‘What I am told I forget…… by the Renal Team

…what I am shown, I remember.

              …what I do, I understand.’

Renal 1

Confucius was credited with many words of wisdom in his 72-years.  I couldn’t vouch for the authenticity of them all – but if he did utter these words he was indeed a man before his time.

The truth behind these words was apparent to me at our recent Kidney Care Planning Education day. The Kidney Care Planning Service has undergone a bit of a re-incarnation in the last couple of years. Formerly known as the Pre-dialysis service, it is simply the care of patients with an eGFR of less than 20mls/min, as they are more likely to progress to end stage kidney failure and need to plan for such an eventuality. However, the term ‘pre-dialysis’ implies that these people are all heading towards dialysis – when in fact many will choose an alternative path. The younger fitter patients should be hoping to get a pre-emptive kidney transplant from a relative or friend, while some of our elderly, frailer patients may well not benefit from dialysis at all and will survive just as long on conservative (nondialytic) care. So when Tanya Harkness took up the mantle of lead Nurse for the pre-dialysis service, she quite rightly felt a new name was required. Many renal units use the term Low Clearance Clinics, but a straw poll of non-renal staff suggested this was more reminiscent of a rehabilitation clinic for inattentive bus drivers… So, after much discussion amongst the renal team, the more accurately named Kidney Care Planning (KCP) service was born.

The aim of the service remains unchanged and while we do take bloods and treat symptoms, easily 80% of what we do is talk. More specifically we provide as much Renal 2information as we can to help every person decide which treatment option is going to suit them best. We do this with clinic visits and home visits. We provide information leaflets, website addresses and even YouTube videos – all with the aim of imparting information. Yet still we are sometimes asked a question that blindsides us – that either leaves us thinking ‘How did you not know that from all the conversations we have had?’  or ‘Crikey- that’s a good question that I have no idea how to answer!’ Because at the end of the day none of us handing out this information have ever experienced what they are going through – the actual treatments, the fear and anxiety, the dread of what their lives will become or the understandable desire to block it all out and pretend it’s not happening.

Which brings me back to Confucius! The subject of teaching is vast, with as many different approaches as there are pizza toppings. Yet 500 years BC, Confucius nailed it with this simple truth – when we actually do something, we come to understand it. So who better to teach our patients, than other patients who have been in the same boat.

We have held education days in the past, usually in a hotel function room with talks given by members of staff. Tanya was keen to resurrect the concept, but made it quite clear from the outset that there was ‘No way on God’s earth’ I think was the phrase that she was ‘EVER’ standing up in front of a room full of people to give a power point presentation. (Why not, I have no idea as I am sure she would be excellent….but there we are!)

So a new format was devised between the whole community team – a less formal approach, like an open day, where patients could turn up and wander at will from room to room – talk to the team leads, watch demonstrations, see the equipment and most importantly meet other patients.

The date was chosen to coincide with a visit from Ewen Maclean, Kidney Care UK Patient Support and Advocacy Office, Scotland. Ewen, himself a renal patient, is a mine of information about the support available to kidney patients, grants and how to apply for them and the political landscape that shapes kidney care in the UK.

We no longer had need of a hotel function suite – if there is one thing we are not short of at Mountainhall it’s space! (And the parking is pretty easy too – sorry!!) So, we sent a personal invitation to all our KCP patients, laid on refreshments and opened up the old pre-assessment unit for the day.

Renal 3The Renal Community Team (Left to right): Fiona Gardiner (Renal Dietitian), Robert McLemon (Transplant) Ian Mottram (Haemodialysis – both home and in-centre), Wendy Brown (Peritoneal Dialysis) Margaret McDonald (Clinic Health Care Assistant & Phlebotomist), Linda Stiff (Vascular Access), & Tanya Harkness (Kidney care planning).

Renal 4As well as written information everyone had something practical for patients who attended and the responses we had were truly illuminating. Ian had a haemodialysis machine with all the lines and bucket of dialysis fluid set up and received the comment ‘Oh, I didn’t realise it would be so small-I assumed it’d be really big.’ And why not –historically dialysis machines took up a whole room, which must be a really intimidating thought if you are going to be hooked up to one- but it has NEVER occurred to me to comment on the size of a dialysis machine in my many dialysis related conversations.

