October is Occupational Therapy Month, and to celebrate this profession, we head west to the community of Prince Rupert, where occupational therapist (OT) Jayme Peel and her young family have recently settled down. It was an exciting move for Jayme, who arrived in Prince Rupert with her husband and daughter in May of 2023 from Saskatchewan. The ocean and mountains took some getting used to, especially since she grew up around wheat fields in Selkirk, Manitoba and had spent her entire nine-year OT career to this point in the prairies.
Her husband’s desire to return to BC, coupled with Prince Rupert’s need for an occupational therapist, led Jayme west to a rewarding, life-changing opportunity with Northern Health.
Currently, Jayme is the sole occupational therapist at Prince Rupert Regional Hospital. She splits her time between providing generalist care in both acute and long-term care settings and serving as the lead clinical educator for the PRISM (Prince Rupert Interprofessional Student-led Model) Clinic, a partnership between Northern Health and the University of British Columbia (UBC) Department of Occupational Science & Occupational Therapy.
“I love every aspect of being an occupational therapist. Working with seniors to build their independence and safety is one of the most rewarding parts of the job,” said Jayme. “My goal with the position is to enhance the services that we can provide, while educating the students.”
“The impact of a clinical instructor in Prince Rupert is a win-win for student learning and client care,” said Donna Drynan, Associate Head, Fieldwork and Clinical Faculty Affairs, Department of Occupational Science and Occupational Therapy, UBC. “More clients will be able to receive service when the OT hosts two students for each practicum block. We are thrilled that Prince Rupert will be one of the most productive placement sites for occupational therapy in the province, and that the people of Prince Rupert will be contributing to the development of future occupational therapists while they receive additional quality care.”
What is occupational therapy?
“We look at an occupation as an activity,” explained Jayme. “An occupation might be something you need to do to take care of yourself, like self-care, bathing and toileting, and then even being able to go to work, play, or attend school.”
Much of Jayme’s day-to-day work consists of helping people be as independent as possible while helping them perform a wide range of activities to the best of their abilities. Examples include modifying someone’s ability to access their bathroom, prepare meals, or brush their teeth.
Jayme adds that each client is unique and requires an individualized plan. “We look at their emotions, their physical abilities, and their goals and then we just take all of the pieces of the puzzle and try to put it together to enhance and improve their daily living.”
Being the only occupational therapist covering the acute and long-term care needs of a community of over 12,000 people is not easy. It has forced Jayme to focus her efforts on time management and appropriately prioritizing her case load. Each week on the job yields new victories, and these victories keep Jayme motivated.
“A good day for me means that a client has the ability to go home and live safely,” said Jayme, who has become something of an equipment and adaptation specialist during her career. “Just making sure that someone has the support and the equipment they need to move around easier, or to leave their house themselves and be more independent can make a big difference. If I’ve been able to help somebody do what they want or need to do in a given day, then it’s a good day in my world.”
A welcoming community
With a daughter thriving in kindergarten, and a husband who loves to fish, Prince Rupert and the Peel family are a great match.
“The people I’m working with and the people we’ve met here have all been very welcoming,” Jayme said. “I can’t say enough about the community and how supported I feel.”