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Cathy Blair

Working as an Occupational Therapist in Rural Alberta

New occupational therapist joins the team in Onoway

Cathy Blair grew up on a farm outside the small village of Youngstown, Alberta. But it was years later that she returned to her rural roots.

Blair practiced occupational therapy in Edmonton and volunteered in Madagascar, Africa, before moving to Onoway, Alberta, in April.

“I’m grateful to be able to work in Onoway,” says Blair. “It allows me to expand my practice and explore my interest in rural healthcare. I can relate to and appreciate the rural way of life and the values often placed on family, community and hard work, and I look forward to having this in common with my clients.”

Health professionals are needed in many of Alberta’s rural communities.

“Often, we see people move from a rural centre to work in an urban centre, but in our case it’s the other way around,” says Calvin Mah, allied health manager in the AHS North Zone and senior’s health manager for Onoway. “We are very excited to have someone like her work here.”

The Onoway occupational therapy team covers a wide catchment area: from north of Highway 16 to the Rich Valley/Lake Nakamun area and from Cherhill to east of Onoway. This area has a dense population with many residents living on acreages and summer villages.

The team’s occupational services vary. Generally, therapists look at what interferes with someone’s ability to live their life to their fullest capacity. From here, therapists will support a client in finding different ways of doing things and ensuring they have access to adaptive equipment. They may modify a person’s environment, including bathroom equipment, wheelchairs and/or walkers, to ensure the client is safe.

“In a city, programs tend to be more specific, whereas in a rural setting you’re more likely to get a variety of a little bit of anything and everything. This makes it challenging and rewarding in different ways,” says Blair.

Mah adds that once Blair is settled into her new position, they will be looking to expand the local occupational therapy pediatric program.

“We don’t try to rush things,” says Mah. “We strive to provide safe and effective care, and in order to do this we have to make sure our staff are comfortable and well equipped to do their work.

There are approximately 1,100 occupational therapists employed by AHS. Visit our occupational therapy career profile or call occupational therapy services in Onoway at 780-967-4440 to learn more.