In the vast and varied profession of Occupational Therapy (OT) many OTs may not have considered a career in wheelchair services. It’s an equally varied specialism, mirroring the breadth of the OT profession. Troubled by complicated commissioning, resulting in a postcode lottery of provision; this has given rise to some negative press in recent years. However, when you unpick wheelchair services, you see the complex depths of wheelchair prescription is completely individual; and why wouldn’t it be, no two people are the same or have the same requirements from a wheelchair.
As a specialist service, every day is different. It’s such a varied and challenging role, which requires strong problem-solving skills and creativity to think outside the box. There’s a wide range of equipment, which is updating all the time in line with technology developments, so there’s always new things to learn. As a Wheelchair Therapist, you have the added value of working autonomously but also within a supportive team.
Each day’s a mixture of appointments, mostly in clinic with all the required facilities of ceiling track hoists, bariatric plinths, and a range of assessment equipment. When required, we also carry out appointments in service users’ homes or in schools and day centres. The service provides everything from a standard transit wheelchair to custom moulded seating and powered wheelchairs with head switches and chin controls. We even have some clients who drive their powered wheelchair using their big toe! When not in clinic, the day involves researching solutions, creating bespoke wheelchair prescriptions, answering queries on the duty desk, and providing training and support.
At Millbrook Healthcare, we’re committed to keeping people mobile and supporting their posture in the best way possible for them to live a functional life. Within this remit, we also consider and assess risk for development of pressure ulcers. We have a pressure-mapping kit, which assists us to determine where the risks are and helps to guide us to appropriate solutions. This can be through provision of pressure relieving cushions but also looking at positioning and providing advice and education.
Our team is committed to raising the profile of the specialist area and therefore, we regularly take OT students on practice placement and provide approved prescriber training to therapists from other teams who can then prescribe basic equipment.
Being a Wheelchair Therapist is a real opportunity to provide the core goals of independence and participation that are the heart of occupational therapy, because if someone is unable to move themselves or support their body in sitting, how can they actively engage in occupation, when all their energy is wasted trying to stay upright? By providing that stability and independent movement, we enable people to live their fullest life. If you love problem solving and seeing immediate outcomes of the changes you can make to someone’s posture and mobility, then perhaps it’s time to consider a role in the wheelchair service.