We spoke to Melinda Cooper about her role as ARC’s Senior Clinic-Based Occupational Therapist.
- Other than being a hands-on Occupational Therapist, what other projects are you involved with at ARC?
I am a fully clinic-based OT where I see clients for outpatient therapy. My work is mostly in the areas of cognitive rehabilitation and upper limb rehabilitation and I have worked closely with some of my other OT colleagues to set up and expand this service so that we are able to provide an intensive rehabilitation program for our clients. We have access to some fantastic technology in the ARC clinic, such as the Amadeo, which is a robotic and sensor-based rehabilitation device for the hand; the Pablo, which is a motion sensor motor trainer; and the Myro which is an interactive therapy surface. These devices are wonderful tools for me to use to complement more traditional upper limb therapy methods with my clients and I have been involved in training other members of staff in their use.
I have also been heavily involved in further developing the cognitive rehabilitation program at ARC, including the use of standardised assessment tools and the use of online cognitive rehabilitation programs. I have worked with our exercise physiologists in tailoring cognitive exercises for use with a “Brain Fit” program and look forward to being more involved in this in the future.
- Most OT’s love what they do, but what is it that gives you deep satisfaction with your career choice?
I have always found my job as a neuro OT to be very rewarding. I love seeing improvement in my clients and nothing tickles my heart more than when one of my clients achieves a goal that they have set and worked hard towards. I work with clients who have had life-changing diagnoses who are often in a very vulnerable place in their life; so to be able to provide them with the tools to make positive changes and to see them feel more empowered is very satisfying and rewarding. I am very lucky in that I really do love my job!
- What has shaped you into the clinician you are today?
I knew from a pretty young age that I wanted to be in a profession where I helped people. Even as a kid, I always wanted to help my mum look after my younger siblings. I have also always loved meeting new people from all walks of life and my role as an OT has definitely allowed me that. I have learnt so much from my clients over the years, and one of the big things I’ve learnt is that every single person is different and should be treated as an individual, not a diagnosis. I always like to keep this in mind when I am meeting a new client and formulating my treatment with them.
I have been very fortunate to have worked in many different settings since becoming an OT. When I was a new graduate, I worked in a public hospital where I was exposed to many different areas of OT and it was during my rotation into the rehabilitation unit; where a good part of my caseload was with people who had suffered strokes; that I developed my love for neuro. It was not long afterwards that I moved to the UK and that was when I really focussed on developing my specialism. I have worked in neuro settings in all stages of care, from the acute hospital wards, rehabilitation units and community. This varied experience has allowed me to develop a well-rounded understanding of the life-long journey that our clients take and helped form the OT that I am today.