Category Archives: Reflection

Calling occupational therapists – What’s OT?

OT , BT3.


How would you feel if I told you you would be doing all of these next week? Would you feel anxious?, wonder what you should wear?, whether you should eat before you did them?

Well I guess there is about 100 people in the world who will understand all that I have just written, and at least 260,000 who will understand the first OT. From memory that is, the number of occupational therapists in the world, according to the World Federation of Occupational Therapists recent stock take on occupational therapy.  Given that we ponder/discuss and constantly work on how to get our profession better recognised by others why do we persist in saying and writing OT?

I remember as a student, another student telling the story of an elderly client who had wanted something and had been told to talk to the OT. She was heard asking around the ward for the Old Tea Lady (true!!!!)

Today I got a call from my extended family, as per my last post I currently have a family member in hospital and he has now moved to rehabilitation, and fantastically they have put a list on the wall of his rehabilitation team. Today the question from the family was what does SW stand for, what about SLT and PT and is OT occupational therapy ? I know that one day they will know what all of these stand for but wouldn’t it be nice if they knew from the word go. For those that don’t know SW is social worker, SLT is speech language therapist, PT is physiotherapist and yes OT is occupational therapy.

We have a beautiful name, that describes our core beleif why don’t we use it? I know we have to explain occupation to others but we are half way there if people start with knowing the name of our profession. So lets stop the jargon and abbreviations as one of the most proactive steps we can take to having people know and understand our profession.

Occupational therapy and client/ patient handouts

I have had some recent experience of knowing someone in hospital. From this experience I have some thoughts about handouts.

Many professions use handouts as a way of informing patients and their relatives about an issue, strategies or techniques that would be useful for the client and their family to know. The concept is a very good one. We know that clients and their families don’t always know what to ask or what will assist in the persons treatment, a handout can help answer questions and give them things to do. It gives them something to refer back to, gives them the time they  need time to absorb the information at their own rate and means that they can use the information to help them form questions.

So from my experience here are some things we should consider when giving out a handout (and I reiterate I do think handouts are very useful, if well thought out and I acknowledge that we don’t have time for them to all be individually done).

1. Handouts are often generic, so find a way to personalise it for that client. Put their name on it – and find a way of indicating which of the pieces of information/suggestions or techniques are best suited for that client. For example you could state at the beginning of the handout that the ideas suited for Tom or Sally have a tick beside them and the ones that aren’t relevant a cross (make the ticks big and bright).

2. Find a way of keeping the information together for the client – a bundle of loose pages gets lost, people don’t know if they are still relevant or even for that person, they don’t know if the information is out of date or still relevant. Perhaps they could be placed in a file (with a date on them) or perhaps they could be dated and put on the wall.

3. Indicate on the handout how you think the information should be used e.g. is it something that you are suggesting family/visitors do with the client (negotiate with the client that this is ok with them first though and have this on the handout) or do you expect the client to do it themselves?.

4. Make sure the handouts are up-to-date with the clients progress

5. When you do give a handout – don’t just hand it quickly over and walk away (after  all it is important) – explain and go though it with the client and/or family

5. Finally, all of the above is even more important if the client has a memory problem !!!!! (sounds obvious!)

So if you are a therapist how about thinking about your handouts. Could you improve them, and how you introduce them to your clients and their families.

I will look forward to seeing if any of you have other suggestions of the does and don’ts to add to this list.

Trust yourself, explore, experience

Part of some homework I have for the permaculture course is to work out the microclimates on my plot of land, by moving around the land observing changes of temperature, wind, soil etc. I found myself thinking that it would be helpful to have a probe to tell me about my soil, a temperature and wind gauge etc. It made me realise just how technology and instrument driven we have become and yet our observation (what we feel and see) can tell us such a lot if we tune into it and trust what it tells us. It seems to me that it is easy to forget just how good our senses are and thus we could be in danger of not utilising these skills, not just when we are gardening but in everyday life. Perhaps this is one of the challenges for us as occupational therapists, the utilisation of a range of skills and abilities when we work with clients, taking care to focus in on what we observe. Perhaps we don’t need a test or assessment for everything? We already know evidence needs to be considered along side the clients context before we act. So my tip for today is build up and trust our skills in observation … however knowledge needs to grow alongside observations e.g if I knew the story the weeds in my garden were telling me my observations would be more meaningful e.g clover growing tells me there is nitrogen ? in the soil, but what do buttercups, thistles etc tell me.

November …prospective occupational therapy students, marketing and reflecting

Merrolee and I spent a bit of time comparing cluster maps to see where the readers of our blogs were coming from and the interesting answer is everywhere. That wee interlude did wonders for the gaining the energy to write a quick post.

Here in NZ we are at that stage where our 3rd year students are in their last week of their final fieldwork placement and all being well in January they will be therapists!!!. Our 1st and 2nd year students have handed in all their assignments, and academic staff are knee deep in marking.

It is also an exciting time as we process all the applications of students for next year (our course starts February), it always amazes me the different types of people who are attracted to occupational therapy and the wide range of skills they bring with them into the programme, it guarantees a vibrant group of students.

We had some careers advisors visit earlier in the week and it was great to see their enthusiasum for our profession. One of them said that her father had received occupational therapy and ‘loved’ the occupational therapists for what they were able to do with and for him. Interestingly she saw that we must have an incredibly rewarding profession seeing the effect we can have on others lives. So that was one of the highlights of the week.

It is also a time of year when we reflect on what we have done well and what needs to improve and so there is a frantic round of changes happening to improve our teaching materials and assignments for next year. I sometimes wonder whether students realise just how much we use their feedback to help in this process. It is interesting the changes that the availability of information on the internet and within databases is making to how we learn, how we teach, and how up to date we have to be with our content. I remember back to when I trained 25 years ago dare I confess that I hardly went to the library we tended to just use the recommended texts (and it was probably 10 years old)! – mind there wasn’t a lot more on occupational therapy in the library. I remember a paper called Medicine and Surgery where all we did was go through a book of conditions rote learning them for an exam – I am not sure my knowledge on leprosy has ever come in useful but I guess there is still time!

In today’s world of the occupational therapy student there is however a tension – between wanting to be told the information/answer/solution and gaining the skills to get out and find and interpret the information for ourselves. We all know which one gives us better skills to be a life long learners, however time dictates a need to get a balance between the two.

Well that’s the top on mind stuff of the moment.


Facilitating elearning communities

I have enrolled in a course on facilitating elearning communities. As part of that course I have to keep a reflective diary of my experiences. This is therefore the start of that journal.

The most exciting thing for me so far has been a link posted on the course to The Art of Building Virtual Communities… it is well worth a look with a great discussion and links. I have heard a lot about the lurkers in elearning communities – the people that visit your site/community but who don’t post and who we all try to image and give form to. However it made me think about the other people that make up the community the linkers, the learners and the leaders. One of the links on the site talked about the leaders ‘building the fire’ which encourages participation and learning. I have been linking/lurking/learning at other occupational therapy websites recently and it has been really interesting to see what topics have ‘gone on fire’ e.g. got lots of comments. The observation I would make is that so often it is what the second and third person who comment that ensure that there is a ‘fire’. For me more learning happens when I can see different perspectives.

Linkers, lurkers, learners and leaders are all welcome to contribute.

View of Dunedin from Bayfield