Occupational therapist help in critical care, and plant sunflowers…

Submitted by Dee
Advanced Occupational Therapist and Joint Team Leader Orthopaedics and Surgery

There are two main things I have reflected on as part of the Occupational Therapy Department at St Richard’s Hospital and wanted to share.

The first thing was the introduction of Occupational Therapy (OT) into ITU.

The team focused on providing critical care rehab for both Covid and non-Covid Patients.

The therapy was holistic and wide ranging and individualised to what was meaningful for patients.

The team wasn’t fazed by the challenging and unfamiliar environment and PPE, but instead set about finding ways that OT could work with the ITU unit. With the help of the Physiotherapists to identify patients, OT’s carried out telephone calls to patient’s families allowing them time to talk about their loved one in ITU and what their life was like prior to Covid.

From their jobs and the important people in their life, to the names of their dogs and their hobbies, this allowed a laminate to be completed for each patient and placed by their bedside aiding staff with conversations, reassurance and fostering a feeling of “knowing” each patient better. The OT’s also collated pictures of the patients and their families and displayed these around the bed spaces.

The OT team helped re-orientate patients, providing daily boards reminding them of where they are, and the date and who is caring for them. Sometimes just spending time talking to them about their last memories before ITU and talking about dreams or hallucinations they may have had whilst intubated and sedated.

As patients entered the rehabilitation phase of the ITU recovery, the OT’s worked closely with the MDT and provided hand therapy and worked with patients to manage more of their daily living tasks independently.

OTs adapted and provided equipment to allow independent hair brushing, feeding, drinking. Teaching them to manipulate items in their hands again whilst strengthening and engaging them in meaningful activities. This naturally progressed to items such as playing games, video calling and even pegging washing out on a washing line. Some read to patients, played music and prayed with them.

One colleague said: “Working in ITU during the pandemic as an OT has been challenging but hugely rewarding and I am so proud of our team for doing so. Traditionally OT is often overlooked in areas of high dependency, but I have learnt that when the essence of someone’s life has been reduced to the bare basic functions, then their intervention and meaningful occupation or activities needs to reflect the same; focusing on the very basic building blocks of what makes us engaged and motivated.

“It has been a huge privilege to not only be involved with the care of patients in ITU but also to work alongside the most outstanding team of professionals who are so supportive, enthusiastic, devoted and quite simply magnificent. Nothing has ever been too much trouble, from talking us through the intricate PPE requirements to explaining in detail the complex medical needs of patient care, they have always made time and space for us, which ultimately has optimised our OT intervention. I will be forever thankful for the opportunity.”

The second reflection is sunflowers!

The Ortho Occupational Therapy Team planted sunflowers originally on the balcony at St Richard’s Hospital. The sunflowers were an idea to offer something bright and hopeful for patients. Originally, we hoped patients could plant them but as this was not an option due to infection control reasons, we were not deterred and planted them ourselves.

The sunflowers generated much discussion from patients and staff and were seemingly enjoyed by all who saw them. We collected the seeds from the grown sunflowers in the autumn of 2020 and packaged and gifted them to others in spring 2021 as a sign of hope. We hope by the time they flower in 2021 the world will be a brighter place.

One colleague said: “The sunflowers were our little Eden project, a small something we could do during Covid for others enjoyment”

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