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20 years of change in Occupational Therapy – by Nicole Grant

Occupational Therapy, The Health Industry

I am an Occupational Therapist and Practice Principal working in the private sector in Brisbane. I have now been working/ studying in the field of allied health for 20 years and over that time have noticed many changes. Some minor, subtle changes such as the gradual introduction of tech into our practice. Others – massive game changers.

I think one of the more obvious and more recent significant events has been the role out of the National Disability Insurance Scheme across the country. In Brisbane, we are very new to the scheme, however I’ve been following the evolution of the NDIS very closely. My thoughts overall are positive. I can see the opportunities the scheme presents for people living with disabilities, particularly those who previously fell through the gaps. I also see the opportunities the scheme presents for us clinicians, although many of us are now finding ourselves working with a new, more complex caseload. Many allied health professionals are being pushed beyond their comfort zone, which I think on the whole is not a bad thing! We are being forced to embrace our clinical reasoning skills, seek creative solutions to new challenges, collaborate more closely with our fellow health professionals, and look more than ever to our body of evidence across all areas of practice. As a manager, I have thoroughly enjoyed mentoring and upskilling our next generation therapists, although recruitment has suddenly become a challenge for the first time in my career. We have more roles than therapists to fill them, and it’s increasingly difficult to meet the demands of this new generation of healthcare professionals.

I have been in senior management roles for most of my career, thanks to a little bit of luck, a little bit of ambition, but mostly due to some very wonderful mentors who have guided my career development. Throughout my career I have been involved in the happy task of welcoming new team members. On many occasions I have sat across the table from nervous candidates, and answered questions about role requirements and expectations, with the candidate usually very eager to assure me that they are the right person for the task. One of the biggest cultural shifts I’ve seen in our profession over the past 20 years, is the attitude of our newer graduates towards their prospective employers. Many graduates I’ve interviewed in more recent years seem less interested in long term career opportunities and are more focused on the immediate perks of the job. On further reading I’ve discovered this seems to be a broad Gen Y challenge, where the younger members of our community are less able to commit to longer term goals, instead seeking instant gratification – more money and quick wins. As a manager, in all honesty I struggle with this, however I also acknowledge our new grads are extremely skilled and knowledgeable, fast learners and excellent collaborators. These are excellent skills to have in the new world of NDIS and increasing privatization of health services.

Overall I feel positive about the future for healthcare in Australia, we are in good hands with our new generation of clinicians, and it’s wonderful to see that Occupational Therapy has a key role in shaping the future of healthcare service provision in our country, particularly in the world of NDIS.

Nicole Grant is a Brisbane-based occupational therapist. She completed a PhD in Occupational Therapy Interventions for children with Autism. She is the founder of Gateway Therapies, which has a team of 6 occupational therapists, a speech therapist and social worker, who deliver mobile therapy services all over Brisbane.

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