Monash Alumna, Aleksia completed the Bachelor of Occupational Therapy with research honours in 2015 and is now working as a Grade 2 Occupational Therapist at a community private practice.
Aleksia shares her Monash journey:
Can you tell us about your journey at Monash, and when did you complete your degree?
I had moved to Melbourne from Albury NSW and had commenced a Bachelor of Arts Degree at Monash. I wasn’t sure what I was interested in career wise but was very drawn to behavioural studies and ethics. I sort of then stumbled onto Occupational Therapy (OT) by accident and it met all the criteria that I was looking for in a career. I enquired about the course that is offered at Monash’s Peninsula Campus and enrolled shortly after speaking with Occupational Therapy Australia (OTA) about the course offered at Monash. I completed my degree in 2015.
What was it about the Bachelor of Occupational Therapy that attracted you?
At the beginning I had thought I really wanted to work in Paediatrics as my primary area of practice. What attracted me to OT was the intersection between evidence base and working with people in their own contexts. I liked the fact that OT is very practical and hands on but there’s also space to be creative.
Why did you choose Monash?
I chose Monash after having a discussion with one of the representatives at OTA. Monash offered placement in the first year of the course which I thought was very valuable to ensuring this profession was the “right fit”. The course was very well regarded amongst the local OT community and we had access to some very accomplished lecturers and tutors within the field. The course was also internationally recognised, which appealed because I had considered working overseas after graduating.
When you studied at Monash, how did you find the teaching methods and support you received?
In some regards we were quite a small cohort. The campus and structure of the course meant that we got to establish close relationships with our lecturers and tutors and the cohort got to know each other very well over the 4 years. This is something I really enjoyed about uni life on Peninsula Campus.
Monash introduced interprofessional education (IPE) early into our studies and this set the stage for working with other disciplines. Our tutorials from early on also introduced scenario based learning (SBLs) which I still feel have made such a significant difference to my development of my clinical reasoning and resourcefulness as a clinician. The lecturers definitely were creative in their assessment styles as well which kept study interesting. I still remember the flag races for Anatomy and Physiology!
When you studied at Monash, can you tell us about the skills and experience you gained to be able to confidently enter the workforce?
Where to start? We covered a lot of content in the 4 years at Monash!! We covered Anatomy and Physiology with all different body systems, we learnt about methods of evaluating research evidence, reviewed the history of the OT profession and different frameworks of practice. We discussed population health, health promotion and the determinants of health. Each semester we would cover several case studies in SBLs which would for example review a client case and their story, we would then learn about relevant assessments and interventions to their condition and how to support them to best achieve their goals. In addition to this I completed a year of Honours, which involved writing a thesis and a part time placement at Calvary HealthCare Bethlehem Hospital. I feel in this respect that I had quite a diversity of experience to bring to the workforce in terms of a depth and breadth of knowledge of different client populations and the different roles an OT can work in. I developed various skills which built my work readiness as well as forming a strong foundation to succeed as a healthcare professional. This includes building confidence with public speaking, working closely with different disciplines and approaching each clinical situation through an SBL lens.
During your course what placement opportunities were you afforded and what did you most enjoy?
We were offered a variety of different placement opportunities at Monash. In the first year I had a few days of placement at the Royal Talbot Rehabilitation Centre in different departments (eg Brain Injury, Spinal Cord Injury, Stroke) and this really cemented that I was in the right profession. In second year I travelled to Launceston for a 3 week community Paediatric placement at St Giles Society and then also completed some community based experiences (CBEs) through a Scope School Readiness program, as well as a school local to me in Melbourne. In third year I had a 6-week mental health placement at Peninsula Health’s Community Care unit (CCU) and in fourth year I had a 10 week acute placement at Austin Health Victorian Respiratory Support Service (VRSS). I then also completed a year long part-time subacute placement at Calvary HealthCare Bethlehem, which also related specifically to my Research Honours project. I actually enjoyed all of my placements for different reasons. The placements were very eye opening in terms of the breadth of the OT role, the complexities that occur within different health systems, learning about different client’s journeys and being part of their recovery. The placements also illustrated that the environments or practice areas you had thought were your thing sometimes were not, and areas you hadn’t considered became attractive.
Did you join any clubs, societies or study groups while you were at Monash? How did they help you?
I was secretary of the Society of Occupational Therapy (SOOT) at Monash and this was such a great opportunity to meet different people in the other disciplines (eg paramedics, nursing) and help plan the annual OT ball. I have made lifelong friends through this course. At the time we really helped each other through this course by having regular study groups and dividing up all topics to lessen the revision workload!
What did you enjoy most about the Peninsula campus?
Compared to other campuses, I loved the cosy feeling of the campus and the fact it was surrounded by eucalyptus trees.
Why did you want to become an Occupational Therapist?
On reflection I was always drawn to healthcare as an industry so it’s not such a surprise I ended up in allied health. In particular, I was originally drawn to Psychology as I was fascinated by people and enjoyed hearing about their lives. I then decided I wanted a role that had this element but was more hands on like OT. I liked the breadth of the role of an OT and the fact it was focused on empowering the person to be as independent as they could be and to optimise their quality of life. These factors continue to provide so much job satisfaction in this field.
What do you do now and where do you work?
I am working as a Grade 2 OT at Independent Rehabilitation Services (IRS), which is a community private practice. IRS provides OT, PT and Speech services to clients with neurological conditions, primarily clients with Brain Injury and Spinal Cord Injury, but also with clients with degenerative neurological conditions. We work a lot with TAC and the NDIS.
What does your day-to-day work involve?
No day is the same! As a community OT I work with clients over a long period of time and am often involved in a variety of goals as well as providing urgent support when this is needed. Some examples of client’s goals include assisting a client to organise their first holiday overseas and determining what attendant care support they were needing, supporting a client to obtain skills to drive their own power wheelchair and have most recently been assisting a client with their return to work journey twenty years post injury.
What do you love about your work, and why?
I love the variety within my role at IRS. I always feel like I am building upon my therapeutic skills and my knowledge within different areas of OT. I really enjoy getting to know my clients over a longer period of time and collaborating with them as well as the multidisciplinary team to reach an outcome.
What are your future career aspirations?
I am really grateful to be working in my passion area of neuro and on top of that within an amazingly supportive workplace. In future, I could maybe see myself working in a specific area of community neuro where I specialise, but I haven’t quite set my sights on what that would be.