OT Graduate students
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 had always been drawn to Psychology and stumbled across Occupational Therapy by accident. After looking into Occupational therapy (OT) in more detail, she realised that it met all the criteria that she was looking for in a career. “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.” Aleksia liked the breadth of OT and that it was focused on empowering the person to be as independent as they could be, and optimise their quality of life.
Aleksia chose Monash for a number of reasons. The Monash course offered placement in the first year of the course which she thought was “valuable to ensuring this profession was the right fit”. Monash Occupational therapy was also very well regarded amongst the local OT community, and was internationally recognised, which also appealed to Aleksia, as she had considered working overseas after graduating.
“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 University life on Peninsula Campus.”
“Scenario based learning (SBLs) 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.”
Throughout the course, Aleksia was offered a variety of different placement opportunities in a number of settings, which included Rehabilitation Centres, Community Paediatrics, Schools, Mental health and Hospitals.
“I 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.”
When asked about what her day to day work involves, Aleksia explains that no day is the same. “As a community Occupational therapist, 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 include assisting a client to organise their first holiday overseas and determining what attendant care support they are needing, supporting a client to obtain skills to drive their own power wheelchair, and most recently I have been assisting a client with their return to work journey twenty years post injury.”
Aleksia loves the variety of her role. “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.”
Simon Van Dam
Bachelor of Occupational Therapy (honours)
Simon chose to study Occupational Therapy after volunteering at an orphanage in Cambodia, that was dedicated to assisting young adults with lost limbs. Simon worked alongside an Occupational Therapist at the orphanage for 3 months, assisting with activities of daily living, aide and equipment modification and work readiness. This experience made Simon want to study Occupational Therapy upon his return to Australia.
"This experience helped me appreciate the importance and significance of human occupation, and it was refreshing to have finally established a direction that I was passionate about."
Looking back at his time in the course, Simon believes that the placement opportunities provided, gave him a very well rounded OT experience, and assisted the direction of his career path. His placements ranged from a Community Health placement in rural WA, a Forensic Hospital placement and some rehabilitation placements at a number of well renowned hospitals.
"Getting a taste of the real world as an OT and putting some of the theory in to practice, was something that excited me."
Simon also reflects on the case based learning tutorials, and remembers them being a fun and practical way to learn, as well as remembering the passionate OT staff, who "genuinely cared about the future of the profession and its students."
Studying OT is directly responsible for where Simon finds himself today. "Whilst I am not practicing in the traditional OT sense, the knowledge that the course has provided me with has opened up the opportunity to have my own business in a field that I’m passionate about."
Simon currently has his own Ergonomic equipment business "Backcare & Seating".
"My background is in Occupational rehabilitation and Equipment design, and I liked the idea of combining this passion with an entrepreneurial approach to business."
Simon’s core business is responding to OT referrals in the field, and assisting in the Optimal Design of various new workplaces (Office, Schools, Hospitals etc.).
"The synergy between equipment provider and being an OT enables me to make informed credible decisions, as to what is responsibly referred in the industry."
Simon views the Occupational Therapy degree as a lot more than a ticket to practice as an Occupational Therapist.
"In my opinion, OT provides you with a way of thinking, which is important to the way the world works. Our thoughtful and Holistic approach is the key in enhancing performance across a variety of occupations. It also provides us with the opportunity to truly contribute to the greater good and improve people’s lives."
Master of Occupational Therapy Practice
Having worked as an allied health assistant and remedial and manual lymphatic drainage therapist, Kate was seeking a career change within the health sector. She followed her interest in health care and enrolled in the Master of Occupational Therapy Practice. This accelerated graduate program, taught at our Peninsula campus, enabled Kate to qualify as an occupational therapist within two years. “I chose Monash as it was close to home and was inspired by the passion of the OT staff.”
Kate’s most valued experiences from her occupational therapy studies were the placements, “where I could work together with people; apply theories learnt and evidence-based practice to help them achieve their goals”. One of the standout placements included a collaborative, community-based project at Insight Education Centre for the Blind and Vision Impaired. Kate worked with a peer to develop a resource for Insight’s students’ to read recipes and locate items within the school fridge independently. “This project extended my knowledge of occupational therapy to support a larger community group”, Kate explained. This innovative braille fridge map was successfully integrated into the school’s curriculum and the project captured the interest of local media. “It was a valuable experience and one I was humbled and proud to be a part of.”
Having completed her graduate degree in 2016, Kate now works as a paediatric occupational therapist with the Department of Education and Training Victoria and in private practice.
Stephen Elliott decided that he wanted to be an Occupational Therapist after completing 1.5 years of a Science degree.
"I had developed a keen interest in biological science and psychology. However, I developed an inexplicable feeling that I was meant to be doing ‘something else' with my life."
Stephen says he felt himself being drawn towards the healthcare industry and in particular OT. Stephen entered the Bachelor of Occupational Therapy degree in 2007 and completed the degree with honours in 2010.
"I was very much attracted to the professions ethos of helping people of all ages with disability/injury/illness to develop increased independence and, in doing so, promote wellbeing." says Stephen.
Stephen then found work experience with a paediatric Occupational Therapist to ensure this was the profession he wanted.
"Needless to say I loved it and transferred to Occupational Therapy at Monash Peninsula" says Stephen.
Stephen looks back upon his studies in the Bachelor of Occupational Therapy with great fondness. "I thoroughly enjoyed the course content and also met many lifelong friends. The Occupational Therapy staff are knowledgeable, approachable and friendly people.
Stephen completed fieldwork placements in hand therapy, adolescent/youth mental health, paediatric early intervention, community health, and a sub-acute/acute hospital and completed a 3 week student fieldwork placement at Launceston General Hospital in Tasmania.
Stephens's current role involves providing clients with vocational counselling, advice regarding optimal management of client health related concerns, liaising with community-based healthcare professionals, assessing / evaluating client functional capacity and workplace environments.
Course: Bachelor of Occupational Therapy (Hons)
Current position: Occupational Therapist, Acute Aged Mental Health Unit, Peninsula Mental Health Service
Before deciding on Occupational Therapy as a career, Aislinn Lalor had begun a commerce degree, discontinued, gone overseas, worked at various jobs and traveled widely: “I lived in England and traveled through Russia and Scandinavia, China, Africa, the Middle Ea
Aislinn is now the Occupational Therapist in the Acute Aged Mental Health Unit at Frankston Hospital. She sees patients aged over 65 who experience various mental health issues including depression, situational crises related to suicide attempts, schizophrenia, anxiety, and patients with dementia complicated by either behavioural or psychotic symptoms.
“OTs in the Peninsula Health mental health network get together regularly for meetings where reflective practice is encouraged. It enables me to gain advice and debrief. I also share an office with a very experienced social worker. It’s a great allied health team here and we work well together."
Aislinn believes that her varied previous work experience has helped her in being able to comprehend people and understand better how to react in particular situations. “I’m developing my own understanding of the OT role and gaining confidence. As a new Bachelor of Occupational Therapy graduate it was quite hard, but I’m getting better at presenting my ideas in a meaningful way and catering for the varying needs of the patients. I run ten groups each week, including exercise, pet therapy, and cooking, as well as doing individual assessments. A weekly outing, focusing on activities of daily living, allows patients to reminisce about their past and their childhood. It gets people talking, helps improve socialisation skills, and improves wellbeing.”
The Monash OT course is accredited by the World Federation of Occupational Therapists, so Aislinn’s qualifications are recognised in a number of other countries. When her traveling bug bites again she should have no trouble finding work as an OT overseas
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.