“The spirits are everywhere, all around us,
they are right here between you and me”
For a post-grad paper in 2014 I needed to research the Maori perspective of spirituality and health for an assignment (for those of you reading who are not from New Zealand, the Maori are the people native to New Zealand).
After several fruitless days of reading I decided to go to the source and meet with my organisation’s Kaumatua (a respected Maori Elder) and ask my questions about Maori culture.
Our Kaumatua is a kind gentleman for who there are no dumb questions, where questions of ‘but why?’ are welcomed as an opportunity to build therapists knowledge.
I had been struggling to understand the concept of the spirit world that I had been reading about, and our Kaumatua explained it in the way described above. I love his explanation and it gave me an ‘Ah ha’ moment and helped me to understand more fully what I have been reading.
I think we should take advantage of our access to cultural support workers to build our insight and understanding of the cultures of the people that we work with.
I am relatively new to conferences with only having been to two – WFOT in 2014 and APOTC in 2015.
Both conferences have been great opportunities to learn about settings that we would not normally hear about, opportunities to meet like minded OT’s and talk about Occupational Therapy all day every day!!!
I was fortunate enough to meet up with several OT’s I met at WFOT and catch up and talk OT!
Met this lovely OT again from Osaka, Yoshimi Yuri a lecturer at Kansai University of Welfare Services.
#12 – Seeing my clients achieve their rehab goals is what makes my job as an Occupational Therapist very rewarding – Divika
#13: Deep connections. As a MH OT, many people express feeling like we get them on a deeper level, and that in itself creates positive change – Dorothy
Imagine this… a small hospital bathroom, a patient showering, an OT supervising, much talking and general laughter is heard coming from the steam filled room, the patient’s focus wanders, control of the shower head is lost, the OT is hit with a full blast of warm water from head to toe, the patient and OT shriek with laughter, the shower head skitters along the floor of shower further spraying the OT (and if very unlucky the patients clean clothing is also saturated), the OT is soaked, the patient is relaxed and happy with their showering achievements, patient returns to bed space to continue their day, the OT squelches down the corridor in wet shoes, wet socks and wet scrubs with a smile on her face… Its 9.10am.
Over the years I have amassed a veritable treasure trove of anecdotes / funny stories and not-so-funny stories that I use as teaching tools for students / new staff (while protecting patient privacy).
Further pearls of wisdom I have learnt over the years:
- Chocolate chip cookies should not be put in toasters, it does not soften them! (In my defence I didn’t actually know what would happen when the person put the biscuit in the toaster, it seemed kind of plausible that it would soften it so was easier to eat… BUT… What happens is smoke, lots and lots of smoke, smoke issues from the toaster, smoke alarms go off, the house fills with gross burnt chocolate smelling smoke, windows get opened, neighbours look over fences, patient and OT agree that perhaps it wasn’t the best idea after all, OT is red faced and wondering how on earth she was going to write this debacle up in the clinical notes without looking like a dork…. SO! Lesson learnt: Chocolate chip biscuits do not go in the toaster!
- There is a difference between top and bottom dentures…. enough said!
- You need to always remove the wheelchair seat belt before trying to transfer someone out of a wheelchair…
- Knocking the red button on the front of the hoist causes it to stop… its not broken or flat, just release the emergency button to get it working again (had a wee panic the first time that happened to me with a patient in the air!)
- Powered wheelchairs will not work if they are set to manual mode…. (sigh)
These are but a few of the cautionary tales I use when training or comforting other OT’s… Hopefully I am not abnormal and others have similar stories….. Right?!?!
A work family are those that you work with each day that you become close to through shared experiences – some good, some bad and every shade in-between, they are the ones we laugh with and cry with and share our exasperation with, who understand the unique pressures that we work under like no others. Those who understand your silly in-jokes about equipment (who can go past a great toilet frame joke!) or bodily functions, or who remember favourite patients and those you can share your horror stories with and debrief with at the end of a long day…
I am extremely fortunate to have an amazing work family both on my ward (where I have worked for the last 5 years) and within the team itself – many of whom have transitioned into close friends and family members over time.
I have heaps of examples of the joys of the work family – through our celebrations of engagements, weddings, pregnancies, births, or support during crises (both work and personal), hugely busy periods with heavy workloads, injury and illness… we are always there and have a wide breadth of understanding about the human condition and all the goes along with it!
For me one of the best examples I have seen of the work family support system was last week after the sad passing of the husband of one of the nurses on my ward – 22 of us attended the funeral, most of us straight from the ward in our scrubs, we hugged and cried with our friend and simply were there in quiet support of her and her family during this tragic time.
Have others experienced the joy of the work family?
