What being an Occupational Therapist means to me?

I have been an OT now for donkey’s years, Since April 2017 our professional body, has been given royal approval so the correct title is now Royal College of Occupational Therapists (RCOT) and as part of this development our professional body encourages us to say and write the title in full.  So to restart – I have been an Occupational Therapist for donkey’s years.

Personally apart from having to take longer to write the words Occupational Therapist, I agree with the idea. It means each time I write the title, I am owning the text or intervention that I am putting my name to. The act of writing “Occupation” reminds me and the reader of the purpose of the profession.

Apparently I can also use the `post nominal lettering’ of MRCOT (member of the Royal College of Occupational Therapists) after my professional name – so this year’s Christmas cards will take longer to write.

Can’t remember how I knew I wanted to be an Occupational Therapist. I knew what I did not want to be. I knew what I wanted to do, and apparently it was called occupational therapy.

Sounds simple, however for someone who has no one in their family who works in health care, it was baffling to my parents, and how many of us have been in a similar position?

I wish at the time I had been able to define the profession for them and I have been practising that all this week in preparation for Occupational Therapy week 2017.

Am currently trying out the phrase -`It’s about what occupations you want to do, need to do and would like to do in your daily life over a 24 hour cycle’.  My week so far as an Occupational Therapist, has just finished and I thought whilst it was still fresh in my head I’d start.

This week I began working with a 25 year old patient who reminds me so much of my son/ nephews, all that potential to just `run at life ‘except this one is stuck psychologically.  He was born with a congenital amputation meaning part of his right hand is missing.

Decided to try a different assessment tool called the COPM (Canadian Occupational Performance Measure) with him, as despite working with him 4 years ago he remains stuck.  He is unable to undertake, those occupations he needs to do, wants to do and needs to do as a 25 year old employee. Occupations are the everyday activities that people do as individuals, in families and with communities to occupy time and bring meaning and purpose to life. They  include things people need to, want to and are expected to do.

I have known about the COPM for years. It’s a conversational outcome measure that Occupational Therapists can use in any setting, and it encourages the patient to identify which occupations are the most important to them and the ones they most want to improve.

I had used it once or twice before clinically, but this time, maybe it’s me or the patient, but using it revealed such a depth of missed potential. If occupations are all those activities; `we need to do, want to do and would like to do’; isn’t going to your staff Christmas dinner one of those?

My patient feels too self-conscious about using a knife and fork in a formal dining setting. You can‘t eat a Christmas meal, with one hand like a pizza or a curry, it is formal it’s proper.

Holding a knife is crucial to the activity, to the occupation. Have to think about it for a few days, and decide on the following; any other ideas are welcome.

Decide it is about use of adapted cutlery, but also about choice of food. So print off our staff Christmas menu and decide our next session will include choosing items from the menu that could be eaten more easily with an adapted fork/Knife called a Knork, then practice with real food.

The next step is to ask him and his Dad to go out for a `practice meal’. By then he may hopefully feel able to sign up for the staff Christmas meal before the closing date for his deposit.

If he manages this it will have taken 6 years of him; wanting to go, needing to go and then actually going to the Christmas meal.

That’s what Occupational Therapy and Occupational Therapy Week is all about.