Wednesday, 28 June 2017

cOnnecT with Heather Franz

Why did you choose OT as a career?

To be honest, I kind of stumbled into it, I didn’t know what it was, but I started off as a rehab assistant. I took a combined OTA and PTA course, so I knew what I was getting into from a physio perspective but the more I learned about OT, the more I realized how interesting it is; you get to see the person as a whole and address so many different areas and try to help solve any issues. And the more I learned about it, the more I learned that that’s kind of what I did naturally throughout my life anyways. I always liked to help people and the idea of being able to help people have a better quality of life, no matter the problem, was really intriguing to me. Also from a professional perspective, the idea that occupational therapy as a field was so diverse that if I ever wanted a change I didn’t have to back to school. It gave me the foundational skills to make a big change in my profession but to still working within the same scope of practice.

What is your favourite thing about CAOT-BC?
I started my career out in a very unusual way, with very little support, so for me it was pivotal to know that I had a network of peers and a network of resources to pull from, because I didn’t have that in my first job. So I knew it was important, from that perspective, to have that network that you can call for help and guidance, and knowing there would be someone there.

What has been your most interesting job?
Viking Air, where I am now, is truly a unique role, and it might be the most unique role in my professional lifetime. I don’t think a lot of people have the opportunity to work in an area like this, at least not in BC where we don’t have a lot of manufacturing. So what’s so unique about it? Other than the obvious of working at an airplane manufacturing company…getting to apply ergonomics beyond an office based setting, getting to see production workers who are working with very unique tools and in interesting body positions, those sorts of things. It’s pretty great, being part of the team that is brainstorming ways to make things better. It’s a big learning curve, for sure. But the other unique element of it is seeing so many different aspects of OT, all in one job. It’s just me here, so in other settings you have a whole team of people helping you to figure out research and best practice, advocating for your time and support, not to mention actual hands on patient care, managing statistics and outcome measures. All of those sorts of things are usually done with as a team, but I do all of that here. It’s been a good challenge for me in asking for what I need, and proving why I need it. I have my hand in a lot of pots: from cognitive rehab and ergonomics, to musculoskeletal injury prevention and general health and wellness. And it’s great to have a company that helps and supports me. They hired me for a reason: they see the value in OT as a profession and they are willing to do as much as they can to assist me. It’s important for them to have their employees go home healthy and safe, and the fact that they hired an OT shows their dedication to their employees.

What has surprised or challenged you most about working as an OT?
I think building the confidence and building the skills for knowing how to effectively ask for what you need. At Viking Air, the company itself is also my client, so being able to balance what it needs, and what each individual worker might need, and how I support them is challenging. Things like keeping statistics is something that sometimes practitioners grumble about; they don’t always get to see how that information is used on their behalf, but I can see that, I do it and use it, and it’s one of my most valuable tools. Knowing how I’m spending my time allowed us as a company to figure out how to prioritize and optimize my skills and resources. Every company has limited resources, and we had to figure out where the most value would be added.

What might someone be surprised to know about you?
I’ve been practicing officially since January 2016, and to do date, I have had five students! Two of them I shared with another OT, and the rest I’ve done on my own. I think that’s something that I’m really happy I’ve done.

What do you do when you aren’t working?
Spending lots of time with friends and family, and right now, I’m planning my wedding - so that takes up a lot of my time. When things are a bit more normal, my fiancĂ© and I like hiking and camping, travelling, just getting outdoors. We have a trip planned out to Mount Robson to do the Berg lake trail this summer!

By Christl Bradley, fieldwork student with CAOT-BC

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