Associate Professor Carol McKinstry1, Ms Kylie Carra1, Ms Laura Bailie1, Ms Ruby Daniell1, Mr Amery Clews1
1La Trobe University, Bendigo, Australia
Occupational therapy commenced in Australia during World War 1 to provide rehabilitation for former service members with physical and mental conditions who required support to transition back into the community. Occupational therapists continue to provide services to Department of Veterans Affair’s (DVA) clients however, little is known about the nature of this work and factors that enable or constrain effective service provision.
To characterise the practice of Australian occupational therapists working with DVA clients and identify risks and opportunities for future practice.
In July and August 2020, a cross-sectional online survey of Australian occupational therapists was conducted. A literature review informed the development of survey questions designed to elicit background demographic/practice information, and qualitative and quantitative data about practice experiences. Demographic data was analysed using descriptive statistics. Qualitative data was thematically analysed to identify key themes.
Of the 140 occupational therapists who responded, 87% were in private practice and 62% in solo practices. Most therapists practiced in metropolitan areas, with 32% practicing in regional areas and 22% in rural or remote areas. Commonly provided services included rehabilitation (including vocational rehabilitation), provision of assistive equipment and technology and home modifications. Risks to effective service provision included: the fee structure being unsustainable, lack of referrals due to lack of understanding about occupational therapy, and lack of professional development and education opportunities.
Future lobbying of DVA by the profession is required to address current barriers impacting on the provision of high-quality occupational therapy to DVA clients, including remuneration rates.
Carol is Associate Professor of Occupational Therapy at La Trobe University, within the Rural Health School and based at the Bendigo Campus, in Victoria, Australia. She is also Head of the Rural Department of Allied Health. Her research has primarily focused on developing a workforce to meet the challenges of the future, particularly for communities in rural and regional areas and in emerging areas of practice for occupational therapists. She is currently the President of Occupational Therapy Australia