Posted by Devon Partnership Trust in News on 8th August, 2023
We spoke to Enrique Diaz, Senior Occupational Therapist at Franklyn Hospital, about the main purpose of their team, their current priorities and some of the challenges they face.
What is the main purpose of your team? And what does a typical day look like?
The main purpose of my team is to enhance the quality of life for our patients who have been diagnosed with dementia. We aim to support them in overcoming the belief that their life is coming to an end and help them find motivation and purpose in their daily lives.
Each day is different because we focus on each patient's unique needs. During one-to-one sessions, we work closely with each patient to find the best way to help them. Patients can also have a say in the daily schedule and choose which skills or hobbies they want to focus on. We include activities like art and music therapy to give patients a way to express themselves. We also help patients learn new skills or build on the ones they already have, with the aim to inspire and help them find a new sense of purpose.
We also work closely with our patients’ family and friends by offering carer groups. This provides support to those dealing with emotional struggles while their loved one is under our care. It is an opportunity to introduce holistic approaches to supporting their loved ones, even after discharge. By collaborating, we work together to ensure the patient is getting the best level of care by understanding their hobbies and interests, especially when the patient may not be able to remember. We have had a couple of instances where patients have struggled to engage with us and we have had to call in help from their families, but understanding their background gives us a greater chance of building a relationship with them and creating a safe space.
What qualifications and training do the team have? And what career paths have people taken?
Our team consists of a mix of occupational therapists (OTs) and occupational therapy assistants (OTA’s). OTs require an OT qualification, while no specific qualification is needed to become an OTA. However, we do facilitate learning opportunities for OTAs. I hold teaching sessions to inform colleagues about new techniques and interventions.
One of my colleagues started as an OTA with no prior healthcare experience. After a year and a half, they were promoted to an Occupational Therapy Technician (OTT) and are now considering pursuing OT training. Our goal is to provide learning opportunities for all team members to help them grow, gain knowledge, and experience.
As for my own career path, I obtained my OT qualification in Spain. Upon moving to England, I had to complete my registration, which took a year and a half. During that time, I worked as a healthcare assistant (HCA) while patiently waiting for an OTA position to become available. I applied for and was accepted into an OTA position. After a year, I was promoted to an OT position. Since then, I have progressed and now lead a fantastic OT team on Belvedere Ward. Each team member has had a different career path, but despite the challenges, we have all gained valuable learning experiences.
What are some of the challenges the team faces?
One of the challenges our team faces is working with a diverse client group. While dementia itself is not the main challenge, being an occupational therapist involves navigating a complex profession. I was speaking to my colleagues recently and we said, “A patient who does not engage in an activity is still able to do something. We just need to find out what it is.” Finding the best approach, technique or intervention to effectively engage with our patients can be a challenge.
The most important rule that we stick to is never giving up on our patients. We constantly strive to explore new approaches or revisit previous ones that may not have been effective in the past. It requires us to be open-minded, have a clear reflection, and create a space for discussions with our team for their views and ideas. Flexibility, creativity, and open-mindedness are essential skills for us in our daily roles, and combining these qualities can be quite demanding.
What do you enjoy most about being part of this team?
I really enjoy the continuous learning experience. I have the opportunity to learn from my team members, the patients themselves, and other colleagues. The world is ever-changing and new techniques and approaches are being introduced to better serve our client group. Each team member brings their unique skills and experiences, offering something new to our work.
What motivates your team?
We’re motivated by providing a good quality of life to our patients. When the patient is discharged we know we have done something beautiful and have made a positive difference to their wellbeing. By accompanying and supporting the patient through a difficult journey, they are in a greater position to enjoy a better quality of life.
What achievement is your team most proud of?
Our team takes great pride in the consistent feedback we receive from the loved ones of the individuals in our care. It is incredibly rewarding to hear family members say, “I haven’t seen them do that in years”. Knowing that our efforts have made a difference to the lives of our patients and their loved ones brings us great joy, pride, and satisfaction.
What is the best bit of feedback you have received from a patient or service user?
Our team has been extremely lucky to receive numerous kind words from patients’ family members. However, one particular piece of feedback from a gentleman has stayed with me. His wife was admitted to our care after falling quite poorly, but through our support, she regained awareness and resumed activities she had previously given up on. Sadly, a few months after being discharged, the lady passed away. We received a visit from the husband thanking us. He said that even though his wife is no longer with us, we had brought the light back into her life.
What do you and your team do to unwind?
At work we prioritise creating a nice atmosphere. We engage in activities such as team away days, which focus on team building and wellbeing. We also establish an open and safe space during supervision sessions and create a supportive environment.
And finally... how would you sum up your team in one word?
Excellence. Our team consists of incredibly skilled and professional individuals who work tirelessly for the wellbeing of our patients. They consistently demonstrate compassion in their work.