Sophie Paine

Can you tell us about your journey at Monash, and when did you complete your degree?

I completed the Master of Occupational Therapy Practice between 2017 and 2019, doing the accelerated course with a mid-year intake at Peninsula Campus.

Initially I was apprehensive about whether I would even be accepted as I was still playing national level volleyball at that time and my competition schedule was going to overlap with the course significantly in the first year. After I was accepted I was advised by the course coordinators to defer or re-apply when I was no longer competing but I was determined to get started with my degree. The coordinators were willing to support me so fortunately we were able to make it work.

I finished the Master of Occupational Therapy Practice in July 2019 and graduated in October 2019 and have been working as an Occupational Therapist (OT) ever since.

What was it about the Master of Occupational Therapy Practice that attracted you?

The Master of Occupational Therapy Practice is a graduate entry two year course. At the time when I was applying there weren’t that many universities in Melbourne offering Master degrees for OT so that was certainly a big incentive for me as I didn’t want to do four more years of study. The course at Monash was also World Federation of Occupational Therapy (WFOT) accredited which was a crucial aspect for me as I plan to work overseas in the future.

Why did you choose Monash?

I had heard good things about the course through family and friends and knew lots of people that had studied at Monash. They all felt it was a strong university with good career prospects so it seemed like the right fit for me.

When you studied at Monash, how did you find the teaching methods and support you received?

For me personally I had a lot of support right from the start of the course because I was still competing at a high level with the Australian National Volleyball team and due to that I had to miss a lot of the face-to-face course work in the beginning.

The course coordinators were really great with making sure I could stay up-to-date and supported me to stay in touch with my classmates. The level of support that I experienced at the beginning was very consistent throughout the two years and I certainly felt that I could always make a time to speak with the lecturers and coordinators when I needed too.

I definitely prefer face-to-face learning so I think the structure and teaching methods definitely suited my learning style. Fortunately our cohort was quite small, only about 30 people, so that was another good aspect because we were able to have lots of constructive and intimate discussions. I think you lose this in larger cohorts.

The particular sessions that I enjoyed the most were some of the guest speakers who came to see use each semester to speak about their specific OT role within their area of practice. These were particularly useful to gain a sense of the role of OT across the vast health system.

When you studied at Monash, can you tell us about the skills and experience you gained to be able to confidently enter the workforce?

Studying at Monash allowed me to hone my skills in professionalism, time management, teamwork, public speaking, research and information gathering, leadership and resilience.

Due to the nature of an occupational therapy course and qualification, we have to complete over 1000 placement hours, so obviously the skills and experience gained on placements are invaluable. But I also think a lot of the other skills mentioned above, particularly professionalism, public speaking, team work and information gathering, were skills that developed throughout the coursework and assignments and I feel these have been essential as I have entered the workforce.

During your course what placement opportunities were you afforded and what did you most enjoy? 

I was fortunate enough to have really varied placement opportunities throughout the course.

I completed placement in long-term accommodation for the chronically homeless, community rehabilitation and hand therapy in a rural hospital, school based paediatric OT in a rural setting, supported disability accommodation for clients with acquired brain injury and a project placement at an organisation which provides therapy to largely young adults and teens through horticulture.

Because each one of these placements were so different, I gained a really good perspective on the wide scope of occupational therapy. I think the most enjoyable was community rehabilitation and hand therapy in a rural hospital. I particularly enjoyed this placement because it allowed me to explore a part of Victoria that I had never been to before and it made me realise that I really enjoyed the busy hospital environment and certainly pushed me towards the role I am in today.

Did you join any clubs, societies or study groups while you were at Monash? How did they help you?

I was part of the Elite Student Performer Scheme during the first year of my course (2017-2018). They were crucial in the initial year because they supported me in applying for extensions for some of our assignments.

What did you enjoy most about the Peninsula campus?

Being close to the beach was amazing, especially during the summer because the Masters course had much shorter holidays then the rest of the university so we were often stuck indoors on beautiful summers days.

I often went for swims after class and that was certainly a major bonus. The actual grounds of the campus were also really lovely and there were usually a lot of student run events on so there was also something to do or see on our breaks which was nice.

Why did you want to become an Occupational Therapist?

I always knew that I wanted to work in healthcare but I wasn’t particularly drawn to the more ‘medical’ professions (nursing/doctors/paramedicine). For me, OT was the perfect job because it offers a massive range of roles within many different areas of clinical practice, but essentially all OT’s look at the same thing - what matters most to the patient and how can we enable them to achieve that? I think that particular question is often overlooked in healthcare and we focus too heavily on ‘fixing people’.

My favourite thing about being an OT is that it’s holistic - we consider all aspects of a person’s life and what’s most important to them, and then our entire job is to figure out how they can get back to doing those important activities. I like the quote “Medicine gives more days to life, but Occupational Therapy gives more life to days”.

What do you do now and where do you work?

I am a Grade 1 Occupational Therapist with Eastern Health and I currently work on a geriatric rehabilitation ward at the Peter James Centre. I am part of the Grade 1 rotational program which means I get to move onto another clinical area of practice every 6 months. Due to the pandemic, our rotations were extended this year so I will be working on the rehab ward for 9 months and then I’ll get to choose another area to work in within the Eastern health network.

What does your day-to-day work involve?

Each day is quite varied. I have a caseload of 13 patients, lots of whom have multiple medical diagnoses, complex social situations and are quite unwell when they are admitted to our ward.

My day usually consists of some initial assessments with new patients to determine what sort of therapy they will require and anticipate how long they may need rehab. Then I will usually have to review my other patients and this entails completing some typical daily activities such as showering, dressing, making a meal, domestic tasks and cognitive assessments to determine where the patient may go from rehab and if they may need some additional support.

The other major component of my day is meetings with other health practitioners, particularly other allied health disciplines which we work closely with to discuss discharge planning. I have also recently finished supervising a 4th year OT student, which is another significant aspect of my role.

What do you love about your work, and why?

I really do love meeting all the patients, getting to know them throughout their rehabilitation and exposing them to the role of OT. That probably sounds really corny, but I do genuinely believe there is no allied health profession that truly takes into account the whole person quite like OT does. I think for a lot of the patients, it’s really refreshing and really reassuring that we are thinking about helping them regain their independence but we are also thinking about how we can help them get back to doing things they really love.

I am also really fortunate to work with a great team in my current role and I am really lucky to have great support and amazing learning opportunities.

What are your future career aspirations?

At the moment, I am keen to stay in the rotation program and experience other areas of practice so that I can get a sense of where I would like to work in the future. I think I have always seen myself working in the community and with the growth of the NDIS, there is certainly a large role for OT’s, however I think the rotation program is a perfect fit for the moment as it allows me to gain more knowledge and experience within a very structured and supportive environment.

I had planned on trying to work in the UK in the next few years, but in the COVID-19 landscape I might have to re-evaluate this idea. It’s definitely something that I am still keen to explore.

Find out more about the Master of Occupational Therapy Practice