SCU graduate opens occupational therapy practice in Coffs Harbour

SCU graduate Sophie Cameron has been tasked with opening a new occupational therapist service, Health Works NSW, in Coffs Harbour.

SOUTHERN Cross University graduate Sophie Cameron is spearheading a new occupational therapy service in Coffs Harbour, Health Works NSW, where demand for the service is at all-time high.

With an office in the Innovation Hub at the Coffs Harbour Education Campus (CHEC), Sophie’s work takes her mostly off-site to see participants in their own environments whether that is at their home, in the community, at school, in the workplace or a day program.

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“By meeting a participant in their own environments, it not only makes them feel more comfortable however also allows me to see what their daily life is like which makes the services we as occupational therapists provide more person centred,” Sophie told News Of The Area.

The arrival of the service has been received with positive feedback.

“Mostly the feedback has been a sense of relief from the participants and their supports about being able to finally engage with an occupational therapist as most have been on waiting lists for some time.

“I enjoy sitting down with the participant and their family/support and having conversations about what their goals are and what they would like to see out of engaging with an occupational therapist.

“This way I can ensure that their vision is what drives the services I provide, and I have been told that this person-centred care is very much appreciated by those who are often silenced when it comes to decisions about their lives.”

Occupational therapy is often about giving someone the tools and strategies to help themselves and become more independent, which is why Sophie loves it so much.

“We are empowering others to achieve their goals, not achieving them for them.”

Sophie cites mentors who have supported her along her learning journey eventuating to this opportunity to start up a branch of Health Works NSW in Coffs Harbour.

“Throughout my journey at Southern Cross University I had amazing support from my family, peers and lecturers.

“At Southern Cross University all of my lecturers had been practising occupational therapists themselves therefore they were able to give me practical skills that were vital in my learning journey.”

She believes studying at a regional university provides opportunities and connections that have been important for her career.

“I worked throughout my degree as an Allied Health Assistant at several businesses in Coffs Harbour which I believe gave me great experience and connections to be able to now have this opportunity.”

Sophie and her classmates were the first to graduate from the Bachelor of Occupational Therapy in Coffs Harbour in 2022 with the cohort achieving a 100 percent employment rate.

“I’m just starting out and learning about what I can offer to meet people’s needs here in Coffs – mainly with NDIS clients, from kids through to the elderly – with things like equipment prescriptions, functional capacity assessment, housing recommendations, workplace assessment and skill development.

“The biggest thing I’ve noticed is how excited people are to finally be seeing an occupational therapist, because there is such a long wait time with huge demand all over Australia.”

Associate Professor Jacqui Yoxall, Chair of Allied Health at Southern Cross, said demand for allied health professionals such as occupational therapists and speech pathologists is at an all-time high, with some consumers waiting over a year for an appointment.

ABS Census Data released in late 2022 showed Occupational Therapy is one of the fastest growing professions, having experienced strong growth of 57 percent between 2016 and 2021 (approximately seven percent per annum), with demand for occupational therapists continuing to outstrip supply.

“Southern Cross University has long been an advocate for increased Allied Health services in the Coffs Coast region, and we are producing high-quality graduates who have immersive real-world experience ready for the workforce,” Associate Professor Yoxall said.

To contact Sophie, email or phone 0458 127 589.


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