The life of an Occupational Therapist
Jacelyn Goh, Occupational Therapist at Bupa Therapy explains what it is an OT actually does and gives some insight into her personal journey as an OT.
For 10 years I have been an occupational therapist (OT), and yet, it’s still a common occurrence that I get asked “what does an OT actually do?”
I had been working as an OT in Singapore for six years, and moved to Australia four years ago.
If that’s what you’re thinking right now, don’t worry, my parents still don’t fully understand. They still think I am a physiotherapist - one things for sure, I can tell you that we’re neither recruiters nor masseurs.
So, what’s the answer to this million-dollar question? To answer this, one should understand the definition of occupation in the OT world.
According to the World Federation of Occupational Therapists, occupations refer to the everyday activities that people do as individuals, in families and with communities to occupy time and bring meaning and purpose to life. Occupations include things people need to, want to and are expected to do. These occupations can range from simple tasks like brushing your teeth and showering, to complex tasks such as maintaining social participation and engagement through work or school.
As occupational therapists, we aim to enable people to participate in activities of everyday life. This is accomplished by working with people to ensure that they have the skills and ability to engage in their chosen occupations, modifying the environment to support their engagement in the occupation or providing recommendations to modify the task to suit the person’s ability.
My own personal OT journey
To be honest, I never thought I was going to be an OT. When I was 18, having finished my “A” levels in Singapore, I had to decide what course to pursue in University. Having pretty average grades, all the posh courses like law, medicine, engineering and physiotherapy were beyond my reach. So, I did what an 18-year-old would do, I casually listed the top three courses that my grades entitled me to (that included occupational therapy, nursing and dental therapy. I remember showing up the first day of OT school thinking, “I have no idea what OT is and what I will be doing. If this does not work out in the next few months, I’m going to sign up for the navy.”
Over the first two months, I started to have a better understanding of what an OT is and what they do. I started to understand the concept that occupations are a fundamental part of everyone’s life and how its close integration with the environment (physical and social) can lead to occupational performance. I could see myself working as an OT, helping to reintegrate occupations into someone’s life and helping them return to meaningful lives. I decided to stay and finish the course.
Since then, I have come to fully appreciate the role OT plays in a person’s life. My career has seen me mostly involved in working alongside adults with neurological or physical conditions. Don’t get me wrong, I do like spending time with my friends’ kids (for a few hours anyway), but to be working with them on daily basis was just not my cup of tea.
Put me in a room full of elderly clients and being able to help change their lives in small ways or to even listen to their amazing life stories, I will be beaming a 1000 watt smile the whole time!
I truly enjoy the challenges that comes with working with the adult population, every day is never the same nor dull.
My OT journey has seen me working with people with all walks of life, helping others achieve ordinary things in extraordinary ways and across two different countries. It has been an amazing journey of learning for me, having to adapt to different cultures and work experiences (which is another story on its own!).
Do I regret being an OT? Definitely not!
For further explanation of what OTs do and where we work, visit the Occupational Therapy Australia website.
Or come by Bupa Therapy and have a chat with the team.