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.

Occupational Therapy and Literature

Middle Beach St Clair

Middle Beach St Clair

Today I went to a lunch time seminar the speaker was Rosemary who had been a lecturer at our school of occupational therapy until her retirement last year. She is now finding time to do a PHD.  It was a really interesting talk on using popular literature to gain an understanding of Occupational Therapy – an understanding of occupation and an understanding of the human condition.

Two things I have taken from or thought about since the talk:

Occupational therapists recognise in all occupations the technical skill e.g. in baking a cake (the techniques such as creaming butter and sugar together, measuring ingredients, using the stove etc). But  when you read a popular literature story (or even a children’s story)  that involves baking a cake the reader realises as occupational therapists do when working with clients  that there is much more to baking a cake than the technical skills. Why is baking a cake important to that person?, why do you decide to bake a cake?, what do they gain from baking it?, how does doing it impact or affect who we are? As we work with our clients/patients as occupational therapists we believe that all of these things are implicit to why people choose to  engage in certain occupations.

So the occupation of baking a cake and most occupations are complex they are not just about the technical skill but also tell us about the human condition.  As we work with our clients/patients as occupational therapists we know that many things contribute to why people choose to  engage in certain occupations.

The other piece of food for thought as an educator is that occupational therapy students and occupational therapists need to know as much as they can about occupations and the human condition. How do we get this knowledge when we only have our own experiences. Rosemary suggests that ‘good’ popular literature is a way to come to a greater understanding.

The New Zealand Occupational Therapy Conference and the Australian Occupational Therapy Conference

Recently I had the opportunity to attend both of these conferences. The New Zealand Conference this year was in Palmerston North – not the easiest place to get to, but at the end of the day its being able to get together that matters. This was up there with the best of the New Zealand Conferences that I have attended. It seemed that people were all ready to do something about influencing the future of occupational therapy in New Zealand. There was a lot of celebrating  and showcasing the core values of our profession,  with an emphasis on occupation,  and an awareness that as a profession we bring a different perspective and approach to working with others.

You might argue that we did not have the well known names of the profession as key note speakers (we have had them in the past and value  their contributions) but there was something quite wonderful in having as key note speakers people who were researching but who were clearly still at the coal face engaging with clients or students, showing us that you can do both well.

The association continued its commitment to always have key note speaker who is a New Zealander. As a country of only 2,000 occupational therapists it has in the past been seen that conferences were a way to bring the experts from overseas in to tell us what they are doing. However in this decade we have seen the importance of not only learning and hearing from others, but celebrating what we are doing here, learning from each other and valuing this, alongside the insights from overseas.

So not only do we now always have a key note from a New Zealander but also no longer is our Frances Rutherford Award Lecture (for occupational therapists the New Zealand equivalent of the Eleanor Slagle Clark US or the Docker AUS) on the second or third day of the conference, but now on the first day of conference a true celebration of the contribution one of our own therapists has made to the New Zealand profession.

It was the first time that I have been to the Australian Occupational Therapy Conference and I have to say that this time round I think the New Zealand Conference was the better more focus, a greater pride and enthusiasm. So perhaps if you are an Australian occupational therapist or indeed from anywhere off shore next time the New Zealand Conference is on it might be worth thinking about coming across ‘the ditch’ (the pacific) and seeing what it is all about.

One of the highlights this year at the NZ Conference was Trish Egan’s call for us to develop our own model for occupational therapy practice. A suggestion that got everyone talking – so what is it that we do as occupational therapists here in NZ?, do we practice differently from elsewhere in the world?, are our  belief’s and values the same?

I do think we approach things differently, and work in a slightly different way than our colleagues elsewhere. Certainly because of New Zealand’s commitment to the Treaty of Waitangi, I think our understanding of identity, culture, cultural awareness, and cultural safety positions us a little differently to other countries. So watch out for a model in 2015 that gives an underpinning to NZ occupational therapy practice.


Are you ‘neurotypical’?

Does this posting title make you want to gag? I almost have to take Advance OT off my best blogs list!!. In describing the learning and events at a conference on autism on their blog, I found the blogger describing those without autism as ‘neurotypical’. Having not heard the term before it stopped me momentarily in my tracks – perhaps I’m not getting out enough!

I found myself envisaging the need to give everyone a MRI scan or similar to check whether you were ‘neurotypical’. I guess the question is why do we need to do this? why don’t we accept difference/diversity without seeming to have to show that the ‘other’ is um…better?

Occupational Therapy Tag lines

I was interested to see a piece on the launch of a new tag line for occupational therapy coming out of the US

“Occupational Therapy. Living Life to Its Fullest.”

It set me to trying to remember other tag lines occupational therapy has had and I wondered whether it would show changes to how we were describing the profession. However I have decided my memory isn’t as good as I thought or maybe there haven’t been that many?

Late 1990’s to mid 2000’s “Occupational Therapy. Skills for the Job of Living.” or sometimes shortened to “Occupational therapy skills for living” this one seemed to be used by occupational therapists worldwide.

In the mid 2000’s The New Zealand Association of Occupational Therapists had for a short time the tag line

“Occupational therapy – live the life you want”

and way back in the1980’s? there was one I am struggling to bring to mind. Was it

“Occupational therapy a vital link to productive living” ????? (not to sure that I have this one correct).

Maybe there is someone out there who can add to the list?

Top Occupational Therapy Blogs

The number of good occupational therapy blogs is growing. I thought it was time I shared with you some of my favourites. So first up is:

June 15th

Skills for healthy living: A resource blog for health providers this is a fantastic blog to learn about chronic pain, and to develop understandings about and skills in working with clients with chronic pain. Written by an occupational therapist it’s a great way to upgrade on this specialist area. And as a bonus it also has some fabulous photo’s.

16th June – No. 2 (please note these are currently not being ranked they are just coming in the order I think about them)

Thriving in School this blog is from Hosmer Road School in the US. Funny thing is until I went back in to write this I had always thought Hosmer Road School was in the UK!! – So sorry Beth. This blog is full of practical hands on tips and ideas for therapists working with children. I think part of my love of this blog is that it takes me back to my days of being a Paediatric Occupational Therapist. But with over 17,000 visits to this blog since January 2007 it must be one of the busiest Occupational Therapy Blogs IN THE WORLD.

17th June No. 3

OT Students (B)E(LO)N(G) You have to give it to Karen she wins hands down for being the most prolific occupational therapy blogger. She’s a student in her SECOND YEAR of training. It is a blog with an interesting mix of: how my day has been from the exciting to the dreary (did I really need to know she has just done the laundry!), glimpses into what being an OT student in the US is like, thinking associated with her ongoing learning, insights into working with clients and how applying her training goes. But overall what comes through is a huge motivation and commitment to becoming the best therapists she can. I find myself just having to go see what she is up to.

June 25th – No. 4

Advance OT This next blog is an outside somewhat surprising entry in my best blogs (even to me) as it is a trade publication. What I like about this blog is that it reports on what is happening in the American Association of Occupational Therapy. I think blogs like this are a great way of ensuring the everyday happenings and events of professional bodies are visible to all and able to be discussed. I’d love to see the New Zealand Association of Occupational Therapists with a blog and blogger. It’s a great way of getting up to date information to members and to enable non members to see the benefits of the Association. So how about it NZAOT?