Rural Occupational Therapy

Occupational Therapists

October 19, 2020

Meet Josie (left) and Darolyn

What made you want to work in a rural environment?

Josie: Initially, I lived and worked in Calgary but never felt “settled” there. We moved to Okotoks and I loved its community spirit, but it was growing rapidly and I wanted more space for gardening and raising my kids. Both my husband and I grew up in a rural setting (he is my high school sweetheart) so we were always looking for opportunities to move back home.

The chance came in 1998 when we made the “big move” back to Castor and we truly have no regrets. It has been a wonderful place to raise our three children, we are close to family and now are farming full-time! I truly feel at home in Castor and would not choose to live anywhere else in the world.

Darolyn: When I was in my first year of studies at the University of Alberta, two of our occupational therapy professors had attended the inaugural meeting of the Physically Challenged Farmers of Alberta. My professors talked about how the majority of the farmers involved in the organization mentioned that they returned to farming in spite of their rehabilitation professionals, not because of them.

I can still picture myself sitting in the lecture hall and vowing to be an occupational therapist that would champion the wellbeing of farmers. - Darolyn

After growing up on a farm and marrying a man with roots in a rural community, I knew my first-hand experience could help me serve rural Albertans. The longer I live and work in this very rural community, the more passionate I become about advocating for my clients so they can get the best care available to them, regardless of their distance from a major city. Bigger is not always better!

What do you love about working as a rural occupational therapist?

Josie: There are so many ways I could answer that question. I think the biggest thing I love is that I truly know my clients. When I worked in the city, it was difficult to fully understand a client’s home environment and their challenges. I find in rural practice you are able see clients in all aspects of their life, which makes it easier to really make a difference in their independence. It is also easier to remain client centered.

Darolyn and I do a small lecture on rural practice to occupational therapy students at the University of Alberta and the University of Calgary. In that lecture we explain the following: “You may be treating your best friend’s grandmother, she may have made you cookies when you were young and you already have a connection with her personally.” That kind of connection helps you build a very strong therapeutic relationship with clients.

I love the fact that I may see someone for home safety early on due to a recent fall, then they are admitted to acute care and I already know their home situation. I may see them in the lodge, and eventually in long term care as they age.

All this amounts to my earlier statement… I truly know my clients because I work rurally. - Josie

Darolyn: I love being able to provide a service that would be more difficult for my clients to receive if I didn't live and work in this area. I love the variety of my caseload and being involved with my clients through their whole continuum of care. As with most rural occupational therapists, I work in multiple environments from home care and acute care to outpatient, supportive living, and long term care. Because I work in these different environments, I might see a client as an outpatient for a splint, then I realize that they need to have a home assessment for bathroom equipment. I can refer the client to myself and see them for home care. Later, the client may end up in acute care, and discharge planning is more efficient because I know the client and their home already. Eventually they may be admitted to long term care and by then we have a rapport developed over, sometimes, many years of interactions.

I have been working in east central Alberta for over 30 years and I have at least two clients that I have seen in various capacities off and on for all those years. I really do love being a rural generalist. I have fantastic stories from my work and have met some amazing people over the years.

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