Renal 5Robert had asked 3 transplant patients, with more than 50-years of experience between them to attend. I am not sure if any of them showed their scars where the transplant was placed but they had experienced all the ups and downs of transplantation and immunosuppressants so there was no glossing over the bad bits.

Renal 6Linda was showing patients how to feel  their fistula and what to listen for – explaining how the noise it makes can change if a stenosis is forming – and she was able to give those with a fistula their own stethoscope to involve them in their own fistula care.

Renal 7Our renal dietitian was also on hand to give practical advice on managing fluid balance, as well as providing visual aids on potassium, phosphate and salt restrictions-something that renal patients universally struggle with!

Renal 8One of the biggest successes of the day came from Wendy who had persuaded one of her Peritoneal Dialysis (PD) patients & their families to come and chat so they finally actually knew what the PD catheter looked like when it was inserted and could see for themselves how an exchange worked. But more importantly they could ask someone having the treatment what it felt like, how it impacted on their lives, whether it interfered with their sleep, whether it actually helped! One of our patients who had been set on coming to the hospital for haemodialysis when his time comes, has now changed his mind. We have been sure for many reasons that he would be best suited to PD, but fear was driving his decision. One hour watching a gentleman of his own age performing an exchange and listening to his stories of how life continues almost as normal around PD, has achieved what 5-years of reassurance from us could not…

The feedback Tanya received was overwhelmingly positive, but patients are generally nice, so it is the more subtle signs that have persuaded us this is the right approach. The questions and comments patients have since made in clinic prove that they have valued and retained some of the information they learnt that day. One patient commented how reassuring it was to see dialysis patients who looked well and still lived a normal life. And I hope through this some of the fear for the future has abated.

I expect in the future we will still be blindsided by hitherto unasked questions, but it is not only the patients who are learning, as I finish with yet another Confucius quote:

‘He who knows all the answers, has not been asked all the questions!’

We would like to express our sincere gratitude for all the patients and families who came that day, especially for those who came to share their experiences with patients in the early stages of their kidney care planning journey. We are also grateful for the patients who gave their consent for us to take photographs and use them in this blog.  We hope to make “Kidney Care Planning Education day” an annual event from now on.

 

Other useful renal websites:

Patient focussed resources:

Kidney Patients UK / The National Kidney Federation, the largest kidney patient charity in the UK, run by kidney patients for kidney patients, website provides lots of useful information.

Kidney Care UK – formerly the British kidney patient association, very helpful brochures available online.

Think Kidneys – NHS England’s campaign to raise awareness of the importance of kidney disease. Lots of useful resources can be accessed with just a few clicks from this page.

Clinician focussed resources:

Renal Fellow Network – A USA based website with worldwide contributions distilling vast amounts of renal knowledge into bitesized articles, a great resource to start learning about renal medicine.

UKidney – online education on Nephrology, hypertension and kidney transplant.

#NephJC is a fortnightly Twitter-based Nephrology Journal club with visual abstracts, free access to the articles provided by major journals and regularly includes participation by the authors and other worldwide experts in the field.

 

This blog was written by Dr Alison Almond, Associate Specialist in Nephrology, with contribution from rest of the Renal Team, NHS Dumfries and Galloway.

 

Dietitians do Prevention by Laura King

Laura King 1Next week sees the return of Dietitians’ week and the theme this year is ‘Dietitians do Prevention’ with each day having sub-themes. Follow #DietitiansWeek on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram for some insights into our involvement in a wide and varied range of preventative activities.

Here in NHS D&G we have dietetic teams working across these areas which may come as surprise to the majority of folk working in the acute hospital who perhaps associate us mainly with artificial feeding and oral nutritional supplements for those who have scored 2 or more when nutritional screening is done on the wards.

