Celebrating our allied health professionals

Today is International Allied Health Professional’s Day, a celebration of allied health staff and the important work they do. Across the Network, there are 17 different professions that make up Allied Health, providing a diverse range of skills to help children and young people live their healthiest lives. These areas include Art Therapy, Audiology, Child Life Therapy, Exercise Physiology, Genetic Counselling, Music Therapy, Nuclear Medicine Technology, Nutrition and Dietetics, Occupational Therapy, Orthotics, Orthoptics, Pharmacy, Physiotherapy, Psychology, Radiography, Social Work and Speech Pathology.

In celebration of the day, some of our allied health professionals talk about their work at SCHN:

Dr Cathryn Crowle, Senior Occupational Therapist and Co-Lead of Research in Grace NICU

What does your role involve?

My role in Grace NICU is complex and varied, encompassing inpatient and outpatient work, teaching, and research. In the Grace NICU I complete neurological and neurobehavioural assessments of infants, provide individualised developmental programs and prescribe specialised positioning equipment to support an infant’s development. I work with families to bond with their baby in an acute care setting, which can be challenging for parents following their baby’s major surgery in the first days of life. In the multidisciplinary Grace Development Clinic, I provide formal developmental assessment and follow-up for Grace infants, until the age of three years.

I also provide regular teaching to allied health, nursing and medical colleagues on specialised infant assessment tools and am fortunate that my role has a research component embedded, which allows me to explore effective and evidenced based OT practice.

Why are allied health professionals an important part of SCHN?

Allied health professionals bring specialised knowledge and skills from their specific disciplines to the care of each infant, child or adolescent. For occupational therapy this could include expert knowledge in upper limb rehabilitation and hand splinting, complex wheelchair prescription, assessment and interventions for developmental disability or in the area of adolescent mental health. Ultimately, the input from allied health professionals leads to better health outcomes and quality of life for children and their families.

At SCHN the allied health professionals play the additional role of supporting colleagues in the community through peer support, advice and mentoring, due to level of expertise and experience we are fortunate to have across all our allied health disciplines.

You have also carried out research in the Grace NICU. What did your research involve?

My PhD research explored the early identification of infants at risk of poor neurodevelopmental outcomes such as cerebral palsy. This research was focused on the use of the General Movements assessment. The results of my research have changed our clinical practice and have allowed us to refer infants to specialised therapy services much earlier, often in the first months of life. I have been fortunate to share these results via international conferences and publications, and this has led to my ongoing research and collaborations with colleagues around Australia and overseas to continue to improve the developmental outcomes for high risk infants.

In my role as co-lead of research in Grace I work with a dedicated multidisciplinary team that strives to lead practice through research and knowledge translation to improve clinical care and outcomes for the infants in our care and their families.

Dr Adam Johns, Clinical Psychologist at Child and Family East (CAFE), SCH

What does your role involve?

CAFE is a community mental health service for children between 0 and 12 years of age, and their families. Allied health professionals feature in the clinical care provided by our service. We are predominantly staffed by Social Workers and Clinical Psychologists, and provide integrated multidisciplinary care to families by collaborating with Clinical Psychologists and Neuropsychologists, Social Workers, Speech Therapists, Dieticians, and Occupational Therapists from other services at SCH. My role in the team involves conducting mental health assessments and interventions for a range of behavioural, emotional, social and adjustment-related concerns experienced by children and their families. I also facilitate group programs, conduct research, and offer mental health education to professionals, parents and postgraduate clinical psychology students. I really enjoy working in a team to improve the wellbeing of children and families.

Why are allied health professionals an important part of SCHN?

Allied Health professionals are an extremely important part of mental health services at SCHN. Evidence shows that mental health care is most effective when integrated multidisciplinary support is provided to families, particularly as the complexity of the presenting issues increase. Each allied health profession offers a specialised skillset, and is experienced working within multidisciplinary teams and providing coordinated responses, to support the wellbeing of children and their families. They also make unique and important contributions to the advocacy, research and education activities of the hospital. SCHN would be unable to provide world-leading evidence-based care to children and families without the involvement of its allied health professions.

Katie Geering, Head Orthoptist, SCHN

What does your role involve?

My role involves managing a team of orthoptists at both Westmead and Randwick. The orthoptic department assesses all children prior to the ophthalmologist assessment. We quantify vision and ascertain if a child has straight eyes. We implement therapy as required and follow children up to ensure their vision is developing. We work alongside many multidisciplinary teams such as neurology, oncology, craniofacial, rehabilitation and genetics. We are passionate at providing patient focused care at the highest level.

My specific role is made up of predominantly clinical work, with some administration. I maintain a high patient caseload while managing the departments. We work alongside the ophthalmology department and together the two departments form the eye clinic. I also perform electrophysiology which is a test to determine if the optic nerve and retina are working. This helps to diagnose various eye conditions. This is a highly skilled area of orthoptics and CHW is the only location in NSW that provides solely paediatric electrophysiology.

Why are allied health professionals an important part of SCHN?

Allied health professionals have a specific body of knowledge that goes hand-in-hand with the medical teams. Allied health professionals are important in the detection, diagnosis, assessment and treatment of all paediatric eye conditions. The AH departments across the Network are outstanding and ensure that we can provide a high level of patient care for those that need it most.