UKZN students buckle down to catch up as Covid-19 restrictions ease

OCCUPATIONAL Therapy students from the University of KwaZulu-Natal have their work cut out for them as they try to catch up after losing three months of practical training during the Covid-19 lockdown.

Mount Edgecombe resident, Jenna Sutton who returned to the Sea Cow Lake Clinic recently said she is behind schedule.

Fourth year students like Sutton have four blocks to complete within a year-long period of practical training.

They are usually stationed in communities where they complete their psychiatric, physical, paediatric and community blocks.

“I am still on my second block when I should be near finishing my third block. For the rest of the year we will have no holidays until December as we try to catch up,” she said.

Sutton is stationed at the clinic, along with fellow student and Port Shepstone resident, Nobantu Cele.

The students explained that OT is centred around the rehabilitation process.

“There’s a saying: ‘Doctors save lives, OT’s make lives worth living.’ So once a doctor has finished treating a premature baby or finished a spinal chord injury operation, or a treated a patient with a hand injury, they refer the patient to a rehab team. These are just a few examples,” said Sutton.

Another aspect of an OT’s job is to promote health care in communities and early development in babies, said Cele.

“We screen babies to check they are reaching their developmental milestones. We also educate mothers about how to stimulate the babies at home. A lot of people don’t realise the importance of play time for the baby’s development. We educate the mothers about how to stimulate their baby through play, colours and speech,” added Cele.

Sutton added that OT also deals with psychiatric wellbeing.

“We do everything in our capacity to improve the patient’s capacity of life. Sometimes it’s focused very much on psychiatric assessments. Psychiatric illness affect patients so drastically that they can’t get out of bed and go to work. Sometimes they don’t see the need for medication. The process can include helping the patient to understand their illness and how their medication helps. Through prevocational rehabilitation, we try and accommodate a patient to return to work,” said Sutton.

The students have also been using the Blaumier concept to educate learners at Sea Cow Lake Secondary about health issues such as Covid-19 and teen pregnancy.

These methods have been translated into art therapy at the Denis Hurley Centre where the students have worked with homeless people and refugees from Burundi and Malawi to address issues such as drug addiction, depression and post traumatic stress.