Future Students JCU Stories Studying OT on the go

Studying OT on the go

When you're looking to upskill, flexibility is key. Studying online can empower you to fit uni around your existing commitments and achieve your goals that much sooner.

JCU Alumni and Occupational Therapist Kestin Roberts shares in her own words how online study meant she could complete a Master of Rehabilitation while working full-time, building a career and moving four times.

JCU Master of Rehabilitation alumni Kestin Roberts at work as an occupational therapist.

Online study supporting a mobile lifestyle

I’m originally from the Gold Coast, and my first job after finishing my bachelor’s degree was in Toowoomba. That was also when I started the Master of Rehabilitation at JCU, majoring in Occupational Therapy.

At the time, I was looking at something to further expand my clinical skills, especially as a new therapist just getting out into the workforce.

JCU was one of the few universities where I could jump straight in, as the course was a little bit more clinically focused, which was what I was looking for. It was also all online, even before the COVID-19 pandemic. That was something that was really appealing to me.

I knew that I wouldn’t be staying in Toowoomba for good, and I was like, ‘I don't know where I'm going to be moving next’. So the fact that I could study the Master of Rehabilitation basically anywhere was very convenient for me.

A silver sign directs patients to shared clinics, occupational therapy or exercise physiology departments.

Originally, I studied OT for a year, and then I planned to transfer to Physiotherapy. But after a year of OT, I realised I actually quite liked this. I went into my Master's almost straight afterwards, with a little encouragement from my mother. She said, "look, if you don't do it now, you're not going to go back to uni ever".

Reflecting on it now I know she was absolutely right.

OTs are important because our work is goal-based and client-based and really focuses on what it is that the client wants to achieve. And I think that OT is really holistic as a practice. It considers the person, the environment, the occupation, how this all fits together and how we can make a better fit so the person can do the things that they want to do.

There's so many different areas of OT that people can work in, such as community health, pain management, paediatrics and so much more. I work in complex home modifications, as it is called by the NDIS (National Disability Insurance Scheme). For instance, I've done bathrooms for a few clients recently, to make them more accessible for them, so they can be as independent as possible when showering. Being able to give someone with a disability independence in that space can be lifechanging.

I also liked the way the course worked, you could kind of do the different bits and pieces in your own time. Also, if you had 12 credits, you would get a Graduate Certificate of Rehabilitation, and you would get a Graduate Diploma for 24 credits.

When I started the Master’s at JCU, I was very new into the workforce and wasn't really sure where things were going to go. I liked the idea if study wasn't something that I could continue to prioritise, I would still have something to show that I did put in the work.

I actually struggled a bit in the first semester. I was jumping straight out of uni and into work, and I hadn't really reconfigured my mindset. As a full-time uni student, you might be up the night before to get those finishing touches on your assignment, for instance.

But when you're in the workforce you can't necessarily do that. You don’t want to be tired when looking after your clients the following morning. I only did one subject a semester. That was one of my management strategies, because I wanted to work full-time and still have a life.

In semester three, I decided I needed more forward planning. I realised I had to be a lot more organised, and I found that planning out my whole semester, at least roughly, was really important to me. I wanted to have an idea of when things were due and when I might need to work on my assignments. That was something that was really beneficial.

My current employer, PhysioInq in Melbourne, has been also quite flexible in this respect. They say that as long as the work gets done, it doesn't matter if it happens on a Monday or a Tuesday.

So, sometimes I'd schedule my work week so I was able to get most of my work done in the first four days, making Friday a little bit more of a chill day for me and spend some of that time doing some of my assignment work as well.

My favourite subject covered assistive technology. I enjoyed it because that is an area that I am actively working in. There were some fascinating things that came up where I was like, ‘ooh, that’s for me’.

I found the statistics around assistive technology abandonment, for instance, very interesting. People may get given something, like a shower chair, and then they don't use it. There may be multiple reasons someone won’t use it, perhaps because they are not feeling confident.

It is now something that sits in the back of my mind whenever I am planning what a patient may be using long term. Especially if you're going to get them something a little bit expensive, it makes sense to leave it with the client for a weekend, to see how they go. This is particularly important when you are starting to look at some of those more expensive things, like electric wheelchairs.

The lessons I learned in this subject really stuck with me. It has helped inform me on how I can continue to make my practice client-centred and focus on what would benefit them, what would work for them. While still staying within the clinical recommendations, we OTs want to make sure that our clients are going to be as happy as possible.

JCU Master of Rehabilitation alumni and occupational therapist Kestin Roberts measuring a wheelchair for a client.

A career that grows with you

Studying a Master of Rehabilitation at JCU was a good opportunity for me. Doing it online was really beneficial, and it allowed me to follow my career while I was nomading around the country, while moving four times and working for three different employers.

That was one less thing to worry about. For instance, I knew that when I did finally move from Queensland to Victoria, all I had to do was update my mailing address. And that was it.

We'll see what happens in the future. I can't say I haven't considered further study, whether that's another kind of master’s degree or perhaps a diploma. I love being able to take what I've learnt and applying it for the benefits of my clients.

"The Master of Rehabilitation is an exciting pathway in your healthcare career. There is a great variety of subjects to help upskill in the area of rehabilitation, addressing perspectives from many different disciplines. Whatever your aim, this course will assist the development of your skill set in rehabilitation."

Moira Smith

Course Coordinator


Course Coordinator, Master of Rehabilitation

Study online, study anywhere

Interested in a Rehabilitation career that moves alongside you? Explore JCU's Rehabilitation study options today to find the course that suits your needs.