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Occupational therapy students put theory into practice

Queensland,Griffith University,occupational therap
Photo: Queensland,Griffith University,occupational therap
Jordon Matthews has witnessed the benefits of occupational therapy on aged care residents first-hand.

The Griffith University occupational therapy student recently spent four months at the Currumbin RSL Retirement Village on the Gold Coast as part of his second-year placements.

Jordon found the everyday challenges and inspirations surpassed his expectations, while the experience served as a test of his professional preparation.

“I found the placement to be a real eye-opener to the OT process and it has been excellent to see the happiness that has come from our time in the residents’ home,” he said.

“I found out how occupational therapy can have a major impact on residential homes such as the RSL - it was what stood out to me the most.
“There are so many possibilities to change lives but currently there are few OTs employed in the area, so it wasn’t just a work placement - sometimes it felt like a bit of pioneering.”

The university’s Bachelor of Occupational Therapy, delivered through the School of Allied Health Sciences, is only in its second year - there are 48 students studying in first year and 36 in the second year.

Jordon was in a student group placed at the retirement village, which is split into three levels of residential care - low, nursing and high care needs. The students were the first occupational therapists to work with the residents.

Jordon said the experience provided an insight into the ageing process and the importance of keeping both the mind and body active.

“It surprised me to see how many residents struggled with decreased cognitive function and memory loss,” he said.

“Each week, we noticed a new resident that has a memory issue that we previously hadn’t recognised.

“I feel as though the residents have many chances to engage in meaningful occupations but are restricted due to there being no currently employed OTs - maybe that will change in the future.”   

Jordon said the placement built on the work completed in the classroom, from developing interpersonal skills to studies that focus on reflective practice and placing the needs of the client at the centre of care plans.

“Everything learnt in our OT class has been really important in this experience - especially in how to order and carry out an OT process by following a framework and recognising areas that I have completed well or need to improve on.”

Professor Matthew Molineux, who established the program after establishing a similar program at Leeds Metropolitan University in the United Kingdom, was on hand most days to assist the students and consult on strategies while testing the effectiveness of the curriculum.

“This group has turned out really well and the work has provided them with a number of challenges that have tested their knowledge and burgeoning professionalism,” he said.

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Karen Keast

Karen Keast is a freelance health journalist who writes news and feature articles for HealthTimes.

Karen regularly writes for some of Australia’s leading health news websites and magazines.  In a media career spanning 20 years, Karen has worked as a senior journalist in newspapers and television. She has covered the grind of daily news and worked as a politics reporter at countless state and federal elections.

Since venturing into freelance writing five years ago, Karen has found her niche in writing about the health sector for editors, businesses and corporations.

Karen has interviewed the heads of peak health organisations in Australia and overseas, and written hundreds of news and feature articles covering the dedicated work of health professionals who tread the corridors of hospitals and health services, universities, aged care facilities and practices, day in and day out.

Follow Karen Keast on Twitter @stylemywords