As a small team we recognise that we have to play a role in educating and enabling patients, their families and carers to prevent over and under nutrition by supporting self-management, the dietitian can’t come shopping with you, cook your meals and help you to eat them and make the best choices, so we have to rely on using our communication skills to educate and inform patients and those close to them to help have a healthy, balanced diet that meets their needs.

We factor in ‘what matters to you’ and our assessments incorporate a huge range of factors as this poster illustrates:

Laura King 2

Our Team works in the following areas all of which have significant roles to play in prevention:

Community Nutrition Support  (Kerry, Alexandra, Jackie, Jennifer, Lis, Dillon and Carole) – We provide practical, evidence based dietary advice, specifically tailored to each individual. Through dietary advice we aim to prevent and treat a wide range of medical conditions and empower people to make appropriate diet and lifestyle choices. Community Dietitians see patients in a variety of settings including community hospitals, nursing and residential homes, clinics and patient’s own homes. Our role identifies, prevents and manages malnutrition in the community. We liase with individuals to create realistic and achievable goals to optimise/improve their dietary intake.

Various medical conditions require an individual to be provided with their nutrition via a tube. We are responsible for managing these patients in the community, either in their own home or in a nursing home/community hospital setting.

We deliver educational talks on various topics including cardiac rehabilitation, stroke, Parkinsons disease and pulmonary rehabilitation.

Renal (Fiona) – Supporting patients with advanced kidney disease in managing complex nutritional requirements. Preventing further complications that can arise from inability to excrete electrolytes and fluid overload as well as avoiding weight and muscle loss for this group of patients who have increased requirements for protein once dialysis has commenced.

Gastro (Gemma and Sarah) – Preventing complications from poor management of coeliac disease such as the obvious GI disturbances through to the ‘hidden’ consequences such as increased risk of bowel cancer and oesteoporosis. Supporting patients living with inflammatory bowel disease to manage their symptoms and optimise their health and well being. Preventing the often crippling effects of irritable bowel syndrome by supporting patients to use the low FODMAP diet to identify trigger foods and modify their diets in a safe and sustainable way.  Preventing malnutrition in liver disease which is often masked by fluid shifts.

Paediatrics (Mhari, Anne and Tracey)  – Supporting parents & their child in managing children with complex needs, tube feeding, diabetes, gastroenterology issues, cystic fibrosis, weight management, faltering growth and allergies – preventing short and long term consequences of under nutrition.

Diabetes (Katy, Nicola, Sally, Sheena, Wendy): We are an integral part of the diabetes multi-disciplinary team providing a dynamic and evidence based service. We deliver quality assured education, and aim to support patient driven care and safe self management to those living with diabetes and their family. We also provide continuing education and support for health care professionals working with individuals with diabetes.

Weight Management (Katy, Nicola, Sally, Sheena, Wendy): We provide person centred, safe and evidence based advice to individuals with complex needs and requirements. This encompasses a variety of approaches to help aid weight loss and improve quality of life.

Mental Health and eating disorders (Sam and James) – Supporting recovery from mental health crises and from the consequences of living with disordered eating behaviours.

Catering (Debbie)- Working with Catering to achieve menus for inpatients across the region that offer a varied, balanced diet to support their recovery and prevent complications such as poor wound healing and  pressure ulcers. Also ensuring guidance for Catering teams to create therapeutic or special menus for patients’ individual dietary requirements. Training staff who make and deliver food, fluid and nutritional care to patients in hospital.

Acute (Laura, Anneka, Laura, Jennifer, Laura and Sheree) – seeing patients identified as being at risk of undernutrition to assess their individual needs and support recovery. Preventing increased length of stay, poor wound healing, pressure ulcers and other complications of malnutrition and providing advice for discharge to help patients stay well and continue their recovery once home with or without the support of the community dietitians as appropriate.

All this activity is coordinated and supported by our Head of Dietetics (Lorna).

The acute team are planning to pilot some staff education sessions on B3 and D7 to support ward staff in preventing malnutrition as well as identifying the patients who need our one-to-one support, so please get in touch with Dietetics on 01387 241568 if you would like to know more, want to arrange any training on your wards or if you have any questions about this blog post and what we do.

