Work that works wonders
There is a famous saying in showbusiness, "Never work with children and animals”. For Australian Catholic University occupational therapy (OT) graduate Hannah Forbes, the opposite is true.
When considering her options in high school Hannah knew she wanted a career that combined health, science, music, art and helping others. No small feat.
“I wanted to pursue a career that would satisfy my creativity, push me to learn new skills, grow as a person and would enable me to work with people of all ages – OT provided that perfect fit,” she said.
“In my final year of high school, I attended the ACU Open Day and met course coordinator Associate Professor Dr Laura Miller and attended a tour of the campus and facilities – including the incredible new mock apartment. I was blown away by the facilities, conversations with the OT senior academic staff and the university culture.
“Studying at ACU immediately felt like the right choice for me – the opportunity to be viewed as more than just a number, and to have support and guidance from lecturers as well as develop genuine connections with other students, was a top priority.”
ACU occupational therapy students are out on placement from Semester 1 in their first year – right from the start they are in the field learning what OT is all about.
“I was fortunate to have been offered the opportunity to experience a wide range of practical experiences and community engagement opportunities in my time at ACU, each opportunity gave me the chance to build new skills and broaden my understanding of what an OT does,” Hannah said.
“The incredible opportunity to work alongside the extremely experienced and knowledgeable OT and multidisciplinary teams at the Mater Hospital Brisbane specialising in infant and paediatric development would affirm my passion for early childhood intervention and family-centred practice.
“I am also really interested in mental health and grew my skills in that area by taking a placement at the Royal Brisbane and Women's Hospital supporting a project evaluating the efficacy of their Adult Mental Health Sensory Modulation Community Group Program – an opportunity that only solidified my growing interest in research.”
However, it was Hannah’s third year five-week placement with the Institute for Urban Indigenous Health (IUIH) undertaking a role-emerging project placement, under the guidance of Adjunct Associate Professor Dr Alison Nelson and ACU Senior Lecturer Dr Rosamund Harrington, that would first spark her interest in research and her passion in working alongside Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health and family practitioners to improve the health and wellbeing of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander adults, children and their families. Hannah would later go on to work at IUIH for the next three and half years upon graduating from ACU.
“I loved every minute of working at IUIH, building and maintaining connections with children, families and adults across South East Queensland. There is a magic about working inter-professionally everyday with speech pathologists and the wider multidisciplinary team and community, which has enabled me to grow professionally and personally. I love that as an OT I can support and walk alongside children, parents/caregivers and families in their unique journey, to enhance health and wellbeing outcomes, and participation in meaningful roles and valued occupations,” said Hannah.
Putting it all together
More recently, Hannah’s role as an OT at Psychology and Animal Assisted Wellbeing (P.A.A.W.) sees her working mainly with children on the autism spectrum alongside her therapy dog – Australian Cobberdog, Otto.
“It is incredible to see the positive impact a therapy dog can have supporting children of all ages,” she said.
Therapy dog Otto.
“An OT’s role is to help people participate in everyday activities as fully as possible. I love being able to work alongside like-minded and passionate individuals, who are all pulling together to achieve the same goal. I love learning how to integrate my therapy dog Otto into my practice as an OT.”
OT is a career for those who want to give back to others and Hannah certainly pays it forward.
“My interest in research led me to completing a Bachelor of Occupational Therapy (Honours), giving me confidence in not only my clinical skills but my academic skills. I have been fortunate to work as a sessional academic at ACU for the past few years, which has been a career pathway I would have never expected but have enjoyed thoroughly,” said Hannah.
Hannah is also about to embark on a Doctor of Philosophy at ACU, completing her thesis provisionally titled: An inter-generational learning and living campus: a new model for healthy senior living and integrated school communities across urban and regional Australia.
Her advice for others thinking about studying occupational therapy?
“Take every opportunity available, make the most of supports and services available at university and the broader OT and allied health community and don't be afraid to make mistakes and take on challenges, it is the best way to grow and learn.”
Ready to make a difference like Hannah? Explore the allied health courses at ACU.