Connecting Remote Communities: Our OT’s Insights from Our Regional Outreach Program

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Therapy Connect’s mission is to provide high quality online therapy to improve access to clients across Australia, especially those in regional and remote areas. We recently had the exciting opportunity to deliver a Regional Outreach Program in the Tablelands up in Far North Queensland.

We sent one of our wonderful senior Occupational Therapists, Isabel, to provide face-to-face functional capacity assessments to paediatric clients to determine what support they may need and what online services would be most appropriate for each client.

Isabel was able to establish rapport in person and help educate families and clients on how they can continue to access much-needed services from the comfort of their own homes via digital therapy. Isabel was able to demonstrate and show families how sessions would run and the outcomes they can achieve with an MDT approach.

We asked Isabel a few questions about the trip and here are her responses…

1. What were your initial thoughts and expectations before heading to the Tablelands for the outreach program?

I’m from regional Queensland myself but I’ve never been that far north before so I was really looking forward to being in a rural setting…and it was even better knowing they were Queenslanders I was going to see!! I expected that the people would be beautiful and that some of the health issues might be complex. Having done a bit of rural outreach before I knew I would need to be prepared for anything and that I’d have to be resourceful!

2. Can you describe a particularly memorable moment or interaction you had with a family or client during your visit?

On the first day, I met a child who had an alternate identity (an animal persona) – I fashioned some animal ears and wore them when he arrived – he lit up as if to say “She sees me!!” 

Mum later got teary, sharing that I got more out of him than many people/ therapists had got in months. I put it down to the neuro-affirming lens we strive for at Therapy Connect.

The next day on our lunch break, we got big hugs and sang ring-a-rosie with an adorable little client – it was such a treat, that I sometimes miss on Telehealth.

3. How did the face-to-face functional capacity assessments help you understand the specific needs of the clients in the region?

Driving around town and walking down the main street gave me a sense of what it’s like for these families every day. The limited services and lack of resources are really evident while at the same time, there is a great emphasis on a trusted community you can depend on – a value of many rural towns. Through meeting some local families, hearing their voices and looking into their eyes, I could also feel the frustration and isolation they face.

I drove the hour or so drive from the Tablelands to Cairns which is the regular journey many families take for therapy and other medical appointments. Making that journey reminded me of the inequity of healthcare for many people in remote areas of Australia.

4. What challenges did you face (if any) while educating families about the benefits and logistics of online therapy, and how did you overcome them?

I think some families found it hard to visualise how therapy would translate to online and some of them seemed hesitant about how it would benefit their child. I talked to them about how we use parent coaching and how the video sessions allow us to see into their homes so that we can better understand their daily challenges. I took the opportunity to show them how we bring the magic, the creative therapy ideas, and support them in every way to implement strategies and tools to help their children. It’s through these tools that we can coach parents on how to help their children to cope, problem-solve and thrive! 

Being able to shake their hands and speak to them face-to-face was incredibly helpful for introducing them to online therapy and helping them to know that it’s real people, just behind a screen.

5. From your perspective, how can online therapy bridge the gap in accessing high-quality care for clients in remote and regional areas like the Tablelands?

One of the biggest benefits of online therapy for clients located in remote areas is regular and consistent access to therapy. Often face-to-face consultations are limited to monthly or even less frequent visits from visiting practitioners. Most of the practitioners that visit remote towns are generalists and likely not to have access to a great deal of professional support which means families could be seeing the practitioner that’s available, not the one that’s best suited to their needs and goals.

6. What is your favourite part of working with Therapy Connect?

Well, I am proud to be a part of a brand with such clinical excellence, that delivers high-quality care, no matter where you live. While all of the 80+ Therapy Connect practitioners work remotely, from all corners of the country, we are part of a team. We support each other within the team and the organisation supports us with continuous professional development and learning. 

It’s just so reassuring to be in such a great team!

7. Anything else you want to share?

I hope more remote towns can open their hearts, homes and minds to us in the future so that we can make a big difference to their lives!

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Picture of Libby Wright

Libby Wright

Libby is a passionate and collaborative operations people leader with 10 years experience in the healthcare industry. Libby worked as a physiotherapist for a number of years before completing a Master of Commerce at UNSW to move into operational leadership. Libby has experience in leadership, strategy, change management, business development, quality and compliance, and business integration. For the last few years, Libby has worked in the NDIS leading teams in growing allied health organisations to deliver a high-quality service to clients whilst achieving key business objectives.


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