Meanwhile here are some pictures of the acute team (Anneka, Jennifer, Laura and Laura) ….

Laura King 3

Laura King is Lead Acute Dietitian at Dumfries and Galloway Royal Infirmary

What Matters by Ken Donaldson & Alastair McAlpine

I recognise that it is a bit cheeky of me to put my name to this as I haven’t written any of it. A few months back I was scrolling through Twitter and came upon this thread that really moved me. The messages are simple yet immensely powerful. I have therefore simply taken some screenshots from Twitter and published them here. As you can see this is by a Doctor called Alastair McAlpine who is a Palliative Paediatrician in Cape Town, South Africa. Read on…..

Ken 1

Ken 2

Ken 3

Ken 4

ken-5.png

ken-6.png

Ken 7

ken-8.png

Ken 9

Ken 9.1

ken-9-2.png

ken-9-3.png

Ken 9.4

Cathy’s Journey by Amy Conley

van gogh

Friday night, admissions unit is where we first met Cathy……

I say met; we heard her before we met her – Cathy was shouting out, incoherent, clearly agitated. In her room, we found a tiny lady lost in a huge nightie, scrunched up on the bed, clinging onto the bedrail.  Cathy was 95, frightened and distressed.

Cathy had been transferred from another hospital, for assessment of pain.  It was impossible to know if Cathy was in pain or not – she couldn’t tell us.

We looked at her notes…

With a diagnosis of dementia and arthritis, Cathy had been living fairly independently with carer support, hadn’t been in hospital for some years.

A few weeks before, carers worried that Cathy may have fallen, an ambulance was called.  Cathy went to ED – no broken bones, but concern that Cathy couldn’t mobilise safely resulted in admission.

Over the next 6 weeks, Cathy was moved seven times between three different hospitals, from community to acute and back; staff worried about pain, falls and possible injuries, worried they were missing something, worried that more tests were needed…

Over this time, staff reported increasing difficulty with Cathy’s behaviours and confusion; she was distressed, agitated and uncooperative. Other patients were frightened.  Staff felt unable to manage.  Cathy was prescribed sedation.

Cathy by now was very confused, unable to communicate what she needed, not eating, not drinking.  She had become incontinent.

Back to Friday night…….

The sight of Cathy was heart-breaking; crying out, unable to tell us why, unable to understand what we were doing. She was dehydrated, in pain and encumbered by various medical contraptions.

We talked to Cathy’s family.  We decided that Cathy didn’t need any more interventions or hospital moves.  We did our best and made her comfortable.

Cathy died six days later…

 

Cathy, like many people admitted to hospital, was frail; she was frail before she came to hospital that first time.

If we had recognised her frailty at the hospital’s front door and intervened, well, perhaps Cathy’s story might have been different – different conversations, different interventions, different decisions and different plans made.

We talk a lot about frailty but it’s not always easy to explain or to understand.  Frailty is one of those words that get bandied about but what do we mean when we call someone frail?

The dictionary definition is “the condition of being weak and delicate”, something we all feel at times, but not really helpful in identifying frailty in our patients.

Within medicine, after years of vagueness and uncertainty, we have defined frailty as “the reduced ability to withstand illness without loss of function”.

 So……

A minor illness or injury, that would be no more than troublesome to you or I, affects a frail person more profoundly, leaving them struggling to walk, to wash or to dress, to eat or to communicate.

In reality though, how do we recognise the frail patient?  Does it matter?  Does it make any difference?

Age alone does not make people frail – people don’t become frail simply because they live too long.  Frailty doesn’t come with a diagnostic test, but there are signs we can look for – older people, with cognitive problems, mobility problems or functional problems, people on many medications or who live in care homes.  People who present to us with falls, incontinence or confusion.

“Frailty is everyone’s business”

The population is getting older and frailer, particularly here in Dumfries and Galloway.

Older, frail people have higher demands on health and social care services and more unplanned hospital admissions.  Once admitted, frail people are more susceptible to hospital-acquired infections, delirium, nutritional problems, falls and skincare issues.

