Monday, October 5, 2009

OT job description!

Through this experience I have learned that it's important to recognize that during emotional times a family experiences a wide range of emotions--grief, anger, irritability, happiness, laughter, sadness...

Before my Grandmother died, I went to the hospital to see her. While there chatting with my family our cousin came to visit. As soon as she saw my Grandmother she asked my mother when was the last time someone came to 'turn' her.

(In case you don't know, it's important to literally 'turn' someone over every few hours so that they lay on different sides of their body. This process prevents bed sores which are terrible open wounds that develop when a body part has constant pressure with an object, such as a bed)

After some conversation it had been determined that no one had been in to turn Grandma for nearly 3 hours! She was supposed to be turned every 2 hours. The nurse was called.

While the nurse was turning Grandma I began asking all types of questions, it's totally natural for me to do this. My family gets on me about this all the time but it's my nature, I can't help it.

The nurse was sooooo non-chalant and disinterested that I found myself getting irritated and asking even MORE questions, but with frustration in my voice. Perhaps my family sensed this because then they became irritated with me.

It wasn't until a few days later that I realized there is an Occupational Therapy lesson in this. As an OT, I will be working with all types of people and their family and caregivers. People respond differently to grief, pain and confusion. It's my job as an OT to do my best to read between the lines, stay calm and ANSWER QUESTIONS. The nurse 'caring' for my Grandma failed to do this!

As health professionals, it's important that we are ALWAYS empathetic. If someone asks a question, and we are not breaking privacy or ethical laws, it's important to answer as best we can, in the simplest language possible, so that the family members understand WHY we are there and WHY we are performing certain treatments.

Many people don't understand what Occupational Therapy is so if I approach a client in a hospital room and start giving orders--'Raise your arm,' 'Lift your leg,' 'Grab this,' 'Close that,'--how the heck are they supposed to know who I am and the purpose of all the directions???? They won't know! This is why it's important for me to inform them AND answer questions as thoroughly as possible.

A family's job is to concentrate on loving and caring for their injured family member. My job is make sure everyone understands what's going on in therapy AND to be as empathic and understanding as possible.

Basically, my job is to be the exact OPPOSITE of my Grandmother's nurse.

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