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All about Occupational Therapy


It was World Occupational Therapy Day on 11 January 2021!

We took the opportunity to get four SCH Occupational Therapists (OTs)
to answer the questions we’ve always been curious about.

First up, if a Physiotherapist (PT) is on leave, can you help to cover him or her?

Ching-Wen: No, OTs and PTs work as one rehabilitation team but we cannot replace each other as we help our patients in different ways.

Kimberly: We partner our patients to reach different goals. PTs focus on improving patients’ mobility while OTs focus on helping patients improve at doing activities of daily living, such as toileting and wearing their clothes independently.

Alice: Still, there are some activities that may overlap during therapy sessions by PTs and OTs. Examples are muscle strengthening exercises and sit-to-stand training. These physical exercises are valuable whether for daily activities or mobility.

What is the most common response you get when you tell someone you are an OT?

Kimberly: "Do you help people find employment?"

Hui’en: "Can you find me a job?"

Alice: "Huh? Oh." And the conversation ends… because I guess they don’t really understand what an OT does!

What is a typical working day like for you as an OT then?

Ching-Wen: A typical day for me starts with checking the handover notes to get an update of my patients’ medical conditions. After that, I would plan rehab sessions for each patient according to their goals and needs, and split the cases with our Therapy Assistants.

I like to start each session with warm and cheerful greetings as well as some warm up activities. During the training on activities of daily living, I try to make the task and environment as realistic and relevant as possible for patients. For example, before I conduct a shower assessment, I would ask patients about their home toilet, how they plan to enter the toilet and handle their clothes. I then wrap up each session by sharing my observations and recommendations to help patients achieve the goals they set for themselves.

Kimberly: We also document each session and patients’ functional status to help us keep track of their progress.

Hui’en: Besides working with patients, I conduct trainings for caregivers to equip them with skills to care for their loved ones after discharge. When needed, I also help with online applications for Day Rehabilitation Centres, Day Care Centres or nursing homes to ensure the continuity of care upon discharge. For patients who qualify, I assist with applying for government subsidies to purchase recommended equipment.

Alice: I attend the weekly multi-disciplinary meetings attended by doctors, nurses and other Allied Health Professionals. During these meetings, the team shares the progress of our patients and comes up with a holistic patient discharge plan. Feedback from other team members about the patient can help me improve my rehab session. Also, I enjoy spending some time to develop fun projects for patients, like art and craft activities with a rehabilitative element. 

Can we find OTs only in community hospitals?

Hui’en: "Occupations" are actually defined as daily or meaningful activities. Therefore, OTs can work in a variety of settings to cater to a wide spectrum of needs.

Ching-Wen: Besides community hospitals, you can find OTs in many other institutions like acute hospitals, Day Rehabilitation Centres and schools for early interventions.

Alice: OTs can have different areas of specialisations too. Specialisations include palliative care, paediatrics, burn rehabilitation and mental health.

What is the most memorable experience for you as an OT?

Kimberly: I was inspired by a patient who was self-motivated to be independent despite his limited mobility. When he accidentally dropped his belongings on the floor, he refused to seek help from others. Instead, he creatively rolled up newspapers to improvise a tool to help him retrieve the items.

Ching-Wen: My most memorable experience as an OT was with a stroke patient. When we first met, she could not even balance herself in the geriatric chair. During therapy, we not only did physical training to build her strength and balance but also discussed extensively about her home environment as well as strategies and equipment for her to do her daily activities more independently. After 3 to 4 weeks, she improved by leaps and bounds and I felt the value of being an OT.

Alice: I had a 12-year-old patient who had his arm amputated. During our sessions, he used to ask when his arm would grow back. It was difficult for me to answer him. Instead, I focused on helping him regain independence with his sole arm. The boy gradually stopped asking about his lost arm and even said that his disability would not prevent him from achieving what he wants in life. It made me think that our work as an OT can sometimes make a difference beyond our imagination.

Hui’en: The most memorable experience for me was to journey with a stroke patient in his recovery journey and witnessing his progress. The smile and confidence he had in managing his daily activities was rewarding!

Complete this sentence. A good OT…

Hui’en: Is one with a heart for people, patience and creativity.

Alice: Should take a holistic approach towards patient care and possess a strong responsibility to improve patients’ quality of life.

Kimberly: Inspires and motivates patients to reach their full potential.

Ching-Wen: Has patience as well as good observation and analytical skills in assessing situations and coming up with solutions.