In comparison to other patients, frail elderly patients are more likely to have prolonged hospital stays, to lose their mobility and functional abilities; they are more likely to be admitted to residential care, more likely to die.

I am a geriatrician.  I’m not at the glamorous end of medicine and I don’t have a bag full of fancy equipment, tests and treatments.  But within our medical specialty, we do have one intervention that has been shown to improve outcomes for the frail elderly –Comprehensive Geriatric Assessment

CGA means that frail older people are much more likely to be well and living at home 12 months after admission, and much less likely to be admitted to care homes or to die within those twelve months.

CGA is a multidisciplinary assessment of a patient and their physical, psychological and functional needs.  It allows us to develop a personalised, holistic and integrated plan for that patient’s care, now and in the future.  We think about how patients walk, talk, eat, drink, see, hear, think, remember, socialise, mobilise, and take their medications.  We think about how we can make all of those things better and easier for frail elderly people and their carers and families.

We all need to understand and recognise frailty.  Think about it, see it and talk about it, and allow a person’s frailty to influence decisions for their care and future.

Over 18 months we are working collaboratively with other health boards and Health Improvement Scotland to improve recognition of frailty at the front door.

Hopefully, if we get it right we can influence a better outcome, one that recognises and considers the specialist needs of our frail elderly people, one that supports them to continue to live happily and safely in a place that they can call home…

 

“We’ve put more effort into helping folks reach old age than into helping them enjoy it…”

Frank A. Clark, American Politician 1860-1936

 

If you have an interest in frailty and want more information or to become involved in our project please contact   amy.conley@nhs.net or lorna.carr2@nhs.net

Amy Conley is a Consultant in Geriatric Medicine at Dumfries and Galloway Royal Infirmary.

 

 

 

 

Outpatient Parenteral Antimicrobial Therapy (OPAT) – from Cellulitis to Meningioma by Audrey Morris and Shirley Buchan

OPAT as a service has been in use in many countries for the last 30 years. It is a method of delivering intra-venous antimicrobial therapy in an outpatient setting, as an alternative to remaining an inpatient.

Preparation of a typhoid shot in the medical clinicThe advantages of providing this service for the patient means that they have a reduced hospital stay and can return home and rehabilitate in their own environment. In certain cases the patient can continue to work whilst receiving IV antimicrobial therapy therefore causing them minimal disruption to their daily life. Psychologically the patient feels happier, eats better, sleeps better and is more likely to recover quicker in their own home.

image2-2
In DGRI the service started in 2012 under the “What if?” project. Its main aim at this point was treatment of non-complicated cellulitis leading to the reduction of patient admissions for short term IV antimicrobials. In the intervening years we have developed to become more involved with complicated infections requiring longer lengths of treatment i.e. up to 12 weeks of IV antimicrobials, but the patient is otherwise fit enough return home.

 
From January 2016 to the end of March 2017 we have released 1419 beds, an average of 3.2 per day. We have treated patients with Cellulitis, Osteomyelitis, Infected Joint Replacements, ESBL, UTI’s, Pseudomonas, Osteoradionecrosis, Lyme disease, Endocarditis, Discitis, Peripheral Vascular Disease, Actinomycosis, SAB, Urosepsis, E-Coli ESBL and Meningioma.

 

Why do we need OPAT?

 
In December 2015 a 30 year old man, who we will call John, was referred to us. He is a high functioning gentleman with Spina bifida who regularly competes in Shot Putt events, all over the World. He had been admitted 6 weeks previously with an infection of his hip. He was clinically improving and ready for home. His family were also keen for his discharge. On discharge John was keen to return to weekly training but due the nature of his infection this had to be put on hold. He attended the clinic daily for 12 weeks either at Dumfries or nearer his home at Castle Douglas Community Hospital, even attending on Christmas day. John had a Hickman line in-site and he decided that in order to assist us he would dress according to which lumen we were using, red top red lumen white top white lumen. He made a good recovery and was discharged from us a year ago. John still phones us now and again and had informed us he is back to full fitness, competing again and even throwing further than before. His one regret he told us, was that due to illness he was not selected for last year’s Paralympics but he is working hard to go the next event in 2020.
So why do we need OPAT? To give people like John an effective patient-focused service as good as inpatient care in an out-patient environment. Our aim is to provide patient centred care nearer to home. In some cases we train the patient or their relative/carer to administer IV antimicrobials in their own home, leading to increased independence and putting the patient at the centre of their own care.