I love that occupations are everywhere and make up pretty much everything we all do. They are the seemingly simple things we do everyday without thinking about them (until we can no longer do them in the way the would like) like toileting / dressing or eating. Or the exciting hobbies that people have. Or occupations linked to valued / life roles; like parenting, being a student, being a bread-winner, paying the mortgage etc.
Explaining what Occupational Therapists do can be so simple – in my work setting I pretty much say that OT’s look at all the parts / activities / tasks (aka occupations) that make up your day, that are important or have value to you, and we help people to do those things!
The wide ranging definitions of occupation enable to have a broad scope of practice and work in such varied settings, what other discipline has such latitude to reinvent themselves and the work they do while still practising with the same overarching central tenant?
I love the days when something small, like say an Over toilet frame (OTF) or Shower stool (S/stool) or a kitchen perching stool can literally change someone’s life!
Something so seemingly simple and routine in the world of an Acute OT can make someone’s day / week / month or even year!
Recently I recommended an OTF to a patient (who had been struggling for a long time with toilet transfers and felt too embarrassed to discuss this with her family) and she lit up with an inner-light – so excited that going to the toilet was not going to be such a struggle / chore any more.
A perching stool in the kitchen coupled with advice around pacing / energy conservation enabled a patient to return to cooking full meals at dinner versus frozen microwave meals (which she didn’t like very much) – she practically danced from her bed out the door planning the new meals she would make when she returned home…
A shower stool enabled my other patient to be independent and not need carers to come into the home to assist her – her excitement was palpable!
A simple piece of equipment changed these people lives! All they needed was someone to listen to them and problem solve potential solutions to enable them to meet their goals.
A few months ago I wrote about a nice man who lives down the road from me and his story of recovery post stroke and the role his OT played in his journey (read original post here).
I have seen the gentleman a couple of times since then when he has popped by to see how I was getting on with my plants and giving me advice on how to not kill them (am a novice gardener!).
Today I came home from working an extra shift to this on my doorstep…
With a nice note saying that he had some mistakenly given me standard tomatoe seedlings last time and had grown me some mini ones to make up for the mistake (Wow!), he also gave me instructions on how to collect the seeds from one of the tomatoes so I can grow them independently next year…
On reflection he has a great appreciation of Occupational Therapy and our drive to build independence with our clients in their meaningful occupations.
I am now going to show off my gardening prowess with before and after shots of the original plants he gave me… Currently have an 85% success rate with the plants he gave me (again — a novice gardener!)
Please note the very nicely home-made cucumber plant poles I made too 🙂
Another lovely thing about being an OT – getting to hear the most amazing stories / anecdotes from the people you work with… and having a moment when you hear something that totally revolutionises how you see that person.
A few stories that come to mind from over the years:
An older gentleman in his 90’s told me during an assessment that he had ongoing knee pain, when I enquired further about the onset of the pain and its impact on his occupational performance he reported that it was from an old rugby injury… here is the best bit that blew me away… sustained during a rugby game in a POW camp in Germany after being shot down during the second World War….. WOW! My perception of this gentleman changed and evolved instantly!
Talking to a woman in her 90’s post-stroke, she told me of her daily life and roles within her village – she was the person that looked after all the other ‘old people’ (her words), she cooked and cleaned for others in the village, was a designated driver for those who were unable to drive, knitted jackets and hats for premature babies, ran her church prayer groups, read voraciously… I was blown away now but she kept going… she was also writing a murder mystery book! WOW! Again my perception of this person was instantly changed and my mind blown!
I have worked in a few Secure Dementia Units and Private Hospitals and I loved the times that families / spouses would come to visit and tell the staff stories about the previous exploits of our residents – we had writers, musicians, public servants, policemen, tennis pro’s, dedicated mothers and fathers, builders and mechanics… WOW it always seemed to completely change how we looked at the residents, and give depth to our relationships with our residents…
Another great thing about being an OT… Learning!
As OT’s we are presented with opportunities for learning each and every day…
In the last 3 working days I have learnt:
- How to do purl stitch (taught by a patient during a knitting-based therapy session)
- How to apply Newton’s laws of motion to posture management (that was a hard one to learn!)
- How to present like Steve Jobs (search for more interesting ways to teach and deliver presentations via a YouTube video)
- Another method / variation on how to write up a cognitive screening assessment (from reading another therapists notes)
- About hermeneutics and Heidegger (through post grad study)
- How to cook scrambled eggs in a microwave (from a patient during a kitchen assessment)
- How to use Powerpoint’s presenter view (in order to present at an in-service)
My point is this – we are surrounded by opportunities to learn – both formal (courses, articles, post-graduate education etc), from our colleagues in practice, and importantly (and often forgotten) from our patients / clients / consumers.
Think about the opportunities to learn and grow that we are exposed to each and every day in the course of our work – it may surprise you!
I challenge you to think of 2 things you have learnt this week from a formal source / from a colleague and from your patients / clients / consumers!