Beth Holzer graduated from Otago Polytechnic in 2018 and soon started her career as an Occupational Therapist.
Beth won the Excellence in Occupational Therapy Clinical Practice Award at the recent peer awards ceremony at the OTNZ Conference in Dunedin, which was accepted on her behalf by her sister, Amy – a first year OT student in Dunedin.
Beth shares with us her journey as an Occupational Therapist and what winning the award meant to her.
How did you come to be an Occupational Therapist at Hutt Valley Child Development Service?
“I graduated from Otago Polytechnic in 2018 and my first job as an Occupational Therapist was at Haumietiketike and Hikitia Te Wairua Unit which is a Forensic Intellectual Disability Service for youth and adults. I thoroughly enjoyed this role and would have loved to stay longer, however I always knew I wanted to work in Paediatrics, so when the opportunity came up at the Child Development Service I could not turn it down. I will have been at the Hutt Valley Child Development Service for 5 years in January!”
What inspired you to become an OT?
“There was not one moment or one person that inspired me to become an Occupational Therapist, however when I think back now, there are a few roles, responsibilities, and experiences that shaped my passion for the profession.
When I was a little girl, my dream was always to be somehow involved in the medical field. I would wrap my dollies and soft toys up in bandages, create breathing devices for them and makeshift wheelchairs, but the part that always interested me was getting them back to the tea party after their toy hospital stay.
It was the supporting people (or toys at this time) to regain function, or get back to those important events or roles (tea parties are important and must not be missed!) that really interested me.
Looking back now, I suppose my love for Occupational Therapy was always there, I just didn’t know it yet. I am lucky enough to be a big sister to my three siblings, and this was and still is the most important role I will have in my life. Becoming a big sister and being there to walk alongside them on their journeys made me realise what an honour it is to be a part of, not only the good moments, but the tough ones too. I would say this is a role that lead me to Occupational Therapy.
Another experience that inspired me to be an Occupational Therapist was when my grandad was very ill in the hospice. I was around 8-years-old at the time and trying to make sense of the whole situation, but one thing I always wanted to do was to spark fun and joy in that setting. I remember the nurses and staff at the hospice who I looked up to because they would play balloon volleyball with my Gramps, and give him simple tasks, such as making cups of tea for visitors. This inspired me to do similar, so the next time I visited I brought a paper dice I had spent hours making; each side with a different silly activity or task to do. We all took turns rolling it and doing what it said. I will never forget the laughs and smiles through the tears that day.
I may not have fully understood what an Occupational Therapist was at that point, but I did understand by engaging in the activity/occupation that day, my Gramps was definitely better for it.”
Can you briefly explain the role of an OT?
“As described by the NZ Occupational Therapy Board “Occupations are the activities and tasks of everyday life. These include things people do to look after themselves, to enjoy themselves, and to contribute to the social and economic fabric of their communities. Occupational therapy is the art and science of helping people take part in everyday living through their occupations. It is also about fostering health and wellbeing, and about creating a just and inclusive society so that everyone can participate to their fullest potential.”
What this means to me is walking alongside people, families, and communities to provide support, coaching, and empowerment at the times that they need and in the areas they would like to improve so they can do their everyday things.
My role here at the Hutt Valley Child Development Service involves many different areas, including safety assessments, equipment provision, housing modifications, developmental assessments, sensory processing education, self-care development, and running groups on various topics. What stands out in all of these areas is the perspective of the Occupational Therapist helping to[IM achieve this for the children, families, and communities in the way they want.”
What does a normal day look like for you?
“It would be impossible to describe a “normal” day in my role. I get the pleasure of working alongside so many children and families who are all on different journeys and at different stages in their journeys. Due to the different areas we work in, this involves seeing children and families at the clinic; completing home visits; and visiting kindergartens, day-cares, and schools.”
Tell us about the OTNZ award you've recently won, and what it means to you.
“I was honoured to win the Excellence in Occupational Therapy Clinical Practice award[IM . I was nominated by my talented colleague Vibiana Ortiz, who also works here at the Hutt Valley Child Development Service.
Vibiana is such an inspiration to me and has taught me so much and continues to do so every day, both in her knowledge of important Occupational Therapy theories, as well as her passion for the profession.
Winning this award was a huge shock to me, but an even bigger honour. I am truly passionate about Occupational Therapy clinical practice and the role I fill here at the Hutt Valley Child Development Service, and to be recognised for my day-to-day work, that I pour my heart into, could not be a bigger pleasure.
My little sister, Amy, collected the award on my behalf as I wasn’t able to make it down to be present myself. This was such a proud moment for me, having Amy receive the award on my behalf, as she is one of my biggest supporters and has always encouraged me to be my best self. To say I am proud of Amy would be an understatement and I cannot wait to see where her journey takes her, wherever that may be”
Who's someone you look up to from a work perspective?
“I could not pick one single person, as throughout my journey as an Occupational Therapist I have been lucky enough to work alongside some of the most inspirational and talented Occupational Therapists and other professionals.
Every single person I have worked with has taught me something incredibly valuable that I will always hold on to. I have so many role models surrounding me who shape me all the time to be the best Occupational Therapist I can be, but also allow me to build my path and find my own identity as a therapist.”
The theme for Allied Health Professions Day is Stronger Together. How does that resonate with you in your work-life collaborating with other Allied Health groups?
“I have the privilege of working alongside a fabulous Multidisciplinary team here at the Hutt Valley Child Development Service. Our team is built up of Occupational Therapists, Physiotherapists, Speech and Language Therapists, Visiting Neurodevelopmental Therapists, Allied Health Assistants, Psychologists, Developmental Coordinators, Developmental Paediatricians, Team Administrator and Manager.
To say we are stronger together would be an understatement; the ability of the team to work together in shared decision making, joint client work, collaborative discussions, and most importantly put together the best shared lunches, is unbelievable!
I believe working with a collaborative and supportive team is one of the most valuable tools when supporting children and families, but also the wellbeing of the team members, and I think the Hutt Valley Child Development Service does this very well.