Having shared her research at the regional Occupational Therapy conference last week on how Covid affected occupational therapy services in the Cayman Islands, Caymanian student Andrenne Gordon speaks with the Caymanian Times to shed some light on this often-misunderstood profession.
Andrenne is already well-qualified, with a BSc in Health Care Administration from California Coast University and is currently pursuing an MSc (PreReg) degree in Occupational Therapy at Brunel University in London. She is hoping to become qualified in February 2022, but Covid has impacted studies. The next step is registration with Health and Care Professions Council. the regulatory body in the UK.
“At the moment, I am gaining field experience,” she advised.
Andrenne said ultimately, she would love to work with adults in the occupational therapy field.
“Presently, of the 22 registered OTs in the Cayman Islands, 18 are paediatric OTs working with new-born to 18-year-olds. So, I am happy to work with adults,” she advised.
Andrenne said she stumbled upon the profession by accident.
“Quite honestly, four years ago, I knew nothing about occupational therapy,” she confirmed. “Before coming to the UK to study, I was worked in the Patient Financial Services Department. Our department at the time was adjacent to the Mental Health Unit, and I passed there daily to get to the car park or other sections of the hospital. At the time, I wasn’t quite familiar with the operation of that department, but my heart went out to persons that frequented there, especially young persons.”
However, one particular worker caught her eye.
“He spoke with them with the utmost respect, and patience, and I could tell that they respected him, and the relationship was like nothing I have witnessed before within the mental health population. Mental illness is most time stigmatised, and individuals are ridiculed or judged, and such behaviour demonstrates a lack of education and a lack of empathy. Back then, I thought this worker was a psychiatrist or psychologist. However, I later learnt that he was an occupational therapist,” she confirmed.
At that time, she was seriously contemplating to further her education in finance, but finance was not an area that she was passionate about, so she began thinking about other clinical disciplines.
“The more I thought about it, I realised I was drawn to the clinical areas, and I wanted to help persons who didn’t have a voice, who were marginalised, or alienated,” she said.
She eventually contacted this OT, and following her conversation and his suggestions, she researched occupational therapy and made her decision from there.
Andrenne doesn’t think the profession is well-known in the Cayman Islands.
“Many persons are misinformed about our roles even in the UK, where OT services are provided widely,” she said. “Occupational therapy has been around for over 100 years. Often individuals will confuse an OT’s role with a physiotherapist’s role. OTs and PTs have some similarities, as both are rehabilitation practitioners and work collaboratively at times to help patients return to their prior level of function. However, there are many key differences between them.”
Occupational therapy is a science degree-based profession. OTs use a holistic, evidence-based approach to help a person succeed in meaningful daily activities, otherwise known as occupations. It encompasses every aspect of living and thriving across the lifespan (from new-borns to older adults).
“We aim to help make a tangible difference in patients’ daily lives. We do this by providing practical support to empower individuals to participate in activities of daily living that they find most meaningful. This support enables persons to become more independent in all aspects of life,” she advised.
For a child, this might mean playing with friends or writing; for an adult, this might mean providing that individual with a piece of equipment to get around after surgery or simply making a meal.
“These basic building blocks of daily life can become difficult after an injury, disability, or illness, and OT practitioners can help people develop the skills to participate in these activities with confidence,” she said.
OTs can provide intervention if you are physically disabled, recovering from an illness or a surgery, have learning disabilities or mental health problems and work across various practice settings such as hospitals, schools, outpatient clinics, mental health, and community, and learning disability facilities, to name a few.
“The scope of occupational therapy is very vast,” she advised, adding, “I encourage students and anyone to explore this profession as it can be an extremely rewarding line of work. Additionally, individuals interested in gaining further insight into the profession can reach out to the Cayman Islands Occupational Therapy Association team for more information.