work? I think it's’ hard to describe what an OT does because there are so many practices we are responsible for. The core of our practice is supporting function and participation in what people need and want to do.”
“We see the big picture and know what it will take to get a patient safely home. We focus on the meaningful, functional tasks that the patient wants or needs to do and find creative, efficient ways to overcome their challenge(s).”
Explain how you interact and work with community partners/agencies?
“We work closely with community agencies that provide mental health and addiction support to ensure a continuum of care between the hospital and home. We also work closely with local schools to assist with accommodation plans that support students' mental health needs as well.”
”We link patients with community supports that will support their ability to manage personal care, meal prep, shopping transportation needs, and medication management. I also link patients and their families with adaptive equipment vendors for bathroom equipment and wheelchairs to increase safety and independence at home.”
What inspired you to begin a career in OT?
“I was inspired to begin a career in OT because of the various areas of healthcare you can practice in. Not only that, but the opportunities to learn a multitude of skills and work with a diverse population brought me to the profession and its’ apart of what keeps me here!”
“I knew I always wanted to work in healthcare, but it was the approach of being an OT that made me interested. Looking at the patient from the lens of which activities they need and want to be able to complete is a unique perspective. Additionally, being able to learn skills in all aspects of the person (physical, cognitive and affective) has given me a broad perspective to bring to the team!”
How did you begin your career in OT?
“I earned a Kinesiology degree at Western University, followed by my Master's degree in Occupational Therapy at McMaster University. I began my career performing insurance assessments for patients in motor-vehicle accidents. I eventually began practicing at Grand River Hospital’s Freeport campus until spending some time at Wilfrid Laurier University to work with students with disabilities and returning to Grand River Hospital this year. My time away from healthcare taught me I definitely belong on the frontline.”
“I started with a Co-op placement in high school with an OT, which introduced me to the profession! From there, I completed my Bachelors in Science in the Kinesiology - Co-op program at the University of Waterloo. I tried various Co-op positions in the Kinesiology program before truly embarking down the path to becoming an OT and completing my Master’s degree in Occupational Therapy at Western University. I was lucky enough to get one of my placements at Grand River Hospital’s Freeport campus where I was hired into a full-time position after graduating!”
What surprised you the most about your job?
“I was surprised and impressed at how forthcoming and mature children can be when asked about their health and wellness.”
“After years of practice patients continue to surprise me with their stories of overcoming their struggles. It’ truly amazing how they adapt themselves to their tasks! I learn new things from my patient’s everyday!”
What skills or characteristics are the most crucial to have in order to succeed as an OT?
“Creativity and problem-solving. We are the MacGyvers of the healthcare world!”
“A great OT has to be highly adaptable and strive to have people attain “quality of life”. They need to be caring, honest, organized and intelligent. An OT also needs to think “outside of the box” and cope under work pressures!”
It's no question that the past two years in COVID-19 have been pivotal for healthcare workers; what pushes you to keep going?
“The acknowledgment and support of patients and their families has inspired me to keep going. This has been a really difficult time, but knowing your hard work is appreciated makes it that much easier.”
“My young kids and my older parents are my emotional base during these tough times! But in the end, it's’ my patients that keep me going. They inspire me to continue to provide high-quality care to those who need OT services in the Kitchener-Waterloo region.”
If you wish to support the best in quality care for Grand River Hospital, we encourage you to visit grhf.ca for ways you can support GRH’s Continuum of Care. Your donation to the OT unit will go towards items that will enhance the quality of the patient experience at GRH. Equipment currently needed includes;
- Pressure-relieving wheelchair cushions
- Cognitive assessments
- Heel boots for wound treatment
- Positioning wedges for patients to use in hospital beds
- Cognitive assessment tools
- Cognitive treatment items (such as games, simulated money/financial materials, cognitive treatment software)
- Adaptive cutlery
- Adaptive clothing
- Pocket talkers, a device for patients hard of hearing
- Digital clocks
- Fidget items for sensory blankets (keychains etc.)