Hello, and welcome to Therapy Connect Conversations. My name is Megan Walker, your host. Today Sue Cameron and Simone Dudley from Therapy Connect are talking to us about building a therapy team from both the practice perspective as well as for individual clients.

Simone let’s start with you. So back in 2015, when you and Sue set up Therapy Connect, tell us, did you actually intend to build a team of the size and scale that you’ve got now?

Oh, absolutely not Megan, for those that don’t know, I live on a farm in South West New South Wales. And back when we were looking at starting a telehealth practice, my goal was about finding enough work to sustain me for three days a week. If I could do that, then my dreams would have been ticked off. Sue and I probably would never have in our wildest dreams thought we would achieve this sort of size team.

The first step was meeting Sue who is also from a farm in Western Victoria. Sue and I both recognised pretty quickly that we would be stronger together, working combining occupational therapy and speech pathology. So the first step was forming an allied health team with speech and occupational therapy. They go so well together, but then clients were also asking for physiotherapy or could you provide some psychology? So once we had enough demand, we started adding to our team other service streams.

Fantastic. And Simone, you’ve got over 50 therapists now. What type of disciplines do they represent in addition to OT and speech?

When we think about our team, we think about our client services team that are supporting clients as they enter into Therapy Connect and support the clinical team around referrals and setting appointments up. Of course, we’ve got occupational therapy and speech pathology, but we also have psychology. Psychologists support emotion and self-regulation. Dietetics, so our dieticians will support nutritional needs and help families link to support nutritional needs that are apparent through working with clients with disability into routines.

Our physiotherapists support mobility and pain and work with clients that might have neuromuscular or neurological or some postural difficulties. 

We also have a social worker and our social worker works with families to support behavior. She has a very strong, early childhood focus and special skills in behavior support. So the other thing I’d like to mention about our team, we’re really lucky, we’ve attracted some unbelievable practitioners. And on average, we have about 15 plus years of experience with each practitioner. I certainly know Sue and I have a lot more than that is a remarkable achievement I think.

It’s such a credit to you to have built that large multidisciplinary team and the brains trust you must have around your virtual water coolers. I’ve been blown away. So tell us Sue with that variety among your team, what are the benefits to your clients and why is that variety of your team important to your clients?

Oh, Megan it’s great as we know that multidisciplinary practice is best practice for working with our clients with disability. And so having the range of services in one team means that we get much greater communication between each other and the client can have a much more streamlined service from a variety of allied health professionals. We start the process for our families, with our clinical services planning session, where one of our expert therapists can collect all of the information about a family and decides what the priorities in conjunction with the family, the family lets us know what the priorities are. So we only have to get them to tell that story once. All of that information is kept in our files and can be accessed by the therapist who are involved with the client. So the practitioners that we have on our team have completed a profile about their strengths, their skills and experiences so we can match the client needs with a therapist who’s got the skills to help them the best.

I can just hear from putting my parent hat on for a moment the huge time-saving that would achieve for a family. And also that saving of not having to repeat yourself over and over again with each different therapist and by being that conduit you’re taking that legwork off the families aren’t you as a value add? And so Sue just tell us what have been some of the challenges of building a team of that diversity?

Well, Megan, we have the extra challenge of having our team all working remotely. We aren’t in the same office together and meeting each other in the corridor. So I’d have to say that communication in the team is the biggest challenge. We have a great management team who have been putting in place lots of ways that we can communicate that are different to usual. So you mentioned before about the water cooler. And that’s a virtual chat room.  The practitioners might show photos of their children having their first day at school, or share information about resources. We have some videos that some of the practitioners make to show how we use certain resources and we really encourage lots of interaction between the team members. 

And so Simone, on the flip side, we’ve heard Sue talk about the challenges of building the team. Tell us about the many benefits of building and having and offering a remote team.

Well, I think one of the greatest benefits of having a remote team is that we can recruit for skillset from anywhere in Australia. Sue was talking about the way that we try to support our clients as they come through matching the very best practitioner at the time that the clients want with the very best skillset. And I think that that has a double benefit for the client because they’re being supported in a way that is possible because we have such a diverse group of practitioners. They are highly skilled and working across time zones. Sometimes we can use that to our advantage e.g we can recruit from WA and they aren’t necessarily working a really long day in WA but they’re able to support those highly sought after, after-school time slots in the Eastern States. I think coverage across the country virtually, but also a physical presence across the country with practitioners working remotely is a great advantage for us.

Absolutely. And you certainly understand what it’s like to walk the walk in regional and rural Australia, which has huge advantages for clients based everywhere. And so you’re growing, Therapy Connect is going from strength to strength. You’ve got over 50 people in your team, tell us who else you’re looking for and who would be the ideal therapist to join up with Therapy Connect.

You are right. We are growing and we’re always looking for experienced practitioners to join our team. We need people in all different disciplines, but we’re really looking for some speech pathologists at the moment. Most of the people that we have on our team have got a special interest in telepractice. So they understand what you might need in telepractice. Lots of the people in the team have worked in rural Australia or they’ve worked in another country. They understand why you need to use video conferencing to interact. We want people who can do at least two days a week.

Wonderful. And Simone to finish off, would you like to tell us your… You’ve got a one 1300 number too don’t you?

We do Megan. We have a one 1300 number 1300 757 806. As Sue pointed out there’s a lot of information on our website and direct pathways to be in contact with Sue and I easily through filling in forms that are on the website. We encourage people to have a look.

Fantastic. Well, thank you both so much for telling us more about Therapy Connect and the wonderful benefits that you’re creating for children with disabilities and their families all across Australia. So thanks Simone. Thanks Sue.