Posts Tagged ‘occupational therapy’

The Observatory Part Un

August 10, 2011

So, in a bid to find out more about the OT profession, I took a 1/2 day ‘shadow’ at 1 of the community hospitals in SG. The hospital caters to the elderly and has a nursing home attached to it. The OT who kindly showed me around specializes in Geriatrics.

I’ve learnt lots from him which I thought I’d jot down here – So for starters the hospital offers OT opportunities accross various care settings, ranging for the more mobile outpatient patients to those that require critical care, to those who are at the palliative stage.

Therapy extended include activities the patients can partake in with props and equipment to facilitate and strengthen muscle movement to enable them to lead a more active life. The OT plans these activities and has different ones each day, ranging from movies, gardening, morning exercise to cooking. It requires creativity, to see basic things in a different light in order to utilize them as tools to achieve the various therapeutic outcomes. I was shown items like macaroni and string, strength building weights and even a mahjong set which he swears that he has no problem getting the patients to play; which was rather amusing since most of them were reluctant about leaving their bed for any form of treatment.

Therapy is also extended to those patients who were permanently bedridden to prevent further detoriation. These patients, due to prolonged inactivity and the resultant poor blood circulation in the skin, are susceptible to the development of bed sores and other complications like muscle contracture so that their hands and feet become frozen in a claw-like state. Sounds painful? Certainly. It is heart wrenching to see some of the patients in the condition they were in. Nobody wants to fall sick, nobody wants to be left in a situation that they are warranted helpless such that even the most basic of functions like going to the bathroom is impossible to them.

So through my observations – these were the qualities that I feel a candidate should possess in order to do well in this field.

The OT profession is first and foremost, a very giving profession – they endeavour to make a difference, to make life better for others, to empower and enable the patients to return to the activities in their normal lives. Thus, one must really have the heart to give to love this job. This would see them through trying times and demonstrate empathy and sincere care when coaxing a grouchy patient, for example. They play the role of a coach, a cheerleader and a psychologist all rolled into one.

Secondly, he has extraordinary people skills. My OT friend who is working in Geriatics, can converse in Hokkien, Cantonese, Mandarin, English and a very slight smattering of Malay. Even while he was showing me around the wards he was making small talk to the paients, enquiring about their well being etc etc. There is collaborative work to be done, as the OT has weekly meetings and engages the various health professionals like the doctors, nurses, and the medical social worker to discuss the cases and activity plans.

Three, creativity as mentioned above. Incorporating therapy that befits the patient’s condition in an interesting manner, so that it appeals to them.

Next, physical strength is essential, but not debilitating if you lack it. My OT friend was in sports attire, he tells me that they are consistently on their feet and the physical transfer of patients from bed to wheelchair for example, requires strength. However, tere are techniques that will teach you how to move the patients and if 1 person can’t do it alone, 2 or 3 other persons could facilitate.

Finally, a note on the industry for opportunities and pay scale in Singapore. According to him, Singapore is still 10-15 years behind the more developed countries. OT is still not as valued here, as compared to physiotherapy which enables patients to regain function of their lower limbs i.e to walk. Progression is rather stagnant – you start as entry level, then to a senior OT, then to a department head, that is if you have the aptitude for it and make the cut. There are no bonuses to look forward to and pay is on the lower end of the scale. With the same amount of experience, he’d be earning double the amount he makes here, if he moved to Australia and practised there instead. In other words, it probably makes it tough to sustain your passion, since monetary rewards are insufficient to cater to various aspirations. He had seen many who were decent at the work, but leaving the industry, or the country, to pursue other opportunities.

I have never considered healthcare in such depth before, and now, I realize why the policy makers are worried. Singapore is facing the next silver tsunami with our greying population. Our health facilities, while world-class, may not be sufficient to cater to the volume once it hits us. Our healthcare workers are outsourced, because the educated locals shun the type of work. You know you’re in trouble when people start considering the facilities accross the causeway for their aged sick. Healthcare costs are rising. What more can be done?

That is the sad, inevitable path of life – birth, aging, sickness and death. And through it all, I’m thankful and grateful that I’m still in good health. And, moving forward, more eager to live a life worth living, to cherish every precious drop of youth and, contribute in whatever way I can.