5 February 2019
Ever wondered what an occupational therapist does? Meet USC Occupational Therapy graduate Lauren Pratt. Her first year working in the industry has given her a wealth of experience helping a wide range of people.
The Australian Government’s Job Outlook site predicts that occupational therapists will experience strong industry growth and have a lower rate of unemployment.
What is an Occupational Therapist?
Occupational therapists help people overcome limitations caused by injury or illness, psychological or emotional difficulties, developmental delay or the effects of ageing. These might be helping them to complete everyday living activities such as showering and dressing, having a job or learning, or even engaging in leisure activities.
What did you study?
I studied a Bachelor of Occupational Therapy (Honours) at USC. To become a fully registered therapist you generally need to study a four-year undergraduate degree or complete specialist postgraduate study.
Why did you decide to study this?
I wanted a career with a diverse range of opportunities and experiences. Occupational Therapy offers the chance to provide holistic, client-centred care to individuals with a huge variety of challenges that impact on their engagement in daily living activities and participation in tasks meaningful to them.
What was your favourite thing about your degree? How did it prepare you?
I found the practical element really helpful – completing 1000 hours of hands-on experience meant I could experience life as an OT in the 'real world' prior to graduating. You learn a lot when doing the hands-on stuff, it gives you the chance to put all the theory into practice. The USC teaching staff were also really supportive.
What are your doing now?
I am working full time at a private hospital in Bundaberg within a variety of different areas including paediatrics (children), hand therapy, splinting, orthopaedics, stroke rehabilitation, discharge planning, equipment prescription, home modifications and with participants under the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS).
In my profession, I work closely with members of the multidisciplinary team including nursing staff, doctors/specialists, physiotherapists, discharge planners, speech pathologists and/or dietitians.
What is your favourite thing about your job/career?
Being able to truly make a difference in someone's life. It has got to be the most rewarding feeling I have ever experienced. OTs look at the whole picture – at every aspect of one's life. We can assist an individual to be able to complete tasks that are often considered simple and are taken for granted such as using a knife and fork or getting dressed. Until you have lost the ability to do such tasks, you don't realise how much it can affect your life.
How is your industry changing?
NDIS clients (people with a disability) are a fast-growing portion of my caseload. It is also exciting to learn about and apply the new equipment/assistive technology that is becoming available.
What is something about your career/industry that many people don’t know?
I think people may not be aware of the diversity of conditions we work with on a day-to-day basis.
What advice would you give to someone thinking about a career in your area?
As occupational therapists we work with a very diverse client base, so both a width and depth of knowledge is required. This means the job is great for those who like variety and enjoy continually extending their knowledge and skills.