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A day in the life of an Occupational Therapist

Today is the start of National Occupational Therapy Week!  Here Nona Wiltshire shares a typical day as an Occupational Therapist and gives us an insight into the valuable role the team carry out at the hospice and in the community.
Nona Wiltshire with a patient (cropped)

No two days are the same as an Occupational Therapist at Saint Francis Hospice!

We work in all areas of the Hospice, the Inpatient Unit, Pemberton Place and in the community as part of the multi-disciplinary team to promote health and well-being through occupation.

We look at our patients and their families holistically considering physical, psychological, emotional, social and spiritual needs to help and support them to be as independent as possible.  

Little things matter like being able to getting on or off the chair, bed, or toilet is important for a person's dignity.  

Small pieces of equipment or a different technique can make a difference to enable a person to manage their daily living activities such as washing and dressing - things that we all take for granted.   OT team pic with Bernie our volunteer driver

In the morning I will go through new referrals and prioritise home visits that need to be organised. 

This morning I visited a young lady who had cancer that gave her a very swollen tummy and legs.  

She was struggling with everyday activities because she became breathless and fatigued very quickly.

Moving around, going upstairs and attending to her personal care were all exhausting.

She lived in a 3 storey house with her mum and 3 siblings who helped but were concerned about her sudden loss of functional ability. 

I explained my role and purpose as an Occupational Therapist - to help maintain her independence and dignity and to keep her actively involved in managing the roles and tasks that are important to her.

We chatted about her daily life and the areas that she was having difficulty with.  

The 3 main problems identified were: bathing, getting in and out of bed and chairs. 

Her living environment was assessed and her family's needs considered.  OT team pic with Bernie our volunteer driver

Bathing equipment was provided to make bath transfers safe and also reduce the manual handling risk on family. 

A bed lever was fitted to her bed to maintain independence with bed transfers. 

A riser - recliner, electrically operated chair was provided and put in her favourite place in her lounge.

This enabled her to watch TV and with the press of a button she could get out of the chair with little effort or energy.

She could also recline the chair and have her feet raised to help relieve the swelling.

She really like the chair and found it very comfortable. 

 It is rewarding to see the difference my occupational therapy intervention can make to a person.

I am often thanked for the contribution we make to everyday living and the speed at which we often react; we can provide equipment quickly and urgently if required. 

 In the afternoon I facilitated the gardening group at Pemberton Place. 

 We use occupations and activity as therapeutic interventions to improve physical, psychological, social, emotional health and well-being. 

 Today Paul joined us from the Essex Beekeeping Association to give a fascinating talk and demonstration about honey bees and beekeeping.  

 We enjoyed learning about what is involved and saw some of the equipment.

It was a sensory activity in experiencing the sight, smell, touch and taste of the comb, honey, mead and biscuits. It was social in that the group interacted with Paul and each other, it was physical in handling the equipment and gross motor and fine motor skills were required.

We talked about our own gardens and how we all encourage bees and wildlife by planting certain plants and flowers and one member chatted about her flower arranging in a local church that she enjoyed participating in.

Being part of a group is a very positive experience and participants benefit from being together and support one another which is fantastic to be a part of and a privilege.  

 Saint Francis Hospice has such wonderful gardens and is in such a beautiful setting.

We really appreciate the work done by our volunteers supervised by a gardener.

So it is really nice to incorporate the theme of gardening as a group activity .... horticulture has huge benefits for our health, soul and well-being.

Feeling closer to nature definitely has an uplifting and positive impact that can improve quality of life. 

After a referral from IPU, I liaised with our physiotherapist to gather information about Sally (not her real name!) on our IPU who is due to be discharged home early next week.

I then visited Sally on IPU for a quick chat to introduce myself and discuss her home environment and how she would be managing her activities of daily living. I am gathering a picture and built a rapport with Sally to find out what matters to her, what are the meaningful activities that she enjoys, managing her personal care, cooking and accessing the community to visit the theatre or garden centre etc. 

I will see Sally again tomorrow for a functional assessment and to try some equipment with her on the IPU ward. I will see if Sally's family can take any small items of equipment home or arrange delivery by our wonderful volunteers and plan a home visit once Sally is home.

It is ideal to assess Sally in her own environment to see if she has any difficulties or needs that we can help with by adapting the environment, task or providing equipment.

I will encourage Sally to think about participating in a group at Pemberton Place - creative therapy, gardening or exercise so that she continues to feel supported by Saint Francis Hospice now that she has been discharged from the Inpatient Unit. 

And before the end of the day I make our volunteer driver Bernie, who delivers and collects equipment, a cup of tea and discuss how he got on this morning taking a perching stool and wheelchair to a patient.