Oct 30, 2015 News
By Desilon Daniels
Each year, Guyana joins the rest of the world in celebrating World Occupational Therapy Da. However, an American specialist in the field believes that the potential in the area remains untapped in Guyana.
The American specialist, Janet Finesilver, is a volunteer with the United States Peace Corps and has been in Guyana since early September. Finesilver has more than two decades of experience in occupational therapy (OT). She has also been responsible for providing training at the Georgetown Public Hospital (GPH) to students of the University of Guyana Medical Rehabilitation programme.
In an interview with Kaieteur News, Finesilver explained that OT is one of the allied professions in the US. It entails experts working with people who, because of illness and injury or some kind of disability, are unable to carry out the occupations of daily life that they enjoy and need to perform.
“The term occupation in occupational therapy does not refer to the work that you do. It refers to being occupied purposefully,” Finesilver elaborated.
“There’s a very large body of research that proves that we need this as human beings for our well-being, so when illness and disability interfere with those activities that you need to perform to maintain yourself and your family or the things that you enjoy doing, you’re not in a state of well-being.”
She said that occupational therapists therefore work with the client, find out what are their needs and interests, and work towards their goals.
“They are our partners; we do not impose a treatment on them. We find out what they want and work with them to bring them to the highest level of function that they can achieve, given their circumstances.”
She explained that OT often sees the use of adaptive equipment such as reaching devices or sticks with hooks for persons who have problems with everyday activities such as dressing.
“We all feel best when we can do things for ourselves and injury and illness can take that away from us. So, we look to help people to do as much for themselves as possible.”
However, while OT is a thriving field in other nations, it is still fledging in Guyana. According to Finesilver, there is not enough widely circulated information on OT in Guyana, thus leading to misconceptions on just what it is.
She explained that, besides the misconception that OT is related to work, other misconceptions pervade. She explained that even medical students have misconceptions and related that one student had believed that OT involved someone moving into the home of someone with a disability.
Furthermore, she said, while many different settings for OT are available in the United States, the settings in Guyana are limited.
“In Guyana, from my understanding, we essentially have three settings at this point in time; there is here at the hospital [GPH]; in Ptolemy Reid there are some services that are not very well developed at this point, and there’s at the Palms [Geriatric Home] for long-term care,” she said.
“In the US and other countries, we work in the school systems with early intervention cases such as babies that might have issues; we work in psychiatric hospitals; we work in transitional facilities; we work with drug and alcohol rehabilitation…we work with home health agencies where services are provided to folks after a hospital discharge.”
She added that OT is also now breaking into working in the prison system. She further said that OT also does not extend only to individuals but entire bodies such as corporations to deal with workplace related injuries such as carpal tunnel system as well as education on how to take precautions.
“There are so many places you can find use for occupational therapy and it keeps growing and we keep finding new roles. So, it’s wherever there are barriers to functional, skilled performance in the activities that you want and need to do, there’s a role for an occupational therapist,” Finesilver said.
“Occupational Therapy is still in its infancy here in Guyana and I’m trying to prepare these students to really become pioneers in their fields. I’m trying to give them a vision of what’s happening in other places of the world so that they can help to move the country forward; they need to know what’s happening in other countries so that they can bring that here.”
Meanwhile, when questioned on what can be done to improve OT in Guyana, Finesilver stressed that there is need for more professionals.
“There’s not a regular presence of therapists in those settings at this point in time; we have only a few rehabilitation assistants at the Palms and that’s true here at the hospital as well. So, when students graduate, as they gain experience and expertise, when they begin they will actually be reliant, to a degree, on the rehabilitation assistants who have lots of experience,” she said. However, she said, over time the graduates will take over and practice as they gain more hands-on experience. She stressed that OT is a research-driven profession so therefore the graduates will require both experience and knowledge in the field.
She said too that development will require the pumping of more resources into the field. “We’re all limited everywhere in the world by the resources available so we can’t do pie in the sky; we can’t meet every ideal that we have, but we need to have those ideal visions and then slowly, over time, move towards those visions.”
As part of Occupational Therapy Day, professionals in the field made a number of appearances as well as conducted a sensitisation exercise. This exercise was conducted in the City Mall and saw medical rehabilitation students sharing information on occupational therapy and how it can add to everyday living.
World Occupation Therapy Day is celebrated each year on October 27.
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