Quick-thinking students find cancer support solution - University of the Sunshine Coast, Queensland, Australia

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Quick-thinking students find cancer support solution

25 Jun 2020

Two USC Occupational Therapy students have refused to let the coronavirus pandemic derail their final university placement by quickly creating an online alternative to assist people with cancer stay connected and active in self-isolation.

The student-led “Staying Connected” program is enabling clients of Bloomhill Cancer Care on the Sunshine Coast to access telehealth services and participate in live yoga, meditation, Qi Gong and other virtual group activities through various online platforms.

Bloomhill Cancer Care Clinical Services Manager Trish Wilson said she was incredibly grateful the USC students were doing clinical placements at the centre when it had to stop direct contact with clients and quickly switch to online delivery in response to COVID-19.

“In the space of a week, the students and their USC supervisor did a 180-degree turnaround to adapt their clinical placement plan and develop a telehealth program to assist staff and clients to connect,” she said.

One of the students Hannah Moor, 21, of Buderim said suddenly being in the middle of a global pandemic just three weeks into her three-month placement provided a unique learning opportunity.

“By being flexible and adaptable, we were able to recognise a need and work in collaboration with USC and Bloomhill staff to deliver a service that is making a positive impact within the Bloomhill community,” the fourth-year student said.

“This has been a very stressful and anxious time for many people living with cancer whose immune systems are particularly vulnerable.

“As occupational therapists, we believe it is so important to help them to stay connected and continue engaging in activities that are meaningful to them from the safety of their homes.”

USC Clinical Placement Trainer Olivia Furniss said the students also adapted the occupational therapy services they would typically provide as part of their placement, using Zoom to work with clients to establish strategies to cope with cancer during the pandemic.

“The students assisted clients’ transition to staying at home, worked with some to develop routines to enable engagement in their meaningful occupations and implemented steps to manage some of the challenges of cancer treatment, such as fatigue and disrupted sleep.”

She said the skills the students had gained, such as learning to be creative and critical thinkers, responsive, adaptive and supportive, would be incredibly important as future occupational therapy practitioners.

“These are attributes that organisations want in their staff,” she said.

Hannah said the highlight of the experience was supporting vulnerable and isolated members of the community to stay connected with family and loved ones.

“One client ended up using Zoom to read bedtime stories to her grandchildren, while another who was unable to go out shopping due to COVID-19 used FaceTime to make sure her husband bought the correct brands while doing grocery shopping,” she said.

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