During my placement with the community matrons I had the opportunity to go out with an Occupational Therapy Assistant and get to see what they do day to day.
What did I learn?
Occupational Therapists are the allied healthcare professionals responsible for all the bells and whistles that make a patient’s life easier, including taking a different approach to an activity, making adjustments to someone’s home or getting them special equipment. All of these items enable the patient to maintain as much independence as possible and can even mean they can stay at home rather than having to go into care. OT’s can also be involved in assessing a person’s home to see if it can be modified to fit the patients current or future needs, such as putting in stair lifts, ramps of special showers. OT’s are often involved in doing mental capacity and function assessments, providing not only benchmarks for improvement or decline, but also outlining what services may be appropriate for that person so that they can get the help they need; this could be a package of care or befriending service.
Things I’ve seen put in place:
- Raised seating, toilet seats, commodes, chairs
- Special platforms to put under a person’s own furniture to raise it
- Rails along pathways outside someone’s house
- Walk in showers with stools to sit on
- Splints that enabled a person to hold cutlery/pens
- Specially modified wheelchairs
- Plates with higher rims, modified cutlery
OT’s are also very good at looking for alternative ways of completing tasks that the person is struggling to complete, so that the person can still maintain their own routine and be as independent as possible.
What can be transferred?
While most of what an OT does is specific to their job role, as a nurse it is important to be aware of what they have to offer and referring them to the relevant OT so that they can be assessed to see if someone can be put in place to meet their need. Each illness, disorder or disability has its own limitations, and while not all of them can be tackled, anything that can be done can greatly improve a patient’s quality of life and psychological wellbeing. Nurses must also remember that its not just the elderly and frail that can benefit from an OT referral. People of all ages may need adjustments made so that they can return to work or take part in leisure activities. It is also important to be aware of the limitations of their role, as while they’re very skilled, it does require patient engagement and some patients may not have enough cognitive function to learn new skills, routines or understand new equipment. There are also limitations based on cost, but this is case and equipment specific.