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Occupational Therapists Bring Hospital To Home

Occupational therapist Michelle Combridge and patient Mary Phelan.  Image Supplied 

When Oonoonba resident Mary Phelan had a total knee replacement, the thought of returning home filled her with anxiety.

“This entire experience was new for me,” Mary said.

“I’ve had minor surgeries before but this was my first major surgery where I’ve had to deal with an enormous amount of pain.

“I was also nervous because I didn’t know if my kids would be able to come down and stay with me after the surgery to give me a hand.”

Enter Townsville Hospital occupational therapist Michelle Combridge who is part of Hospital to Home, a trial program aimed at helping patients return home sooner, and better supporting them after hospital.

“Hospital to Home is a three-person team of occupational therapists, dedicated to enabling patients return home in a supported way” Michelle said.

“It’s about providing patients with comprehensive support to get them back in their own homes sooner.”

Michelle said the program was about providing a person-centred approach to care.

“While reviewing a patient on the hospital ward is important, being able to see them in their own home has so many added benefits,” she said.

“You are essentially taking someone from the artificial hospital environment where they feel out of their comfort zone and in an unfamiliar place, and into their own homes, a place where they feel safe and empowered.

“We’ve found patients are much more responsive to foundations and strategies for change, and for us, being able to be in the patient’s space allows us to provide more practical and comprehensive solutions and trouble-shoot problems that may not have been considered while the patient was in hospital.

“This model also reduces the risk of re-presenting to hospital and provides patients with a more long-term plan for their ongoing care.

'"Patients have reported a seamless transition from hospital to home” Michelle said Mary was one of 46 patients who had been seen by the service in the past 10 weeks.

“We’ve had a lot of positive feedback about the service and so far have received 116 referrals, completed 96 home visits and touched base by phone on 75 occasions,” she said.

“Even just providing a patient with a point of contact should they need it makes people visibly calmer about returning to their homes after surgery.”

Mary said the Hospital to Home program had given her a lot more confidence after her surgery.

“The occupational therapist came to visit me on the ward while I was still in hospital and gave me a phone number to call if I had any problems,” Mary said.

“Just knowing that they were there if I needed them made a lot of difference.

“While I was in hospital we came up with some strategies like staying downstairs as much as possible and using my crutches to get upstairs to the kitchen.

“During my home visit they organised a bath chair for me and helped me work out the best ways of getting around the house.

"We also came up with a plan to help me look after myself after my daughters went back home.”

Michelle said Mary was doing incredibly well.  “After our initial hospital consultation with Mary, a home visit was arranged so that we could see her in her own home, to provide education to her and her carers, organise equipment to make her day-to-day living safer and more comfortable,” she said.

“Occupational therapists will always just be a phone call away for Mary, whether it’s another home visit, help over the phone, or connecting her with other health professionals to get any help she needs.”

Michelle said the model of care was very rewarding.  “Being invited into a person’s home and being a part of their recovery journey is a real privilege,” Michelle

“The whole team is passionate about patient care and are delighted to provide this service to the region.”