History-making OT grad blazing a trail

Tuesday, 6 September 2016

OT Allied Health ACU Royal Melbourne Hospital

Ellen Druce holds a unique position in ACU’s history beyond being part of the first Melbourne graduating class of Occupational Therapists.

As one of the 56 students making up the first class of Melbourne graduates, Ellen has blazed a trail in more ways than one, becoming the first Indigenous Bachelor of Occupational Therapy graduate.

It only takes a couple of minutes speaking with Ellen to realise that she is not one to trumpet her successes: she is a ‘doer’ with a strong sense of community that saw her decision to study at ACU a natural fit.

Nine months into her first professional role as an OT at The Royal Melbourne Hospital, Ellen said ACU’s focus on placements had made the transition easier.

“You appreciated the amount of placement opportunities we had to consolidate the learning we had done throughout the year and put it into practise,” Ellen said.

“I worked in an acute care hospital, I did community engagement work, a community paediatric placement, travelled to Hobart to get experience in a different hospital setting, and also worked in community mental health.

“This gave me a lot of exposure to different settings and environments in which OT can work within, and helped significantly in settling in to my current role in an acute hospital, given I had done several placements in that setting.

“That time spent observing and assisting OTs doing clinical work in different settings was amazing for my development and solidified the fact that I wanted to continue down the career path of becoming an OT.”

Born and raised in the inner western Melbourne suburb of West Footscray, Ellen had her mind set on being an OT, attracted by the diversity of clinical work and ability to have a tangible impact on community health.

Working in an acute hospital after spending the past six months in the outpatient community therapy service as part of her rotating position, Ellen admitted she is still uncovering industries where OTs are involved.

“What ACU was really good at was giving OT students placement opportunities in a wide-range of settings, which really showcased the variety of roles and organisations you can work in,” Ellen said.

“Every day I see colleagues working in different areas of society and didn’t even realise that OT had a role to play there, which is great to see because OTs provide a great perspective on health related issues.”

Joining the ACU School of Allied Health in its infancy, Ellen said she had no trepidation in being a part of the first class in 2012, feeling a sense of pride in being a foundation of what she expects will become one of the most sort after OT courses in Australia.

“I’d heard some really positive things about health sciences at ACU. You hear about the great reputation ACU staff and graduates have professionally, which was another factor that made ACU appealing,” Ellen said.

“I’d highly encourage anyone interesting in pursuing a career in OT to give it a go as it’s a great profession with flexibility in the areas you can work and assists people you work with to do what they love.”

Learn more about the Bachelor of Occupational Therapy and all the School of Allied Health offerings at ACU.