TDHS Enid O'Connor Year of the Nurse and Midwife web

‘I don’t say I come to work, I say I come to play’

Photo: TDHS Diversional Therapist/Activities Coordinator Enid O’Connor with the companion pets.

Enid O’Connor loves her job as a diversional therapist/activities coordinator so much she doesn’t even call it work – she calls it play.

She started her nursing career in 1974 and has filled many roles, but found her calling in 2000 when she became Timboon and District Healthcare Service’s diversional therapist.

“My definition of the job is assisting people to enjoy the moment. I work with aged care residents, respite clients and also some acute patients to improve their wellbeing and daily outlook.

“It’s about validating their existence, tapping into past pleasures and encouraging them to continue doing things they’ve always enjoyed.

“For example, we have a lady who gets her hair done every week. It’s a past pleasure and she enjoys it so it’s wonderful for her wellbeing.

“I spend time with people to work out what these beneficial activities are for them and we work together to tap into them. It’s different for everyone and a very rewarding job.”

Mrs O’Connor said pet therapy was something that had developed over her time in the role and involved the use of high-tech simulated animals.

TDHS owns an orange tabby cat and golden retriever companion pets that mimic real animals, including a heartbeat, nuzzling, sounds, sleeping and head movements.

Thanks to built-in sensor technology, the companion pets respond to petting and motion much like real pets.

Mrs O’Connor said the two-way interaction helped create a personal experience that could bring fun, joy and friendship to people.

“You can tell straight away if the person is getting something out of it. You can see them smile without even knowing and petting them like they would any animal. It’s really lovely and provides some people with great comfort, security and reassurance,” she said.

“It’s these types of initiatives, and things like aroma therapy and podiatry assistance that I support people with. It’s different all the time.

“Sometimes we go for a drive, we do a lot of craft and the balcony is a place we tend to spend a lot of time because people connect with flowers, gardening and the social interaction that happens whilst that is happening.

“It’s even more important at the moment I think because friends and family have limited visitation access, but I can spend time with their loved ones and hopefully support their wellbeing and outlook on life.”

This story is our eighth monthly instalment to help mark 2020 the Year of the Nurse and Midwife.  The whole series can be found here

Nurses make up a significant proportion of our workforce and TDHS would not be able to run without their dedication, skill and compassionate care. We are very excited to be celebrating their valuable contributions throughout the year. We hope you join us in recognising and thanking our nurses.  

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