Occupational Therapist Amy | Working in Esperance

As the St Jude’s Disability Service team has grown, so have the regions we service. With a combination of local based therapists and weekly travel, we are proud to service clients in Perth and Regional WA. 

Amy is a Senior Occupational Therapist at St Jude’s and works with clients in Perth and Esperance. Amy answered some questions and shared her experience about working as an Occupational Therapist and the work she undertakes in Esperance.  

 How long have you worked with St Jude’s therapy team?

I started in August of 2018. I began as a casual and worked up until mid last year, when moved to full time as my client load began to grow. While the profile of therapy services was beginning to expand, I also worked across additional Disability Services to support clients in other ways. I was responsible for running activities at St Jude’s Bellevue Community Centre, worked as a Support Coordinator and  have covered for managers of Individualised Services in the North and East region, which involved rostering supports for clients, coordinating support workers and liaising with families.

Can you tell us a bit about your history working as an Occupational Therapist?

My main experience has been in mental health, which describes many of the clients we work with at St Jude’s, but we definitely see clients of all backgrounds. Prior to St Jude’s, I worked in Aged Care, vocational rehabilitation (supporting injured workers return to work), and I worked as a Skills Trainer (similar to a Support Worker) for 4-5 years which was mostly working with clients with intellectual disabilities, down syndrome and autism.

What sort of clients do you work with?

The clients I support vary in age from approximately 6 – 60 and experience varying challenges including Cerebral Palsy, Intellectual Disability and Autism.

How often do you currently visit Esperance?

During COVID, I conducted teleheatlh services for my clients due to travel restrictions. Now that restrictions have eased, I am currently travelling to Esperance each fortnight for between two and three days. It changes as the needs of the clients vary. 

Where do you conduct your therapy services?

For most clients, it is within their own home or their community, for example,  I often take clients grocery shopping to observe their independent living skills. I work with children both at school in a classroom setting and occasionally within their home if the goals they are working towards are different in the home setting compared to the school setting. We are also partnering with some local Esperance organisations to offer a clinical service setting for clients who would prefer this setting.

What are some common challenges clients face and how do you overcome this?

A HUGE challenge is access to services and what we often take for granted including technology (many clients were unable to continue therapy remotely because they do not have internet or a computer to undertake Telehealth or online services). This has meant I have had to be quite creative in how I could support them remotely including phone calls, working more directly (but remotely) with clients’ other service providers such as support workers so they can continue interventions with the client and developing resources and activities that can continue to be practiced in my absence.  

What you look forward to most about travelling to Esperance 

Knowing that I am providing a service and opportunities for clients that may not otherwise receive it due to the location isolation. Personally, Esperance is also one of my favourite places in the world, so it just makes it that much more enjoyable!

Can you provide us with a snapshot into what a day working as an occupational therapist looks like?

In Esperance, it is pretty jam packed. Mornings I generally spend providing therapy sessions at schools which are most often for approximately 45 minutes (we work on skills such as handwriting, fine motor skills, gross motor and play as well as social skills). Following this, I work with clients and their support network whose goal is to develop their independent living skills through implementing routines that improve day-to-day living.  Some capacity building skills include cooking, cleaning, developing  budgeting skills and other skills required to transition out of family home. I also meet clients with psychosocial disability to build coping strategies to manage symptoms such as anxiety and paranoia, to limit its impact on their day-to-day life.

Occasionally, I perform Functional Assessments where I discover how clients currently manage with day-to-day living and identify the support required. This can involve observing clients in the home, school or community and how they currently undertake tasks such as cooking. I then assist with implementing recommendations to increase  independence as well as implementing supports required such as equipment aids.

When in Perth, I see anywhere between of 2-3 clients per day, right up to 5. I currently conduct a large amount of Functional Assessments, which usually take between 3-5 hours over multiple sessions and then report my findings. Therefore my day is broken up between people face-to-face and time spent behind the computer writing reports. Part of my day is also liaising with other service providers to monitor clients progress, contacting equipment providers and ordering trials of equipment to support clients achieve independence.

What is your favourite thing about working as an occupational therapist?

No day is the same, and because it is so broad what we do, it always keeps me on my toes.

Lastly, would you share a fun fact about yourself?

I have come from quite a musical family and have played piano as well as other instruments for the majority of my life, so I always get that added satisfaction when I can relate to clients who have a shared passion for music.