Professional development grants for greater independence

  • Left: Driver-Trained Occupational Therapist Emma Tozana helps her clients to regain or retain their independence through driving. Right: Driver-Trained Occupational Therapist Emma Tozana and a client using a modified vehicle.

(Left): Driver-Trained Occupational Therapist Emma Tozana helps her clients to regain or retain their independence through driving.
(Right): Driver-Trained Occupational Therapist Emma Tozana and a client using a modified vehicle.

 

By
Rural Health West
Kerida Hodge,
General Manager,
Communications and Business Analytics
Issue
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People with disabilities and medical conditions in several of Western Australia’s most southern communities now have greater support to drive, thanks to driver-trained occupational therapist Emma Tozana, co-founder of Functional Revival in the Great Southern community of Albany.

Over the past few years, Emma has accessed funding through the Australian Government Department of Health and Aged Care’s Health Workforce Scholarship Program to become an Advanced Driver-Trained Occupational Therapist (DTOT).

An DTOT works with clients to assess their capacity or fitness to drive from a medical perspective, both off-road (in the clinic) and on-road (in a vehicle). An Advanced DTOT helps clients to manage medical conditions that may limit their ability to drive, across the spectrum of license classes from private car to heavy vehicle, or even to ride a motorcycle.

‘Driver assessment and training is recognised as an advanced scope of practice by Occupational Therapy (OT) Australia, and these services can only be provided by therapists with postgraduate driver qualifications.

‘Previously there was no-one who lived in the region who was qualified to undertake these assessments, and clients who required OT driving assessments needed to travel to Perth for evaluation,’ said Emma.

Rural Health West supported Emma, through the Health Workforce Scholarship Program, to complete additional qualifications and expand her scope of practice to better reflect the needs of her clients.

‘Undertaking this training has meant I can provide a service to the local community, where they can be assessed on roads familiar to them and avoid the stress of traffic density and conditions which don’t really exist in the country,’ said Emma.

With few other providers across rural Western Australia, Emma has also been asked to travel to locations such as Karratha, Esperance and Port Hedland to provide assessment services.

‘I’ve been contacted by NDIS service coordinators in other regions to support their clients close to home.

‘Many rural areas have minimal public transport or taxi services, so the ability to drive is also the ability to participate and connect with community.

‘For many clients, being able to drive or getting back on the road is critical to their independence and it has a real ripple effect. Having your licence improves your job prospects and that, in turn, improves [your] economic participation, and provides an overall positive benefit to health and happiness,’ explained Emma.

Emma has also completed her additional certification in driving instructor training. 

‘As the only DTOT in the Great Southern and Esperance regions, I am finding it challenging to find driving instructors to work with to ensure the full clinical and on-road assessments and further driver rehabilitation can be completed.

‘To overcome this, I have completed the driving instructor course so, if I do indeed find myself short of options from local driving instructors – or if I am going to remote locations such as Karratha or Esperance - I can provide the full assessment without barriers.’

Emma praised the financial support she received through the Health Workforce Scholarship Program for assisting her to provide these vital services to her community.

‘I am eternally grateful for the ongoing support that Rural Health West have given me – truly amazing.

‘I can extend this assistance to our local community in the Great Southern and beyond and will definitely support people to achieve their driving goals and independence, which is certainly critical in a regional and remote country locations.’

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