This week marks the observance of OT Week, a special occasion to honour the exceptional contributions of our occupational therapists (OTs) within the Aspect Therapy team. Our OT team is dedicated to assisting their participants in diverse environments such as homes, educational institutions, workplaces, and the broader community. Their aim is to empower individuals to achieve objectives that hold personal significance.
The 2023 OT Week theme, "Unity Through Community," resonates deeply with us. We recognise the vital and multifaceted role that OTs have in enabling their participants to meaningfully connect with their communities in ways that are important to them.
We had a chat with Janet Cheong, a distinguished occupational therapist based in Victoria. This interview offers a unique opportunity to delve into Janet's extensive experience and the meaningful impact she has had working with participants.
How long have you been an occupational therapist and why did you chose this profession?
I have been an occupational therapist now for 33 years, minus some leave in that time to have a couple of kids (hard to believe!). My mum suggested OT to me for all the wrong reasons (i.e. the crafty and creative side). I went to the Uni open days when I was in year 10 and saw an OT making hand splints which I thought looked pretty cool. I was keen to do something with kids and I had a leaning towards health, being from an entire family of health care workers.
What do you love about being an OT?
OT has such a broad scope, and I love the holistic approach that means we have a lot of flexibility in how we provide support. I have rarely met an OT I didn’t love working with, so the culture and teams are wonderful. We also have the privilege of getting to spend a lot of time getting to know participants and families, with potentially long term relationships and being able to witness positive life changes. I love working in the natural environments of home and education/care settings which is another privilege and it feels way more effective than working in a clinical setting. And we can work virtually anywhere around the world. I worked in London for 5 years and have worked in Qld, NSW, Vic and Tas.
Could you tell us a bit more about your role as an OT with Aspect?
I wear many hats at Aspect in my 3 days per week which keeps the role interesting and engaging. I have a caseload in Melbourne and in North West Tasmania, supervise OTs and Allied Health Assistants, and over the past year, I have been delivering workshops to schools, universities and other workplaces (co presenting mostly with Tom Broadley from Aspect Adult & Community Services who makes it a lot more fun and engaging). I have also been doing Positive Behaviour Support (PBS) work over the past 5 years.
In your role, how do you engage with the community?
My caseload is spread out across a wide geographic area, so my engagement with the community is for each participant – engaging with their care team which may involve other Aspect staff, external therapy service providers, schools, child care, day programs, paediatricians, and support coordinators. I tend to be quite pro-active in encouraging parents and participants to get their team members working together – to meet together and share information. Delivering workshops provides an awesome opportunity to have a wider reach into a much broader community (e.g. whole staff groups at primary and secondary schools, university teams, support workers).
If you could give a few words of advice to a new grad OT, what would you say?
You don’t need to have all the answers. Just ask questions and listen – the participants and families are the experts in their own lives and they will usually come up with the best strategies and solutions. And you can always say, “I’m not sure about that but I can ask my colleagues.”
Thanks for your time Janet and we hope you and your peers enjoy OT Week!