Gertrude Robertson on Why Individuals Work with Occupational Therapists
Occupational (OTs) are unique among healthcare professionals. Their primary objective to help patients better interact with their environment. This can include everything from self-care tasks, to leisure, to workplace, and even to social ‘occupations’ or tasks. While they are licensed professionals with ethical obligations and standards of care like others working in healthcare, occupational therapists take a more holistic approach, focusing on the individual rather than a specific ailment or disability. Their work relates to the whole person, their lives and their ability to live it in as fulfilling a way as possible.
Gertrude Robertson is an occupational therapist living and working in Brooklyn, New York. She is an advocate for the profession with years of experience in the field. For her, one of the most rewarding parts of her job is the ability to build relationships with her clients and being witness to their progress and success.
Occupational Therapy is Customized to the Individual
Like no two people are the same, no two treatment plans are either. People see occupational therapists for a huge variety of reasons, which is why there are so many roles an occupational therapist can play. OTs can be found working in hospitals or rehabilitation centers with people who have experienced injuries or trauma, says Gertrude Robertson. For example, she says, consider a patient who was in a car accident and had to undergo several surgeries. Perhaps that patient sustained a brain injury. An OT would work with these patients to rehabilitate them. It may begin with seemingly simple occupations like walking. After a surgery or brain injury, it may take some adaptations in order to learn to walk again. An OT works with patient to identify coping strategies for the physical struggle such as canes or walkers, but they can also help with the emotional side too. Additionally, they may set goals like reaching the end of the hallway to say hello to the staff at a nursing station in order to make the task more manageable and rewarding.
OTs Develop Creative Ways to Motivate Patients
It is important to understand that, in many cases, OTs seek creative ways to motivate their patients and keep their spirits high because they are trained to see the patient in a more holistic light, says Robertson. While a doctor may prescribe a medication, or a physical therapist may prescribe exercises, an OT goes beyond.
Whether you see an occupational therapist on your road to recovery from an accident, injury, or illness, or you or a loved one lives with a disability, an OT finds courses of treatment relevant to the patient in order to help them achieve goals and perform occupations meaningful to them. For kids on the autism spectrum, says Robertson, treatment might include drawing, baking, and playing. In many cases, occupational therapy can be fun, she explains, recalling colleagues talk about how many children do not want their sessions to end.
Occupational therapy is not something the general public is highly aware of, says Robertson, but it is an incredibly rewarding profession that is essential in healthcare. OTs make coping in everyday situations more meaningful to the individual, which boosts morale, motivation, and, ultimately, rates of recovery. Quality of life is a huge focus for occupational therapists, which is sometimes overlooked in other fields of healthcare.
So, if you or a loved one lives with a disability or has recently experienced a change in ability or healthy, says Gertrude Robertson, consider consulting an occupational therapist. They will work with you to make recovery and coping meaningful, rewarding, and successful.