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CQUni knows Shanae

Shanae Zanda

Shanae Zanda
Bachelor of Occupational Therapy (Honours)

I took a year off because I wasn't really sure what I wanted to do. I wanted something where I could help people. I liked the health industry and I wanted a job that allowed for creativity. I also liked the idea of potential travel because I didn’t really want to be confined to a certain space every day. I basically came up with all the aspects I wanted in a career and job, and occupational therapy pretty much hit the mark with all of those.

CQUni brought out Occupational Therapy [as a course] and it was fully accredited the year I started, so I jumped in and gave it a go. I love the fact that it’s so broad, although it’s relatively new. We deal with the mental health issues and the behavioural issues. It goes across all age groups and I just really love the versatility. Being a loyal Rocky girl, location was a big factor for me. I could stay in the job that I had in my gap year, and I could also be around family. It’s obviously a lot more affordable than moving away, plus you have your contacts and it’s where I’ve grown up. It’s been fantastic.

CQUni has done great things and the facilities are amazing, so I was happy to stay and study here. I think the small classes are a bonus because obviously you get to interact with everyone. The lecturers always know your name and are more willing to spend more time with you because you’re not one of a hundred. I’m one of 10 at the Rockhampton campus, so you get to have discussions with them and they share their experiences. So, even though we may have set about 10 hours a week [of contact time], you usually find that you’re getting more than that because they’re so accessible.

The lecturers are really good. They really get to know you and help out a lot. They’re always here. They’ve got great experience in the field and I’ve found that they’ve given us a diverse array of lectures, all specialised in different areas, which is fantastic. They’re happy for you to walk into their office and have a chat or send them emails. We’ve had a number of conversations with lecturers outside class time about experiences they’ve had, and they’re happy to stick around and put in extra time with you. It’s a great support system.

The placement opportunities are the practical element of the course. Being local, we get to go around to a lot of community organisations and schools for day placement – CQUni does that really well. Even when we’re in class, we’ve had scenarios where we’ve had children come in so we can practice paediatric assessments on them. There’s no better way to learn than to take the theory we’ve learned and actually apply it to real-world situations.

The lecturers give us a lot of stories from their clinical experience which really helps because they tell us how they dealt with certain situations. You can read about it in a textbook but it’s not really the same. The unknown is difficult, because you never know what’s going to happen when you’re in placement. So that’s why I think they do so many practical elements with us, which is fantastic.

Sometimes you wonder whether you really know enough, but then when you go into the placement opportunities and you start to look at things in a different way, you realise that you’ve subtly picked up all these little skills that are really going to help. I do think that by the time I graduate I’ll be ready. Obviously, when you’re sitting down studying, it’s a different kind of scenario, so I’m really looking forward to the day where I can go into the workforce and use everything I’ve learned and actually apply it. I’m very excited about graduating.

I am really interested in paediatrics; I love working with children. Our last placement was in a primary school and I thoroughly enjoyed that. I love that it’s play-based. Activities and games are centred around understanding a child’s development and whether they’re on track or not. We learn a lot about the developmental milestones and I just I really enjoy that skill aspect with children. I’d love to work in schools as an OT, but I’m more than happy for this job to go anywhere because experience is experience, and I have enjoyed every field we’ve touched.

I would say that I have some of the qualities that I think are potentially very important to being an OT. I think you need to have compassion, empathy and creativity in terms of intervention, plus problem-solving. The creative aspect comes in handy when working with children. You’ll be sitting down playing with them and doing an activity, but they can’t be aware of anything else that’s going on. You’ve got to be very creative in the way that you approach scenarios and situations.

I also think that when you have a client and you looking for an intervention plan or treatment pathway, you need to be creative in the way that you do it because you often have to deal with a lot of behavioural issues. It’s all about the way that you think. OT is very holistic in its approach; it’s not a pull-out-a-book-and-this-is-what-you-do-for-this-condition type of thing. You have to look at the way it impacts every individual and the environmental impact.

In five years, I would ideally be out working as an occupational therapist. In my ideal world, I’d be in a school working with children.

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