Tuesday, July 14, 2009

I'll Always Remember My First

I remember his name, where he worked, and where he lived. I will never forget, because he was my first. My first client.

As a newly graduated OT, I took on a job that I now believe was completely inappropriate for my level of experience. I learned so much, though, in those first few years, working from a sallelite office for a company who were less interested in helping me to be a good OT, and more so in ensuring my billable hours exceeded my number of waking hours.

My first. He was referred for help returning to work, after severing several tendons in his dominant hand. He was a carpenter, and this was a devastating injury. My job was to coordinate his return to work by liaising with his doctor, employer and insurer. I was to monitor his progress while he was treated and undergoing physical therapy, then at a time deemed appropriate by all involved, put together a graded return to work plan. I needed to identify suitable duties - duties that could be undertaken at his level of capacity (not much), and if no duties were available (there wasn't), find him a host employer who could give him some work to do while he was recovering.

I loved working with this carpenter. He had a fascinating injury and I loved following his treatment and progress with therapy. He was hopeless at turning up to therapy and gym appointments, and had absolutely no interest in returning to work as a carpenter. He wanted to use this 'opportunity' to move into a supervisory role. Through the time I worked with him, I discovered that he had received his injury falling through a glass door while drunk, a fact which would have affected his insurance entitlements, and he was going through a messy relationship breakup.

Here's why I loved working with this guy. It's because I learned more about being an OT with this one case, than I did in 6 years of attending university. Being an OT is about the bigger picture, and about knowing all of the pieces in order to get an outcome. It's about using your knowledge of injuries, treatment protocols, and case management, to work towards an outcome that will hopefully benefit the client. But that this knowledge alone is not enough, and sometimes, success is out of your reach because of all of the other things going on in that person's life.

I didn't help him get back to work, because he was a long term case and I left town. I often think of the carpenter, and hope he got better. I often wonder if I would have more success with him now that I have so much more experience? If only I knew then, that his case would be one of the easier ones!

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