Healthcare Heroes: Niall gives an insight into Occupational Therapy

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1. What motivated you to pursue a career at South West Acute Hospital?

I was born and grew up in Omagh but always wanted to live and work back closer to home. I got married and had a new baby so wanted to be closer to my family and luckily was able to get job in SWAH.

I also want to help people in the community that I grew up around and try to shape services going forward.

2. Could you share a significant challenge you’ve faced in your role and how you overcame it to provide quality healthcare services?

The biggest challenge is staffing and budget restraints which affects what we want to achieve as Allied Health Professionals. It is difficult to try to strike a balance between what is highest priority from an organisational level and what you want to achieve in your own service. We used to talk about ‘winter pressures’ however over the past number of years the pressure is all year round.

We are juggling many challenges whilst ensuring staff undergo training and development alongside managing busy clinical caseloads.

3. How do you believe your role contributes to the well-being and recovery of patients within our community?

OT’s play an essential role in the Trust and help to enhance the quality of life for our patient’s enabling them to live as independently in their own homes. We assess each patient’s individual needs and work with them and their carers/family members and other health care professionals to ensure they have the necessary equipment/aids to help them in daily tasks which contributes to their overall wellbeing and recovery.

4. Can you highlight a particular patient interaction or medical achievement that you are particularly proud of, and why?

I treated a patient recently who was an extremely active man and heavily involved in his local community. He had a stroke and it affected his visual fields and his right hand function. When I saw him initially he was struggling to understand what had happened and couldn’t orientate himself to the room and was needing help to walk. He had limited use of his right hand and was struggling with basic tasks of getting dressed, opening items.

The biggest part of our role is to help patients understand what has happened to them and how that affects them so that they are better placed to do something about it. We were able to help him compensate initially for his visual field loss with strategies which meant he was able to walk independently around room, then ward and explore outside. We translated these strategies into Activities of Daily Living (ADL) tasks such as getting washed dressed, showering, making meals and ensuring safety with same due to the visual field loss.

We worked on his right hand using remedial activities to work on Range of Movement (ROM), strength and pick up and then translated those into functional tasks of using right hand for grooming tasks shaving, feeding, and writing.

The biggest outcome for us as occupational therapists isn’t about measurements of movement, power but the functional outcome and patient satisfaction. I see this patient daily walking his dog, out shopping and back working in the gym and he is back doing all his roles as pre stroke.

5. How do you ensure the delivery of compassionate and effective care in your specific healthcare discipline?

Compassion is at the forefront of our values as a profession and it is important that we listen to our patients to help understand their concerns and help them make informed choices.

We communicate clearly with our patients and provide them with information, guidance and support to ensure they are at the centre of their own care. Patients are all different and we need to respect their values and beliefs.

6. What aspect of your work do you find most rewarding, and how does it resonate with your personal values and mission?

For me patient’s happiness, satisfaction is the most rewarding part of my job and this is the reason I choose to work in healthcare.

I believe people should be able to make their own choices and what is important to them. What one person finds rewarding isn’t always to another and sometimes I feel like I might not have done much for a patient but they can be very happy with the outcome (the small things do count and make a big difference).

7. How do you manage the demands of your job, and what strategies do you employ to ensure exceptional healthcare service delivery?

This is still something which I am still learning. I try to focus on the things that I can control and change firstly.

We have an OT service plan which sets out what we want to achieve which ensures all staff strive to achieve the same goals and aspirations. We welcome feedback whether positive or negative from patients and try to reflect on our own practice to ensure we continue to listen to our patients and improve our service going forward.

8. Have there been any mentors or colleagues who have significantly influenced your practice, and in what way?

I have been lucky to work with some colleagues who are at the top of their speciality in neurology and stroke care regionally. They are very evidence based and outcomes driven so ensuring interventions meaningful and helping our clinical reasoning. It has made me pragmatic to always think what else is there and or what can I do and benchmark our services to ensure best care.

9. What are your aspirations for the future, and how do you envision the evolution of your role within South West Acute Hospital?

Occupational Therapy is one of the most emerging roles as AHP professions and there is so more than we can achieve. I would like to look at Emergency Departments (EDs) further and develop our role within that area to look at frailty especially those early stage patients and help them develop self-management strategies and referral to help them manage their issues and keep them in community for as long as possible.

I would also like to see more collaboration with non-statutory organisations as there is much good things happening which can complement our input and services to aid the patient experience.

10. How do you believe your efforts contribute to the overall excellence and advancement of healthcare services in our local community?

We are dual trained in both mental health and physical dysfunction so we can provide holistic care. Patients’ needs are becoming more complex with multiple issues which I feel we are well addressed to assess and intervene in a timely manner to prevent unnecessary stays in hospitals etc.


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