Champions for Children: Meet occupational therapist Rachael

Many of our staff will tell you that no two days at the RCH are the same, and that’s certainly true for occupational therapist Rachael.

In this week’s #ChampionforChildren profile, Rachael shares the diverse ways occupational therapists work with patients across all wards of the hospital, as well as why she finds working with trauma patients and their families so incredibly rewarding.

What does a typical day at the RCH look like for you?

There is no such thing as a typical day in my role as our team never knows which patients are going to come into the hospital each day!

I work within the neuroscience team at the RCH so my days are spent predominantly on the wards providing assessment, intervention and discharge planning for patients who have been admitted with a neurological condition impacting their function. I work with patients with a broad range of diagnoses such as traumatic brain injury, brain surgery, a new neurological event, such as a stroke, or a new neurological diagnosis, such as multiple sclerosis.

When first meeting a patient, I assess their function and ability to complete everyday activities such as showering, getting dressed, going to school and engaging in play or leisure activities.  This can involve assessment of their cognition, visual perception and movement skills. OT’s are experts in completing these assessments in a developmentally appropriate, fun and playful way.

If patients are experiencing changes to their function, I then provide early rehabilitation with the aim to maximise their ability to complete day to day tasks (including self-care, school/work and play) independently with the overall goal of sending patients home and back into their usual routine safely.

When not on the ward, I also work within the Allied Health Developmental Assessment Clinic (AHDAC) where alongside a physiotherapist and speech pathologist, I complete developmental assessments and support families to link with community based supports, such as the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) early childhood intervention when required.

What’s the most rewarding part of your role?

The most rewarding aspect of my job is having the opportunity to work with trauma patients and their families from their initial presentation (sometimes meeting patients while in the Emergency Department or Intensive Care) right through until they are ready to be discharged home.

Seeing patients improve throughout the course of their admission and knowing that your input was fundamental in their ability to return home and to activities that are valuable to them is a very special thing.

Can you tell us about an aspect of your work that may surprise us? 

Many people are surprised to learn about the holistic and diverse skills that occupational therapists have and how many areas our department covers within RCH – every ward and also many specialist outpatient clinics!

Occupational therapists at the RCH all have a deep understanding of childhood development and how it is impacted by a complex medical diagnosis, illness or injury. Our aim is to maximise patients’ abilities to attend to self-care and domestic tasks, engage in school, learning and most importantly play and leisure.

Some of the areas at the RCH where we work that people may not realise include working with neonates to support engagement in care routines such as bathing, nappy changes and sleep. We also work with patients who have complex hand injuries or hand anomalies, as well as working with patients to regain skills and maximising function after being involved in a multi-trauma accident which may involve a combination of significant orthopaedic, brain and burn injuries.

Additionally, we have wonderful occupational therapists at RCH who work within the Victorian Paediatric Rehabilitation Service (VPRS), complex care team, palliative care team, pain team and mental health team. We even have occupational therapists who can visit patients at home once then leave the hospital to ensure they are still progressing towards their goals.

What do you enjoy doing outside work?

Outside of work (and in pre COVID-19 times) I love to travel and explore different corners of the world.  When not travelling, I love to spend time with my friends and family and stay active by playing netball, tennis and attending reformer Pilates classes. I also love a good Melbourne brunch!

What three things would you take to a desert island?

I would bring a friend, music and, as encouraged by my colleagues, a yacht!

One comment for “Champions for Children: Meet occupational therapist Rachael”

  1. George & Spyridoula Coutsouvelis

    An extremely informative and well presented article on the roles of Occupational Therapists, which is not widely known in the community. Congratulations to their dedication and commitment to their field of wonderful and important work.


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