Aislinn Lalor

Aislinn Lalor

Aislinn Lalor

  • Student type: Domestic
  • Degree type: PhD
  • Degree(s): Bachelor of Occupational Therapy (Honours)

Bachelor of Occupational Therapy (with Honours) / PhD / Graduate Diploma of Biostatistics

When Aislinn left school, she wasn’t sure what career to pursue. She had completed some work experience in occupational therapy, on the encouragement of her mother, a nurse, but after commencing a Commerce degree, she decided to postpone studies and travel. After five years travelling in Europe and living in the UK, she returned to Australia and ended up at Monash University, taking a place in the pilot combined Occupational Therapy, Physiotherapy and Health Sciences course in 2005, which exposed her to a broad range of students studying for several career outcomes.

“In the first year with Occupational Therapy, Physiotherapy and Health Science combined, we were undertaking 'generic' units offered across both Peninsula and Clayton campuses. It was a real eye opener to have access to both campuses (i.e. the clubs, and other student opportunities), as well as being with a mix of students. In that first year, it didn't really matter what 'program' you were in, as everyone studied the same classes. Our Anatomy classes and Physics classes were actually mixed with Biomedicine and Science students too so there were more than 300 students in the cohort in the first year.”

“An advantage was definitely the class size from second to fourth years and having the opportunity to befriend some great students who remained good friends throughout the rest of the course, even though they weren't studying Occupational Therapy.”

At the end of first year, Aislinn chose to stay in the Occupational Therapy program and did a summer intensive course with nine other Occupational Therapy students to prepare for second year. She made good friends with this small group. “My fondest memory of studying at Monash was the connection with the staff and our small cohort of nine,” she says. “And it is wonderful to be working alongside many of them today. The Peninsula campus remains the same as it was – quiet, peaceful, and with beautiful trees. A relaxing campus to be able to study at.”

Following graduation, Aislinn worked a hospital rotation on the Aged Acute Mental Health ward at Peninsula Health for 14 months, and in private practice, predominantly with older adults and veterans, and people involved in road traffic accidents. “During this time, I was working across a broad geographical area and became involved in sessional work with Monash University; assisting with marking and exams, and eventually as a tutor and Teaching Associate.”

In 2013, Aislinn managed a three-year research project, funded by Beyond Blue through Monash Health, focused on understanding the impact on the mental wellbeing of older adults following an extended hospitalisation. “My supervisor, Terry Haines, who is now the Head of the Monash School of Primary and Allied Healthcare - but was the Director of Allied Health Research at Monash Health at that time - encouraged me to undertake my PhD in an aspect of this project, and I decided on sleep," Aislinn says.

“In 2013 and 2015 I was also fortunate enough to be part of a teaching team from Monash University to go to Saudi Arabia to assist with development and delivery of the Monash University Occupational Therapy curriculum at the world's largest all-female university (Princess Nourah Bint Abdulrahman University - in Riyadh),” says Aislinn. “Towards the end of my PhD I became a full-time lecturer at Monash. I was the first person in my family to complete a PhD, so it was a huge achievement.”

As COVID started to bite, Aislinn took up a role as a Research Fellow at Monash University's Rehabilitation, Ageing, and Independent Living (RAIL) research centre, under the guidance of Professor Keith Hill. “I am currently involved in a number of projects including the thematic analysis of interviews conducted with key stakeholders across the Peninsula as part of a co-design project to inform the vision and mission of RAIL," she says. “This will contribute towards the Narrative Portraits and centre launch being held at the Cube 37 Gallery in Frankston in December this year.”

“I aim through RAIL to be able to develop and continue my interdisciplinary research in ageing and sleep. I hope that my research will contribute to ongoing evaluation and analysis of current practices as well as provide new evidence to inform best practice.”

Aislinn is also conducting workshops with care partners of people living in aged care facilities to investigate the impact of visitor restrictions during COVID-19. “Based on this project we hope to develop some recommendations and/or guidelines to support aged care facilities and care partners in the future to ensure resident safety, but also health and wellbeing.”

“My parents always said, 'do what makes you happy', and through occupational therapy I have been able to do this. It is a career that has so much opportunity and both depth and breadth. I’m guided by this quote by Ralph Waldo Emerson: 'To know even one life has breathed easier because you have lived; this is to have succeeded’.”

Aislinn reflects on the first 15 years of OT at Monash and highlights the impact and outcomes that the Department has already achieved in what is a relatively short period of time. “There has been much growth in the student and staff numbers, and Monash Occupational Therapy graduates are well recognised within the field - which is reflective of the ongoing development and delivery of the curriculum - as well as the introduction and ongoing delivery of the Masters of Occupational Therapy Practice at Monash University in the last few years,” she says.

“In the next 15 years I hope Monash Occupational Therapy continues to develop its reputation as a world class program for occupational therapy, and that it is innovative in the opportunities and education provided to students. Additionally, I hope to see the research of Monash Occupational Therapy continue to be recognised as being at the forefront of enhancing meaningful participation for all.”

Find out more about Bachelor of Occupational Therapy (with Honours)Graduate Diploma of Biostatistics