 
Main aims of OPAT.

 
Clinical
To provide a high quality efficient clinical service using robust pathways, guidelines and protocols.
Reduce inpatient time and therefore reduce the risk of hospital acquired infections.
Develop the service to meet the changing demands on an overstretched service. With the opening of the new hospital imminent and the call for care nearer to home OPAT can help reduce demands on beds.
Patient.
image3Improved quality of life for patients. They eat better, sleep better and generally feel better in the own home environment.
Increase patient involvement in delivery of care, continuity of care and communication.
Provide ongoing support at home and utilise a pathway for re-admission if required.
Organisational.
Reduce the length of inpatient stays therefore utilising acute beds more efficiently.
Structured pathway from referral to discharge.
Staff development.

Patient journey from Inpatient to OPAT patient.

 
We aim to make the transition from inpatient to OPAT patient as quick and painless as possible but have to follow guidelines. Once a patient has been identified by their Consultant as a potential OPAT patient the first step is to complete an SBAR referral form (In Beacon use ‘search for document’ option). On receipt of this we visit the patient to assess them and their needs for OPAT. There are certain criteria which must be met but these are listed on our SBAR referral form and should be considered prior to referral.
The patient is then seen by our Consultant and the OPAT nurse team. If they are suitable and want to become an OPAT patient then the discharge process can begin.
So in summary OPAT provides patient centred care led by a small dedicated team. It clearly reduces the length of inpatient stays, which can be from 2 days to 12 weeks. Patients are very much involved in the method of delivery of their care, they can opt to be trained to do it themselves at home or we try to deliver care as near to their home as possible. We work around their commitments e.g. an elderly patient who has carers in the morning can get a later appointment or in the case of the patient who continues to work we can see them early in the morning to allow then to get to work. Patients feel better at home, they sleep better, eat better and psychologically feel better. They are more in control of their treatment and have continuity of care.

In the words of one of our patients we “made a bad situation better”.

image4

Audrey Morris & Shirley Buchan are Clinical Nurse Specialists in the OPAT team.

The Pneumonia in Bed 5 by Sian Finlay

Although it is sometimes easy to forget it amongst the busyness of front line clinical duties, I am a person.  I suspect many of you are too.  Occasionally I am unwell, but I consistently find that I still remain a person during this period – I have never yet become a disease!  So why is it that when patients come into our care, we so often default to calling them by their diagnosis instead of their name?  Go onto any ward and I guarantee it will not be long before you hear someone described as ‘The Chest Pain’ or ‘The Pneumonia’.  Many handovers will include phrases such as ‘He’s a UTI’.

No, he isn’t! He’s a PERSON who has a UTI!

A common (and potentially even worse) variant of this is the ‘bed number’ name, exemplified by ‘Bed 3 needs the commode!’  Sometimes attempts are made to justify this practice with the excuse that it protects confidentiality, but let’s be honest here.  The truth is that it simply demands more mental effort to remember the patient’s name and we are taking a short cut.  All very understandable in a busy environment, and I really don’t blame anyone.  You might think it is just semantics anyway – what does it matter if we call someone ‘The GI bleeder’?  Well I argue that it does matter.   More than you think.  These patients are people, no less complex and emotional and fragile than you or me.  By depersonalising them, we are subtly starting down a path which allows us to forget this; which allows us to view them as tasks in our day rather than the individuals they are.  If you are unconvinced, try this little exercise; read these 2 sentences and see if they elicit the same emotional response in you:

Bed 5 is agitated.

Tommy is agitated.

Would you agree that the second sentence immediately makes us feel more empathy and compassion towards its subject?

