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Neurological Practice

Rehabilitation in the military

Katherine Brockman, Occupational Therapist

I am an Occupational Therapist working at DMRC Headley Court within Neurological Rehabilitation – so my perspective of intervention is from the Neuro caseload.

This year marks 100 years since the start of The First World War, and it offers an opportunity to reflect on the changes our profession has seen. Occupational Therapy has drastically changed since the times of WWI. Over the years our profession has seen several paradigm shifts: Currently, rehabilitation in the military focuses on maximising function in all areas including work, home and society. Therapy is tailored around each individual’s identified difficulties and goals, with therapists creating/adapting tasks suitably. Tasks range from education into difficulties, management strategies, community access with use of public transport and setting projects to demonstrate new learning, presentation skills and planning.

As well as changes in our profession; there has been a change in the type of conflict and injuries we see. Medical advances have meant that more of our injured are surviving, at times with complex injuries and needs. This change in the types of injury seen has meant that we have had to adapt our interventions, and continually work on service development to ensure that we are able to offer the best possible therapy for our patients.

With a working age caseload and the current plans for our forces in the future, it has become even more vital that we focus on vocational rehabilitation, ensuring that our patients returning to military employment are fit for their role and able to have a fulfilling career.

Intervention focuses on what will give the individual a fulfilling life with meaning. The knowledge that occupation is key for health and well being is widely accepted in our profession: Therefore, if it is not possible for our patients to return to their previous military role they are supported in identifying a future vocational plan (this can be in paid or voluntary work). Patients are supported in identifying the knowledge and key skills they have to offer by completing assessments on their abilities (physical, cognitive and psychological). These along with their highlighted areas of interest are used to help identify possible areas of vocation.

Of course, as therapists there is always the balance to strike of remaining client centred, whilst ensuring that safety is maintained, and realistic goals are set. I would say that this is the most challenging aspect, as our patients are used to being at a high level of physical ability and working within high risk situations.

I find my role at DMRC Headley Court fulfilling, and I am proud of what my profession achieves with each and every patient that we treat. It is a rare occurrence where we as OTs have such a high level of facilities and opportunities afforded to us. I have no doubt that in another 100 years our profession will yet again have changed the way we treat our military patients and I am excited to play a role in that process.

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