OT in Israel: An Interview with Shoshanah Shear

Occupational therapy in Israel. 

I am very happy to be kicking off a new interview series: OTs Around the World! 

There is much that we have to learn for each other and I'm confident that the flattening of our world will only make occupational therapy stronger as a profession.

I hope this interview series will be a part of that flattening and serve as an avenue to learn from each other and exchange ideas. 

Shoshanah Shear, an OT from Israel

An Interview with Shoshanah Shear, an OT Practicing in Israel

OT Potential: Tell me about your background as an occupational therapist. 

Shoshanah: I earned my BSc (hons), majoring in OT, from the University of Cape Town, in South Africa. This gave me outstanding grounding I really valued once I began to travel.

When I spent a year in the US, I took an advanced theory course in MOHO with Prof. Gary Kielhofner - an invaluable experience and opportunity.

I've worked in six cities and four countries in hospitals, schools, the community and privately.  

Today, I work privately, focusing on assisting women in the life roles of wife and mother. Most of my work now falls into the areas of prevention and promotion. 

OT Potential:  What fueled and motivated you during the early years of your career?

Shoshanah: To be honest, financial independence. My father died when I was in school and I needed an income. A career guidance counselor looked at my high school subjects and charity work and recommended OT. She could not explain what OT is; only that it combined art, science and helping people.

I wanted to study for a degree that would enable me to use my skills for good and earn what I needed to be independent.  

OT Potential: Tell me about your transition from working in SA to working in Israel. 

Shoshanah: My journey to Israel went via a major teaching hospital in South Africa, a hospital in the UK, an integrated school and vacation cover in a hospital in the US, and a hop back to SA.

When I arrived in Israel, I encountered a number of unforeseen challenges. Many people insisted I give up OT and clean houses, others assumed I would be racist (as a South African), and employers refused to pay properly for an experienced professional, or suggested I was too old!

The difficulty in gaining referrals here and the lack of understanding of OT worldwide prompted me to write a book to educate non-OTs about our wonderful profession.

That book changed everything: stepping into the indie-author world opened my eyes to new possibilities. With my varied international experience and a proactive and determined spirit, the setbacks I'd encountered became springboards for starting two blogs and developing my freelance and ghostwriting service. I write specifically on topics related to OT and for fellow OTs who lack the time or skills to produce their own material.

My long-term dream has always been to open an OT center. One of the biggest challenges is funding. But I have a goal and a new path to reach it, by sharing my experience through blogs and products that I sell online.

OT Potential: How has occupational therapy changed over the course of your career?

Shoshanah: Firstly, advances in technology have made the world a smaller place and enabled progress in the profession. I particularly enjoy being able to interact with and learn from OTs around the world, thanks to the development of professional groups on social networks.

Another major change is the expansion of the profession. Many more practice areas have opened up, along with a move towards prevention and promotion. Progress in Health and Wellness, Women's Health and Sustainability of Health are good examples. The addition of two areas to the domains and process has also enriched our profession.

I have always been quite progressive and it is wonderful to finally see advances into areas that I began implementing over 20 years ago.

OT Potential: What differences have you seen between how OT is practiced in different countries?

Shoshanah: I am very grateful to have trained in South Africa, where our all-round training included such activities as splint and pressure garment manufacture from scratch. I was often surprised by OTs in the US who were at a loss if a given company did not have the right size of splint or PG. I just got on with making my own. I also loved the fact that we learned Life Skills Training in SA which OTs in other countries had not. I find Life Skills Training invaluable with so many clients.

Working on a shoestring budget, as we often did in SA, I learned to be very innovative. I am creative by nature, so I enjoy coming up with new ideas or developing or designing equipment. I assumed it would be the same elsewhere, but am often surprised by how dependent other countries are on the availability of manufactured products, equipment, and so on.

Other differences are administrative or how the medical system is set up. For example, I was free to develop treatment plans in SA hospitals. In the US, health insurance dictates so much of patient care. I remember evaluating and treating a patient following a hip replacement and I was very surprised to be shouted at for not teaching a bath transfer. The patient had a shower at home, so my intervention focused on safety in the shower, bathroom and kitchen. Evidently, the insurance company wanted the treatment notes to indicate that the patient had mastered bath transfers and this was their indicator for discharge.

OT Potential: What would you most like other OTs to know from your experience?

OT is a vast profession that covers the full life cycle. There is no need to stick to any one practice area. It is perfectly acceptable to change to address a challenge, and that change can still be within OT.

For innovative, forward-thinking therapists, don't make my mistake: publish your work. The profession can benefit from your experience.

Apply your OT theory to the workplace. If we advocate for our clients to have working conditions that promote health and wellbeing, we should follow through for ourselves, too.

OT Potential: What changes do you hope to see to OT in the upcoming decades?

I would love to see a single, global definition of OT - one that sticks. It's no wonder non-OTs do not understand our role or what we do when we keep changing the definition!

I would love to see a worldwide streamlining of terminology.

I would love to see OT recognized globally. Recognized, understood, appreciated and respected. We have a lot to offer and to be proud of. I would love to see OTs paid a respectable salary in all countries.

One change that I hope will be controlled is the extent to which we allow technology into our lives and our practices. There is no doubt that technology opens doors and improves areas of function. But humans still require physical activity. We need creative exploration. We need all kinds of activities. Don't lose the essence of the profession in a quest to become more scientific and more technologically integrated.

I would love to see OTs improving verbal communication skills. So many only communicate via texting, messaging or email. Telephones and in-person are so important. I hope that verbal communication and handwriting won't be lost entirely.

Author Bio

Shoshanah Shear is an occupational therapist, healing facilitator, certified infant massage instructor, freelance writer, author of "Healing Your Life Through Activity - An Occupational Therapist's Story."

Shoshanah has a freelance writing  / ghostwriting  service assisting with content for blog posts, newsletters, successful case studies, ebooks, books, memoirs and life stories. Contact her via her website www.beahappymom.com