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OT Week: Q&A with OT Nicole Phillips

21 October 2020

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This Occupational Therapy Week (#OTWeek), we're shedding light on two of our wonderful OTs. After reading all about OT Rashid El Dhaibi, it is time to meet with Nicole Phillips, from our ACT team. Nicole has been working at Aspect for around 18 months and tremendously enjoys witnessing her clients and families 'take a step towards their aspirations and goals'.

How long have you been involved in the disability sector and when did you start with Aspect?

My experience is the disability sector first started in the new graduate program at the Nepean Hospital in Penrith NSW. The role offered me the opportunity to be part of a multidisciplinary team across acute and rehabilitation settings. It was an amazing opportunity to experience the impact of working with a skilled group of professionals in a fast paced, demanding setting. During that time I was offered the chance to develop community based programs that were driven by the goals of the participants. My transition into the community based private sector was fuelled by that experience and added to the challenge and variety of working with people in their homes, their schools and their workplaces. I commenced work with Aspect in mid-2019, joining the ACT team based in the Canberra region.

Could you tell us a bit about your role with Aspect?

My role as an occupational therapist with Aspect entails the provision of support to individuals, their families, community networks and the organisations in which they participate. It involves meeting people in the environments that are meaningful to them, identifying their strengths and interests and developing strategies to work with them to achieve their functional goals. My role includes working with other therapy services within Aspect and the broader community. Over the past twelve months it has also included the provision of services via a Telehealth platform – a huge learning curve for all of us!

What do you love about working with Aspect?

Aspect has an extensive history of providing services to children, young people and adults on the autism spectrum. I am challenged by the opportunity to combine evidence-informed solutions with Aspect’s purpose of understanding, engaging and celebrating the strengths, interests and hopes of the people we support. I love that we are supported to work with a fresh, curious mind each time we meet our clients, ensuring that the supports we provide are individualised and targeted. I enjoy the opportunity to work with flexibility in a wide variety of locations and settings and I am challenged and inspired every single time I engage with other members of the Aspect team who are generous and supportive as they share their professional expertise.

Why did you decide to become an Occupational Therapist?

I have always been fascinated in complexity of what makes us human. Occupational therapy allowed me to immerse myself in study of biological systems, relationships and environmental science and demanded that this knowledge was used to facilitate a person’s meaningful participation in their chosen settings. Even after reading, planning and talking about pursuing this area of study, the decision to actually become an occupational therapist came on a work experience placement. It was the experience of observing a therapist help to facilitate a simple playground visit for a young client and his family who were navigating a long hospital stay, which showed me how OT can contribute to a person’s sense of wellbeing. I was hooked!

What do you enjoy most about your career in Occupational Therapy?

I enjoy the variety and flexibility offered by providing the best possible opportunities for the people we support. I like the challenge of maintaining my knowledge of evidence-based interventions in such a diverse work setting. I enjoy working with other passionate multidisciplinary team members who offer their varied skills to each individual they support.
But there is one part of this career I love the most. It is that moment when an individual (and often the wider family unit) takes a step towards their aspirations and goals. It might be sharing focus on a joint activity, offering a toy to an older sibling, tying shoelaces or choosing groceries in a busy shopping mall. No matter how small or even infrequent these moments may seem they keep me engaged and committed to this exciting profession.

If you’re working with an Occupational Therapist who is just starting out, what are some of the things you’d tell him or her?

Seek every opportunity to learn from experienced practitioners and ask loads of questions. Read widely and take the chance to reflect deeply on your practice as you develop new skills. Be gentle with yourself as you settle in to your new role and take time to rest and recharge. And most importantly….welcome! You have chosen an exciting profession that will offer you wonderful opportunities to contribute to the lives of the people you support.

What is one thing you’ve learned as an OT during this year where we have all been affected by so many changes?

This year has presented challenges and demands in ways we never could have anticipated. It has meant that we needed to be creative and innovative in so many areas of our lives and challenged us to become more comfortable with the unknown. The one thing I’ve learned as an OT during this time is the power of connection. Connection to our colleagues, our knowledge base and our professional values. Connection to our clients and their families as we continued to support them through such significant changes. Connection to the communities that redefined the way they operated and engaged with the individuals we support. I now know that the experience of connection will be as varied and unique as the people we support but I am sure it will be another important consideration of my work in the years to come.

- Thanks Nicole for your time and happy #OTWeek!

OT Week 2020 website

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