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Occupational Therapy Stories and Reflections

With Belsky Ng, M.Sc. (OT), OT Reg. (Ont.)

Occupational Therapy has provided the opportunity to work with people from all sorts of cultures and backgrounds. Many experience injuries that turn their life upside down. My role as an Occupational Therapist (OT) is to help injured patients through difficult times. The goal is to get them back to what was meaningful to them in their daily life.

I see my clients go through all kinds of hardships, whether it’s physical or emotional. Recognizing and celebrating small milestones is important, such as standing up after lying down or dressing. Many do these tasks effortlessly, but it becomes the biggest challenge with someone who was injured. This is due to lost skills and deficits. What I love about being an OT is that we emphasize a lot of transferrable skills. Clients learn about what is functional and important to them in everyday life.

Moments and Memories in Occupational Therapy

There is a story behind the words on this poster.

Occupational Therapy quotes

I had an elderly client who was independent with everything his whole life. Even at age seventy-five, he had many young children. His background was founded in traditional views of manhood. He did not believe in occupational therapy while he was in a rehab program from having a stroke. He only believed in working with physiotherapy and it was a challenge to have him attend OT from the start.

The quote, “we are with you every step of the way” came from how as his therapist, I would show him the importance of what he can accomplish. I went to see him every single day. He spent the first few weeks declining my service. Over time, he saw the effort I put in to see him. He saw the gains his roommates were making, who were also working with me. Slowly, through baby steps, he became open-minded.

By the end of the ninety days of his rehab program, he became independent with his transfers onto a wheelchair. He completed his ADLs on his own and created goals (like cooking a meal) for discharge to the community.

He wrote me a card saying, “You were like the granddaughter that I never had,” which was the highlight of my career and brought me to tears.

As much as he struggled, I cannot describe in words the gratitude that this client showed in the end. 

So you want to be an occupational therapist…

My advice to those becoming an OT is to make sure your view of care is holistic and client-centered. Consider all aspects of the client’s recovery from different angles, not just physical but cognitive, emotional, and behavioural. There is no one answer on how to achieve a full recovery for any patient. Recovery is very individualized. The client is the one who matters the most because they are the one putting in the work. We are just a toolbox. We have many tools that we may share with patients if they choose to accept them. Occupational Therapy encourages clients to connect with the skills they come here to learn. It encourages them to build. It encourages them to find relationships and apply their new skills to what is important in their life at home.

Everyone’s definition of recovering is different. Listening to the client is crucial in learning how their life was, and how they want it to be.

The most rewarding experiences come from the most challenging ones. I always thank clients who share their stories with me. It takes great courage and strength to be vulnerable. Sharing is an invitation for a clinician to build rapport with them.  

If you are thinking of becoming an OT, check out the University Health Network website to learn more about how Altum Health is part of the overall mission to create a healthier world. If you are looking to apply for a job as an OT, bookmark the Altum Health careers page to stay up-to-date on current opportunities at one of our 11 Ontario locations.

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