A day in the life of an OT working in the West Kimberley…

By Casey McRobb

Casey is a recently graduated Occupational Therapist who started out working in Derby, Western Australia. The below story is a 'normal' day for Casey, providing outreach services to a remote Aboriginal community.

6:00am Rise and shine. It’s going to be a long day…
6:30am  Walk across to the hospital and around through the back entrance (it’s too early for the main doors to be open)
6:35am Unlock the OT office, double check have all the necessary gear for the day.
NB: Remote trips require lots of planning! Equipment needs to be arranged, tools need to be gathered in case wheelchairs need mending, paediatric assessments need to packed for the new referrals, therapy sessions need to be planned and the appropriate games and toys packed. It all has to be taken with you as there are no resources in the community itself other than the fantastic knowledge of the clinic nurse and Aboriginal health workers.

Load up the car with OT, SP and PT equipment and paperwork. It’s often a tight squeeze and requires good problem solving skills to fit it all in! Especially when you’re trying to take a wheelchair, kitchen stool, and shower chair out on the same visit! As well as three crates of notes (one for each discipline) and not to mention the spare tyre (very important!).


We’re off. 

8.00am Turn off the main highway onto a gravel road. Pull over and click the 4wd hubs into lock ready for the unpredictable road ahead. Heavy rains have probably washed away parts of the road.
8.30am Drive through the main gates of the community and towards the clinic. A few stray dogs, a number of car bodies and a friendly wave from passing locals.
8.35am Discuss case load with the health workers at the clinic to establish who is present in the community today. Aboriginal people are often very transient. Unload equipment from the car and confirm with PT and SP how the day will run.
9.00am Pop across to the school to complete an initial assessment with a child referred for handwriting difficulties. Also complete two separate therapy sessions. One with a child who has difficulty with letter formation and directionality. The other with a child who is having difficulty grasping the concept of visual closure.
11.30pm Dart back to the clinic and meet back up with the PT to complete joint visit. Locate elderly patient in the community who requires a shower chair. Deliver and set to appropriate height. General discussion with patient reveals patient sleeping on the floor and having extreme difficulties with transfers. PT to advocate for appropriate bedding for the client back in Derby.
12.00pm Call past palliative client to see how managing. Patient in high spirits and sitting up in bed eating lunch at time of visit. Brief check of wheelchair to see that repairs have held since last visit (pusher rims had fallen off so the chair was taken back to Derby for maintenance to repair). Bumped into another client unexpectedly and discover that he has in fact moved house and will require minor home modifications and rail installations. Time thus taken to assess his new house for exact specifications.
12.45pm Back across to the school with the PT and SP to present a talk to the staff advising of our individual roles and how to refer their students to the service.
1.30pm Back to the clinic for lunch with a quick stop off to the local store to check on a client with suspected carpal tunnel syndrome. A splint was made when the patient came to the hospital for an xray two weeks ago thus checking how it’s fitting now.
2.00pm Write up progress notes for the clients seen today.
3.30pm Pack up car and depart the community. The 90 minute journey home begins.
4.30pm The girls take advantage of the drive home and catch some shut eye.
5.00pm Arrive back in Derby. Re-fuel vehicle on the way to the hospital.
5.15pm Unload car and literally dump equipment and notes in OT office to be sorted out tomorrow.
5.30pm Home time - what a day!! I wouldn’t trade it for anything else.