Many people will be aware of the late Kate Granger, the inspirational doctor who responded to her diagnosis of terminal cancer by establishing the ‘Hello, my name is..’ campaign.  Sadly Kate died last year, but her campaign lives on and has touched many of us in the healthcare profession.  But Kate’s work didn’t begin and end with wearing a smiley badge with our name on it; it is in essence about remembering the humanity of our patients and treating them as fellow human beings.  And I can only imagine Kate’s fiery reaction if she ever overheard herself being referred to as ‘Bed 5’!!

But we are all under pressure.  What if we genuinely can’t remember the patient’s name and are just trying to communicate information quickly?  Surely that doesn’t make us uncaring?  Of course it doesn’t, but in times of acute amnesia, we could at least say ‘the man with pneumonia’ rather than ‘the pneumonia’.  And that should only be a holding measure until we can remember his actual name – surely essential for safe communication anyway!

I hope I have convinced you that words do matter.  The phrases we use set the whole tone for the level of kindness and empathy we expect in our clinical areas.  So if any of this resonates with you, I hope you will lead by example.  Look at your patients and remember they have hopes and fears and histories and personalities…and almost always names!!

Sian Finlay (aka ‘The Migraine on ward 7’) Acute Physician and Clinical Director for Medicine at NHS Dumfries and Galloway

 

 

With occupational therapy you CAN… by Wendy Chambers

wendy-1If I had a penny for each time during my career someone asked me “what is occupational therapy?” I wouldn’t need to be playing the lottery this weekend!

Next week is national occupational therapy week, November 7 – 13th2016, #OTweek16 for those Tweeters out there.

So prior to its launch on Monday I’m offering you the opportunity to have an insight into this lesser understood, enigmatic profession. So pour yourself a contemplative cuppa and have a read.

Occupational therapy is a science degree-based health and social care profession, regulated by the Health Care Professions Council. It is one of the ten allied health professions. You can train to either degree or masters level, at any of three universities across Scotland.

Occupational therapy takes a whole-person approach to both mental and physical health and wellbeing, enabling individuals to achieve their full potential.

We work with children and adults across a variety of settings including health organizations, social care services, housing, education, re-employment schemes, occupational health, prisons, and voluntary organizations or as independent practitioners.

So what does that mean, what do occupational therapists actually do?

Well, as occupational therapists we think about “occupation” as any activity any of us does day to day, which is important, necessary or which we enjoy.

The range of “occupation” is endless. If I use myself as an example some of my daily “occupations” would be putting on my clothes in the morning, reading my emails at work, making a meal for my family, riding my bicycle.

The occupational therapists job is to consider how, if I was the service user, the changes in my mental or physical health are making it difficult for me to be able to do these “occupations”- the things I want or need to do day to day.

They need to understand what’s important to me in my life? What would allow me to stay in control and live my life my way?

wendy-2Occupational therapists are adaptors; maybe that chameleon like ability is why people are often unsure what it is we do?

So for example in order to help me to keep riding my bike after an episode of depression the occupational therapist will problem solve and adapt either:

the activity itself: maybe I should try going out for 10minutes, twice a week, with a close friend who also bikes, somewhere that’s easy to access and doesn’t take long to get there, with a nice coffee shop on the way back

the surrounding environment and tools I use: maybe a tarmac cycle route would be easier, at a quiet time of day, and my bike could do with a service first so it’s working properly (they help me think through planning and organizing that)

me: set SMART goals which I can achieve, to keep me motivated, help me think about what I value about biking and help me understand and make the link between doing an activity I enjoy and feeling better about and improving my mental health

So back to that question again “what do occupational therapists do?”

I guess the bottom line is it ends up looking different each time, as we are all different as people and what’s  an important “occupation” to me may not be important to you.

And we work in so many different settings, with different age groups of people, that that also makes what we “do” look different.

Ultimately it isn’t what the occupational therapist “does” that matters, rather what the person ends up being able to do that’s important.

So for occupational therapy week this year I’ll leave you with this thought,

“With occupational therapy you CAN….”

wendy-3

Wendy Chambers is Team Lead Occupational Therapist for Mental Health and Learning Disability Service at NHS Dumfries and Galloway