Introducing… an occupational therapist

Introducing… an occupational therapist

Lisa White is an occupational therapist in the Child & Youth Mental Health Program at McMaster Children’s Hospital. She has worked at Hamilton Health Sciences for three years.

Favourite colour: yellow/ book: The Book Thief by Markus Zusak/ vacation spot: anywhere with good hiking and a view/ music: all kinds! indie folk tends to be my go-to/ animal: a cuddly Labrador Retriever/ food: homemade tacos with all the fixings/ holiday: Christmas

What does a typical day at work look like for you?
I usually get to work at about 8am. I spend a few minutes at my desk catching up on emails and checking my patient list to see which new patients I need to meet with that day.

I meet with the interdisciplinary team during morning rounds, after which I spend the bulk of the day completing various patient care tasks. This includes meeting with patients and families, talking with patients’ school support providers, and collaborating with team members and community partners to facilitate comprehensive discharge plans for patients.

I try to protect some time in my day to work on program development initiatives. Each day is different, which I find both challenging and exciting.

“I feel so privileged to have daily opportunities to help individuals identify their goals, to determine what’s getting in the way, and to use creative and innovative approaches to help them get there.”

What made you enter your field of work?
The philosophies at the root of Occupational Therapy are what drew me in. At the core, OT focuses on enabling individuals to engage fully in the components of life that are most meaningful to them, often related to self-care, productivity, and leisure. I feel so privileged to have daily opportunities to help individuals identify their goals, to determine what’s getting in the way, and to use creative and innovative approaches to help them get there.

I also appreciate that the job of an OT is quite varied depending on their focus, where they work and who they work with. I love working in the mental health sector, and at the same time I appreciate having the flexibility to take my OT skill set with me to other areas of practice.

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What do you love most about your job?
I enjoy the newness and unpredictability that each day brings. I also very much enjoy working on an interdisciplinary team. I learn so much from my colleagues and see firsthand the benefits of comprehensive, team-orientated patient care.

Finally, I enjoy the regular opportunities I have to advocate on behalf of my patients. This includes educating schools and community partners about mental health challenges in children and youth and ensuring they have the supports they need to engage in and succeed in their daily activities.

“It really puts into perspective how serious and tormenting mental health challenges can be for individuals and their families.”

Describe your most challenging days at work.
It is most challenging when I learn that we’ve lost a patient we’ve cared for. It really puts into perspective how serious and tormenting mental health challenges can be for individuals and their families. I hate to think that people can feel so hopeless as to believe there is no other way out of their illness or present challenges.

What do you do after work to unwind?
I just recently started biking to and from work and have found this to be a great outlet for me. I intentionally take the longer routes so I have more time to mindfully take in the beautiful scenery and wildlife along my commute.

What do you do to keep yourself energized at work?
In my spare time, I enjoy playing music whenever I can – mostly guitar, piano, ukulele, and singing (when I feel brave enough). A few years ago I started a glee club as a staff morale boosting initiative for our team with a group of colleagues. We get together over lunch once a week to play music and be silly together, as a way to unwind, recharge, and engage in some jovial self-care and camaraderie.

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Tell us about your most gratifying experience at HHS.
Because I typically work with patients for such a short period of time, I don’t commonly hear from them after they leave our care. However, there have been a few times when former patients have come back to visit the team to express gratitude for the support they received and share with us their amazing progress and recovery. To see them after having come through such a dark time in their life is so amazing and gratifying. It makes me proud of the work we do, and more importantly, the work they do.

Another aspect of my role that I really enjoy is the team-oriented nature of my work. I work closely with so many compassionate, dedicated, and skilled professionals, including social workers, psychologists, psychiatrists, teachers, nurses, child & youth workers, and more. I am always learning from my team members and spurred on by their dedication and passion.

What are your short and long term career goals?
Given my growing experience supporting children and youth with transitioning back to school, I would love to have the opportunity to work in a post-secondary setting to support college or university students who may require accommodations to engage in academic and student life.